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Liquorice is a perennial herb that is well known for its sweet and woody flavour. Can’t recognise the name? I am sure you would have heard of mulethi, maybe even tried a mulethi tea for a sore throat. In fact, it is one of the most commonly used herbs for digestive and respiratory problems. But unfortunately, not many of us are aware of the medicinal miracle this plant is.

Most of the medicinal benefits of liquorice are stored in its roots and underground stems. It contains antioxidants, has antimicrobial properties, acts as an anti-inflammatory drug and possesses hepatoprotective characteristics.

It has long since been used for the treatment of stomach inflammation in Greece and Egypt. It has been mentioned in the ancient Assyrian tablets and was also found in large proportions in King Tut’s tomb. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, has written about the use of liquorice root for preventing thirst.  And till date, this sweet and bitter root remains close to the heart of herbalism.

Apart from having numerous medicinal properties, it is also a popular seasoning herb because it is 50 times sweeter than sugar. In Sanskrit, liquorice is called Yashtimadhu, which accurately means “sweet root”. It has a cooling effect on the body and is bulky to digest.

Many people use it as a shampoo and it is also a primary ingredient in some kinds of toothpaste. Liquorice supplements are available commercially as capsules, tablets and fluid extracts.

Did you know?

Liquorice candy is actually flavoured by anise!

Some basic facts about Liquorice roots:

  • Scientific Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra 
  • Common Name(s): liquorice root, liquorice, liquorice, sweet root, Mulethi
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Parts used: Stems and roots
  • Sanskrit name: Yashtimadhu
  • Native Region and Geographical Distribution: Native to Asia and the Mediterranean region. It is also grown in northeast Europe.
  1. Health benefits of liquorice
  2. Liquorice side effects
  3. Takeaway

Liquorice roots or mulethi is very beneficial for health. This is due to the presence of several important nutrients and biologically active components. Let us look at the scientifically proven benefits of liquorice root.

  1. Liquorice root benefits for stomach
  2. Liquorice root for respiratory problems
  3. Liquorice root for diabates
  4. Liquorice root benefits for skin
  5. Liquorice root for weight loss
  6. Liquorice root for liver
  7. Liquorice root for dental health
  8. Liquorice root for hot flashes in menopause

Liquorice root benefits for stomach

Liquorice root is a well-known laxative in traditional medicine. Studies suggest that liquorice shows effective action against Helicobacter pylori, the pathogen responsible for peptic ulcers. Modern-day drugs use liquorice extract to treat ulcers of the stomach and as an alternative to bismuth as it covers the lesion site and promotes mucous secretion which protects the stomach lining from further degradation. In a study, group of 40 people suffering from peptic ulcers were given either 500 mg bismuth or 250 mg liquorice 3 times a day, half an hour before meals, for a total period of 30 days instead of bismuth. The results demonstrated a similar effect of liquorice as that of bismuth in treating the ulcer.

Liquorice root is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent and is hence used to provide relief in other gastric problems like food poisoning and heartburn. This is due to the presence of glycyrrhizic acid present in liquorice.

Liquorice root for respiratory problems

Liquorice is probably best known for its benefits in relieving various respiratory problems like cough and sore throat. Though, the exact mechanism of action has not been found yet. It is claimed to be very useful for treating sore throat, with an efficiency equal to that of codeine. It stimulates the production and expulsion of mucus in trachea (windpipe) thus cleaning it and relieving cough at the same time. Additionally, liquorice root has antibacterial properties which may help in clearing off pathogenic bacteria from the airways.

Liquorice root for diabates

Liquorice root has also been found to have anti-diabetic properties. Preclinical studies indicate that the bioactive compound, glabridin, found in liquorice is responsible for its hypoglycemic (reducing blood sugar) property. However, more studies are needed to confirm the safety and dosage of liquorice root in clinical settings.

(Read more: Diabetes treatment)

Liquorice root benefits for skin

Liquorice root is a panacea for skin conditions. It is used in the production of many cosmetic and skin lightening products. According to an article published in the International Journal of Herbal Medicine, liquorice is a storehouse of active compounds that aid in reducing melanin content in the skin which leads to skin lightening.

Additionally, liquorice root also has potent antioxidant and hydrating properties which protect the skin from UV and age-related damage and give a soft and glowing look to skin.

It has also been found to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, which is one of the major pathogens responsible for causing skin infections. 

