Licorice Root: A Digestive Friend

Even athletes and highly active people can suffer gastric ulcers and gastritis, an all too common inflammation of the lining of the stomach. And while it is important to see a physician if you are experiencing ulcers or gastritis, you may also take comfort in a plant remedy from antiquity, licorice root. Licorice root is the common name for Glycyrrhiza glabra, a perennial shrub native to Eurasia. The root is commonly used to make licorice candy, for flavoring in tobacco, liqueurs, beer, chewing gum, and soft drinks, and even as a foaming agent in fire extinguishers.

Due to its broad and popular use, licorice has been the subject of much study. The root is not only a flavoring, but a time-honored remedy as well. Licorice root and its extracts are made into bronchial and gastrointestinal remedies, and preparations for the liver, bile and urinary tract. Today licorice root is recognized as an effective remedy for inflammation of mucus membranes, and is recommended by world scientific bodies for relieving gastritis and ulcers.

Licorice root possesses demulcent (soothing inflamed or irritated tissue), anti-ulcer, spasmolytic (checking spasms), antitoxic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergenic properties. Specifically, glycyrrhizic acid and a related compound appear to accelerate the healing of gastric ulcers. Extracts of licorice root also show estrogenic activity (promotes production of female sex hormones), and demonstrate anti-tumor, anticonvulsive, and antibacterial properties.

The activity of licorice root is due to more than one compound. The root contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. Even licorice extract with its glycyrrhizin removed (deglycyrrhizinated) shows beneficial activity in treating duodenal and gastric ulcers.

Licorice root was recommended by the Greeks to treat ulcers, and by Arab physicians to ease the side effects of laxatives. As a traditional medicine, licorice root has been used for gastric and duodenal ulcers, sore throat, malaria, abdominal pain, insomnia, tuberculosis, sores, abscesses, food poisoning and cancer.

Licorice root plays and important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), where it is used in numerous preparations. In TCM licorice root is considered an aid to longevity. In that system licorice is used to treat sore throat, carbuncles, toxic swelling, toxicosis in fetuses and children, diarrhea due to spleen deficiency, thirst due to stomach deficiency, cough due to dry lungs, and to ease palpitations.

Germany’s Commission E recommends the use of licorice root for gastric and duodenal ulcers, as does The British Herbal Compendium, which also indicates use of licorice root for chronic gastritis. Germany’s Commission E recommends a daily intake of Licorice root of; 5 – 15 grams of cut or powdered root, or dry extracts equivalent to 200 – 600 mg of glycyrrhizin. The Commission also advises against using Licorice for more than 4 – 6 weeks without the guidance of a physician.

Look for licorice root herbal products which specify the amount of glycyrrhizin in the product. This will help you to stay accurately within the Commission E dosage guidelines of 200 – 800 mg of glycyrrhizin daily.


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