Liquorice is a flowering plant, a perennial legume herb, found in Western Asia, North Africa and Southern Europe. (2) The botanical name of liquorice is Glycyrrhiza glabra. (2) The extract from its root is a sweet aromatic flavouring, which may be used in flavouring food and confectionery, candies, drinks and tobacco. It possesses medicinal properties and is used to treat several ailments. If consumed in excess, liquorice may lead to health risks (1)
Liquorice: Role in Traditional Medicine
The liquorice root’s primary active compound is glycyrrhizin. (2) Glycyrrhizin is responsible for the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties of liquorice. (2) The aromatic flavour of liquorice originated from a complex and variable combination of compounds. The sweetness from glycyrrhizin may be 30-50 times sweeter than sugar. The taste of liquorice is a tart sweetness that lasts longer when consumed.
The medicinal properties of the liquorice plant are extracted from its roots. Its origin dates back to ancient Egypt, where the root extract was used to make a sweet drink for the pharaohs. It was also used as a traditional medicine in Chinese, Greek, and other Middle East medical compositions. It was beneficial for treating upper respiratory and digestive conditions. (2)
Uses of Liquorice Extract
- Liquorice may treat acid reflux, hot flashes, heartburn, coughs, and bacterial and viral infection.
- Liquorice tea may be helpful in sore throats and suppression of cough.
- Liquorice root contains over 300 compounds, which may possess potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral effects. Its gel can treat skin conditions such as eczema or acne.
- Liquorice is mainly used for flavouring and moisture enhancement of the tobacco used in the manufacture of cigarettes, pipe tobacco and snuff.
- Liquorice may be used to flavour foods, confectionery and beverages. Liquorice extract is used often to make many types of sweets and candies, some drugs, and drinks like root beer. It also finds usage in chewing gum, tobacco products like snuff, and toothpaste.
- Liquorice may be used for other medicinal benefits such as ulcer treatment and as a laxative.
- Liquorice root extract may treat peptic ulcers, which are painful sores in the stomach, lower oesophagus and small intestine caused by bacteria.
- Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, liquorice may help slow or prevent cancer cell growth in breast, skin, colorectal and prostate cancers.
- The glycyrrhizin extract from liquorice root helps relieve asthma and conditions of the upper respiratory tract.
- Liquorice root may also aid to protect against bacteria that can lead to cavities and tooth decay.
- It may help remove diabetes, improve kidney health and alleviate menopausal symptoms.
- Liquorice root extract may also support lower the body mass index (BMI) and helps weight loss (1)(2)(3)
Alleviating Digestive Ailments
Aside from its numerous benefits, Liquorice has a prime role in relieving digestive ailments. Liquorice extract may be used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. (3) It is instrumental in alleviating symptoms of indigestion as acid reflux, heartburn and upset stomach. (3) Liquorice is said to increase the mucous coating of the oesophageal lining, helping it resist the stomach acid’s harmful effects. Natural remedies to cure the condition may include consuming vegetables such as ginger, non-citrus fruits, oatmeal, lean meats, seafood, egg whites, and others low in fat and sugar.
Overdosage or excessive consumption of Liquorice may cause some adverse effects due to the glycyrrhizininc acid present. It can create electrolyte imbalance and low potassium levels. Sometimes it may result in hypokalemia, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy, muscle weakness, heart failure and can be fatal also. (3)
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Shubham Pharmachem’s blog posts have been written with the information gathered from approved medical journals and websites online. Our research and technical teams strive to provide relevant information through such articles. We strongly advise readers to not consume or administer any medication without prior consultation with their doctor.