Licorice is a plant with extensive cultivation and wide applications , it usually occurs in humid areas and does not grow more than one meter in height. Its main use comes from its root, characteristically branched, deep and woody.

In the following article we will delve into what licorice is, what are its uses, properties and existing risks. 

What is licorice?

Licorice is a herbaceous plant, its name comes from the Greek Glykyrrzha which means sweet root. Since ancient times, medicinal properties have been conferred on it in its uses in the Asian and European continents. Its smell is compared to that of anise and ginger , although its taste is extremely sweet.

Note: Its root is one of the oldest drugs that exist , with a record of 200 years BC in cultures of Asian and European countries. It is described as being able to make thoughts soft, clear the eyes, and help with digestion. (1)

Its use is mainly for digestive and expectorant treatments , and its use should also be avoided when receiving any medical treatment, mainly with corticosteroids, laxatives or diuretics.

Licorice properties

Licorice has transcended through time due to the number of properties that it is capable of conferring on its consumers. They will be mentioned below, thus allowing their use and knowledge:

1. Anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic

Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect seems to be due to the presence of baicalin in its components, even allowing protection of the liver and conferring antibacterial capacities. It has even been found to stimulate the growth of hepatocytes. (two)

To highlight: It is highly recommended for its antispasmodic qualities, especially in stomach effects as it helps to relax and relieve irritations. (3)

2. Antiviral and expectorant

It is the licorice root to which these medicinal properties are due due to its content of saponins , which act with secretolytic action as an expectorant, thus reducing and preventing coughing and inflammation of the respiratory tract.

You should know: However, there are also several scientific studies where they have verified that its glycyrrhizinic acid has an incredible antiviral and bactericidal effect. (4)

3. Digestive and carminative

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has created a definitive approval for licorice due to its abilities to relieve upset digestive symptoms and even creating a protective layer of the stomach mucosa, which greatly reduces the corrosive action of gastric juices. , avoiding ulcers and gastritis. (5)

What is licorice used for?

Licorice confers a list of benefits and active principles, which allow the application for a wide variety of uses. These uses and applications will be mentioned below for your knowledge and use:

1. Combat respiratory conditions

Licorice contains saponins in its composition, which acts as an expectorant and allows the expulsion of mucosa , as well as being an antitussive (to treat dry cough). 

To highlight: Licorice also has secretolytic (makes phlegm less thick) and secretomotor action, as well as reducing respiratory inflammation and having an antiviral effect. 

2. Improves gastrointestinal disorders

Licorice root has a long list of properties that benefit the health of the digestive system , in addition to improving disorders and reducing their symptoms. In this sense, glycyrrhizin is a component present that reduces stomach acidity and is efficient as an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic . (6)

Note: Licorice has even been mentioned in certain experiments as reducing the heaviness of a large meal. 

3. Relieves allergy symptoms 

Its effect against allergies allows it to be widely used and recommended in cases of conjunctivitis, seasonal allergic rhinitis and asthma. Its use is mainly to take advantage of the root helping the production of IgE (immunoglobulin), which allows reducing the intensity of certain reactions. (7)

4. Fights viral infections

As we previously mentioned, licorice has substances that allow it to have an antiviral capacity, reducing not only the risk of contracting viral infections but also reducing their symptoms and helping the immune system recover.

5. Improves menstrual disorders

A study conducted in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Research on the extraction and qualities of glycyrrhizic acid concluded that its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic abilities are highly beneficial for menstrual symptoms, including cramps . (8)

6. Supports liver health

Licorice has been given properties with a restorative effect on liver cells, with a very important and relevant factor in the health of its consumers. 

You should know: Glycyrrhizin also allows the elimination of toxins accumulated in the liver , so they take care of the health of our body and its proper functioning. 

7. Soothes skin conditions 

Among the benefits of licorice is that this plant also contains emollient and antiseptic capacities, so in addition to the previously mentioned qualities such as detoxifying and anti-inflammatory, we can obtain incredible benefits for the skin.

Note: Contains moisturizing properties and is applied to psoriasis treatments , to eliminate redness and to heal sunburns. (9)

8. Eliminates bad breath and mouth ulcers

Biting the licorice root has an antibacterial effect and stimulates saliva production, which allows hygiene of the mouth and reduces bad breath. Its properties also facilitate the healing of mouth ulcers and wounds.

9. Protects against cancer

Licorice compounds act like estrogen and other hormones, which reduces the risk of reproduction of cancer cells , also destroying bacteria and viruses. However, it prevents the growth of tumors and helps strengthen the immune system. (10)

How do you take licorice?

Licorice is used from the pharmaceutical industry to the preparation of sweets, candies and drinks due to its great sweetening capacity . It is also incorporated as a condiment in some foods, which can range from desserts to salads , in addition to making infusions or direct consumption , chewing the root. 

To highlight: It is an aromatic herb that is also used to make alcoholic beverages such as wines and to improve the flavor of different types of products.

Risks of licorice consumption

Like everything, excess is always harmful to the body. However, there are also certain factors that must be taken into account to prevent unnecessary damage to the body of its consumers. We mention below what are the existing risks of licorice:

1. Reduction in potassium levels

Precisely the glycyrrhizin mentioned above throughout the article, is responsible for the drop in potassium levels in the body , causing changes in heart rate, altered blood pressure and edema as a result of this reduction. 

2. Edema, cramps and muscle weakness

The decrease in potassium levels can lead to the development of disorders and symptoms such as edema, cramps and muscle weakness, so it is important to consume in moderation.

3. Hypertension and cardiac disorders

It happens that an excess of licorice in the body is sufficient cause to develop cardiac disorders and disorders. A study carried out at the Hospital de Terrassa confirms that there is an association between the consumption of this plant or its root with the appearance of arterial hypertension, hypokalemia and metabolic alkalosis. (eleven)

4. It is not advisable during pregnancy and lactation

The prominent component of licorice, glycyrrhin, can affect the development of the fetus and the gestation process, so it is very important to reduce or avoid the consumption of licorice during this stage and also while breastfeeding.

Key Findings

  • Licorice is a widely used and exploited plant, where its root is very characteristic for its benefits and its flavor is used to sweeten products in the food industry.
  • Among its main benefits is the promotion of digestive processes and reduction of symptoms of existing disorders .
  • It also improves the symptoms present in allergies due to its ability to increase the production of IgE.
  • It is recommended to be prudent with the consumption of licorice since it can develop several negative side effects such as hypertension and reduced potassium levels.

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