There are numerous benefits of licorice root that people have taken advantage of for centuries. Whether you are healthy or suffering from a variety of ailments, there is sure to be a reason to add licorice root to your diet and health care regimen.
What Is Licorice Root?
Licorice root is the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant and is native to southern Europe and Asia. The Glycyrrhiza glabra plant grows as a perennial and the root is harvested for use in culinary and medical applications. Most often the root is boiled and the sweetener glycyrrhizin is removed to form licorice extract. The resulting extract may be in either solid or liquid form and is significantly sweeter than traditional cane sugar.
Used for centuries to sweeten drinks, licorice extract is still widely used today in candies, gum, soft drinks and herbal teas. In some countries it is used in mouthwash or chewed to freshen breath and the licorice root extract is used in China in conjunction with soy sauce to flavor dishes.
Benefits of Licorice Root
The most common medicinal uses of licorice root involve Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices known as gan zao. In the TCM form of medicine, licorice root is thought to help work with other herbs and spices to settle the stomach and relieve congestion.
Western medical professionals or herbalists may prescribe the use of licorice root extract for its effect on the intestinal system. If you are suffering from mild constipation, consider an herbal tea made with licorice root extract. The compounds in the licorice root help jump start the digestive tract and move waste out of the body.
Other digestive tract issues such as diverticulitis, which is an inflammation of the colon, and ulcers may also be treated with licorice root extract. Drinking teas made with the root seem to soothe inflamed areas and make the painful symptoms lessen by lowering the acid levels in the body. There also seems to be an antispasmodic aspect to licorice root that aids in reducing symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. Both of these disorders cause an upset stomach and abdominal pain and may result in ulcers.
People afflicted with lung disorders, such as bronchitis along with sore throats and coughing, can benefit from taking licorice root extract. The glycyrrhizin found in licorice root helps block enzymes that lower the prostaglandin levels which are responsible for mucus production. When a person has a sore throat or coughs a lot, this may be caused by a mucous build up. When more mucous is produced due to the enzyme blocking glycyrrhizin, it more easily flows out of the body which clears up the lungs and sinus cavities. This natural cough suppressant is often found in lozenges and cough syrups.
Due to its sweet taste, licorice root is also used in conjunction with traditional drugs. Medicinal syrups, particularly ones administered to children, may contain licorice root extract in an attempt to mask the sour or bitter taste of the actual medication. Other uses include mixing the extract with other inert ingredients to form a lotion or salve used on the as a topical treatment for herpes or shingles.
Using Licorice Root
Now that you understand the benefits of licorice root, you may want to opt for this healthy approach to your next stomach ailment or constipation. A small amount of this sweet extract should go a long way in relieving your symptoms.