Licorice is used to treat a vast array of illnesses. In China, licorice is considered a superior balancing or harmonizing agent and is added to numerous herbal formulas. It is used to soothe coughs and reduce inflammation, soothe and heal ulcers and stomach inflammation, control blood sugar, and balance hormones. Licorice is great for healing canker sores and cold sores (herpes simplex virus). Licorice is a potent antiviral agent and can be used to treat flu, herpes, and even hepatitis. Licorice is also a strong anti-inflammatory agent and can be used to improve the flavor of other herbs. With all of these uses, it is no wonder that licorice finds its way into so many therapies.
Several modern studies have demonstrated the ulcer-healing abilities of licorice. Unlike most popular ulcer medications, such as cimetidine, licorice does not dramatically reduce stomach acid; rather, it reduces the ability of stomach acid to damage stomach lining by encouraging digestive mucosal tissues to protect themselves from acid. Licorice enhances mucosal protection by increasing the action of mucous-secreting cells, boosting the life of surface intestinal cells, and increasing microcirculation within the gastrointestinal tract. This improves the health of the stomach lining and reduces damage from stomach acid. One study in Ireland showed a licorice extract to be a better symptom reliever than Tagamet for a number of ulcer patients.
The remarkably sweet saponin glycoside glycyrrhizin is what gives licorice its characteristic flavor. (Glycyrrhizin is 30 to 60 times sweeter than sugar.) Glycyrrhizin is also an anti-inflammatory, and licorice also has been used to treat inflammations of the lungs, bowels, and skin. Glycyrrhizin is one of the constituents found to prolong the length of time that cortisol, one of the adrenal hormones, circulates throughout the body. Among other actions, cortisol reduces inflammation. Anything that prolongs the life of cortisol naturally helps to reduce inflammation.
Many anti-inflammatory drugs are synthetic versions of cortisol. They control conditions such as asthma, arthritis, bowel disease, and eczema by suppressing the immune systems, which halts the body’s ability to mount an inflammatory response. Licorice is not thought to suppress the immune system the way pharmaceutical steroids do. Both pharmaceutical cortisones and licorice, however, may cause the same side effects: weight gain, fluid retention, and as a possible result, high blood pressure. Still, if you use cortisone, prednisone, or a similar steroid, you should seek the advice of a naturopathic or other knowledgeable physician to determine whether your condition may be managed another way.Keep reading to learn about warnings and preparations for licorice.