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The Medicinal Power of Licorice

Licorice is a plant native to southern Europe and Asia. The root of the plant is used in food and supplement preparation. Licorice was mainly used throughout history as a candy product and flavoring in cooking. It was also used as a flavoring agent in tobacco and acts as a bronchodilator. Licorice has a lot of medicinal benefits:

  • Strongly anti-inflammatory.

  • Helps heal stomach mucosa.

  • Has been shown in studies to help heal ulcers it is a prescription medication for ulcers in Germany.

  • Licorice has mild antimicrobial properties and inhibits H. pylori growth.

  • Reduces abdominal spasms. May increase motility.

  • Contains broad-spectrum antiviral activity.

  • Inhibits liver cell damage and is used by IV to treat viral hepatitis and cirrhosis in Japan.

  • Glycyrrhizic acid increases cortisol production which may help relieve the symptoms in people with sluggish adrenals.

  • Upregulates bile production and release.

  • Glycyrrhizic acid may bind to GABAA receptors and cause relaxation.

  • Reduce neuroinflammation from endotoxins.

  • Glycyrrhizic acid increases blood pressure (maybe a good thing in people with hypotension)

  • Increases Th1 production at first, but decreases it over the long term by increasing glucocorticoids. Decreases Th2 immune reactions. Relieves asthma and allergies.

  • Increases PTH and decreases calcium storage in the body. Increases serum calcium and calcium excretion.

  • Relieves canker sores in the mouth.

Licorice has an enormous medicinal potential, but the biggest problem is the glycyrrhizic acid found in the licorice that causes most of its side effects.

The Issues Concerning Licorice Use

Glycyrrhizic acid protects liver cells against injury in people with hepatitis and has antiviral properties. Glycyrrhizic acid is also used as a sweetener in food products. Glycyrrhizic acid causes water retention at high doses, and this can increase blood pressure and volume. In some cases, this can become fatal. 21 22

Glycyrrhizic acid depletes potassium in the body causing a blood pressure spike. Also, the enzyme 11B-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase is inhibited by glycyrrhizic acid causing a spike in cortisol. It also binds directly to mineralocorticoid receptors and increases cortisol production as well. Binding of glycyrrhizic acid to the mineralocorticoid receptors causes the body to retain sodium and excrete potassium causing electrolyte imbalances that may cause arrhythmia. Licorice should be used with caution in people with elevated cortisol, kidney disease, if you are prone to arrhythmia, and if you take medications that interfere with electrolyte metabolism (diuretics for example). The use of licorice, however, may be helpful if you have low cortisol and extreme adrenal fatigue but should be monitored for safety.

Finally, glycyrrhizin may increase your chances of developing leaky gut because it can uncouple your gut junctions by interfering with the calcium channel. When this occurs, motility increases and cramps and spasms may lessen. If licorice causes you to have diarrhea, discontinue its use.

DGL Licorice, The Best Licorice Supplement to Relieve Digestive Issues

DGL Licorice lacks glycyrrhizic acid and is still theorized to have most of the anti-inflammatory processes of regular licorice. DGL is great in helping to heal ulcers, gastritis of the stomach, and prevent damage done to the mucosa by NSAID medications. DGL does not hinder stomach acid production, increase the pH of the stomach, or hinder digestion.

DGL coats the lining of the stomach reduces inflammation, and its flavonoids help to protect the lining of the stomach. DGL that is chewed well and swallowed may also help coat and protect the esophagus from endotoxin inflammation, acid, and pepsin. DGL increases differing prostaglandin (lipid compounds that act like hormones) production in the intestinal tract which increases mucus secretion to protect the tract. DGL licorice also contains compounds that help to reduce overgrowth in the stomach, including H. pylori.

DGL tablets must be chewed thoroughly, and saliva must mix well with it for it to work efficiently. DGL powder mixed it water must be sipped slowly and swished in the mouth to help activate the protective compounds. I recommend both chewable DGL and DGL powder. Some people cannot tolerate the fillers in DGL chewable tablets, so the pure powder should be used instead.

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