The Many Health Benefits of Licorice
While you may have heard that there are many health benefits of licorice, it is important to understand that these are not associated with the red candy you may be so familiar with. This is real, dried licorice root. Some “candy” will be made from natural products but it will be listed on their label if it is. Chances are, if it is red and it is called candy, that is exactly what it is. Licorice has been used by the Chinese for more than 5,000 years and they believed that it could be used for an extended period of time with no toxic side effects.
While there are many licorice candy products on the market, they either contain very little or absolutely no real licorice at all. Most candies contain anise flavoring that does taste quite similar to licorice but it has no benefits or side effects that are associated with the real thing. Be sure to do your homework and read labels carefully when purchasing licorice.
There are a surprising number of health benefits of licorice. Hippocrates referred to it as “sweet root” because it is 100 times sweeter than your ordinary table sugar and the Greeks used it to relieve swelling that was caused by water retention.
Today, one of the most popular health benefits of licorice is that it can be used to effectively treat ulcers. It stimulates your body's defenses to prevent ulcer formation and it is considered more effective than taking antacids. In fact, there is a 91 percent success rate within 8 weeks. It should be taken 30 minutes prior to eating so that it has time to line and protect your stomach. Other ailments that licorice can be used to treat include:
- Respiratory illnesses
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Muscle spasms
- Sore throat
- Heartburn or indigestion
- High cholesterol
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Viral infections
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Congestive heart failure
- Low blood potassium levels
- Kidney disease
Is Licorice Safe?
While there are many health benefits of licorice, there are also a few precautions and warnings to be aware of as well, such as:
- Licorice has been known to produce estrogen-like properties in some people while others it will be completely opposite. If you have or have had estrogen-sensitive cancer such as breast cancer, you should consult your healthcare provider before consuming it.
- Licorice has been known to cause high blood pressure in some people as well as sodium retention and low potassium. These factors can all increase your risk for congestive heart failure.
- If you have kidney disease already, licorice can cause kidney failure.
- In some individuals, it can worsen sex drive and cause impotence.
- Licorice may interact negatively with certain medications.
- It is unknown if licorice should be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Licorice And Pregnancy
While many pregnant women with certain ailments may want to enjoy the benefits of licorice, there is a risk that it can cause premature labor. Licorice can affect estrogen levels and can stimulate uterine contractions.
It is suggested that while it may be safe to have a piece here and there, large quantities should be avoided. If you are pregnant, you should talk with your doctor before consuming licorice or any other natural healing herb or root.
Licorice And Breastfeeding
Although it is believed very low quantities of natural licorice can be consumed while breast feeding, larger quantities could interfere with both the quantity and the quality of the breast milk that you produce. It is recommended to exercise extreme caution with supplements or extracts while you are breastfeeding.