Liquorice root for weight loss

Excessive weight gain is not just a modern aesthetic concern but it also invites several diseases like diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. In vivo (animal-based) studies have found the positive link between liquorice consumption and weight management. It is suggested that liquorice extracts activate PPAR-gamma, a type of nuclear receptor, which is usually deregulated in obesity. This leads to a reduction in fat accumulation and weight loss. This is due to the presence of certain flavonoids in liquorice roots. A clinical study involving 72 obese subjects also confirmed similar effects. Although they weren’t as pronounced and more human trials are needed to confirm the effects of liquorice root in obesity management.

Additionally, liquorice root has also been demonstrated to reduce weight gain and fat deposition in menopausal animal models.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Liquorice root for liver

The antioxidant activity of liquorice is beneficial in protecting the liver. It has been proved that extract from liquorice acts as a medicine because it neutralises free radicals.

Liquorice root consumption also stimulates antioxidant enzyme activities and inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokine, thus, protecting the liver.

Liquorice root for dental health

Liquorice can also be used to treat dental problems. Traditionally liquorice root is used for preparing toothpaste and for getting rid of bad breath. Studies show that liquorice contains bioactive ingredients such as glycyrrhizin, glabridin etc. which help in treating and preventing numerous oro-dental diseases. 

It has been found to inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus acidophilus in laboratory-based studies.

Liquorice root for hot flashes in menopause

Liquorice root is one of the oldest and most frequently used botanicals in traditional Chinese medicine for improving women's health. Glycyrrhiza species have long been researched for their estrogenic properties.

In preliminary studies, standard preparations of liquorice roots have been found to reduce the quantity and intensity of hot flashes in menopausal women within 8 weeks. It is speculated to be used as an alternative option to conventional medicine. However, in vivo safety studies are necessary, before the recommendation of liquorice to menopausal women.

  • Studies suggest that over-consumption of liquorice can cause potassium deficiency or hypokalemia, which, in turn, leads to high blood pressure.
  • It is dangerous to take liquorice orally when you are pregnant as it may induce the danger of early delivery. It can also cause a miscarriage. There's not enough trustworthy data concerning the safety of liquorice during breastfeeding. It is better for nursing mothers to stay away from it.
  • Excess liquorice consumption has also been linked to an increased risk of heart failure and arrhythmia. If you are a heart patient, it is better to avoid liquorice.
  • Liquorice causes water retention and vasoconstriction (constricts blood vessels) which is detrimental to kidney health. Over utilisation of liquorice could lead to worsening of kidney disease.
  • Liquorice consumption may cause hypotonia, which refers to the loss of muscle mass. However, it is a bit different from general muscle weakness in that hypotonia is a neurological disorder.

Liquorice root is one of the most widely used herbs in traditional medicine. It is best known for its benefits in respiratory health. Liquorice roots is an excellent remedy for cough and sore throat. It is effective in treating constipation and also aids in weight loss. Though, overconsumption of liquorice may harm kidneys. It is also unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

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References

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  2. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health [Internet] Bethesda, Maryland; Licorice Root
  3. Monica Damle. Glycyrrhiza glabra (Liquorice) - a potent medicinal herb . International Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014; 2(2): 132-136
  4. Marjan Rahnama et al. The healing effect of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) on Helicobacter pylori infected peptic ulcers . J Res Med Sci. 2013 Jun; 18(6): 532–533. PMID: 24250708
  5. Nakagawa K et al. Licorice flavonoids suppress abdominal fat accumulation and increase in blood glucose level in obese diabetic KK-A(y) mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004 Nov;27(11):1775-8. PMID: 15516721
  6. Nazli Namazi. The Effect of Dried Glycyrrhiza Glabra L. Extract on Obesity Management with Regard to PPAR-γ2 (Pro12Ala) Gene Polymorphism in Obese Subjects Following an Energy Restricted Diet . Adv Pharm Bull. 2017 Jun; 7(2): 221–228. PMID: 28761824
  7. Nazli Namazi. The Effect of Dried Glycyrrhiza Glabra L. Extract on Obesity Management with Regard to PPAR-γ2 (Pro12Ala) Gene Polymorphism in Obese Subjects Following an Energy Restricted Diet . Adv Pharm Bull. 2017 Jun; 7(2): 221–228. PMID: 28761824
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  18. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke [Internet] Maryland, United States; Hypotonia Information Page.
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