Naturopathic Kitchen: Licorice – It’s Not Just For Candy

What is Licorice?

Licorice is best known as the flavoring for the popular candy of the same name. Because of its appealing taste and frequent addition to sugary confections, licorice has a reputation as a sweet treat, but in its pure form it has a variety of health benefits.

The root of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, which is native to Southern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East is the most commonly used part of the plant. Licorice has been used medicinally in ancient Egypt and is often recommended by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbalists. 1 

Health Benefits of Licorice

Licorice root contains the active compound glycyrrhizin, which gives the plant antioxidant, anti-microbial, and antibacterial properties, and is also responsible for its sweet flavor. 2 Because of these properties, licorice can help to manage inflammatory diseases such as periodontitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and colonic inflammatory response.3   Licorice also has hepatoprotective (preventing liver damage), and neuroprotective (preventing damage to brain cells) properties. 4

Licorice is often recommended as a supplement to help manage the symptoms of menopause because it contains chemicals that mimic estrogen. 5 More robust studies need to be conducted on licorice’s estrogenic activity, but there is potential that consuming licorice could decrease the risk of breast cancer and other hormone-related illness. 6 

Precautions

Glycyrrhizin interacts with medication and can alter its efficacy, so if you are taking any medications be sure to check with your healthcare provider before adding licorice to your regular diet. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid consuming licorice root altogether. 7 

How to Consume Licorice

Licorice Capsules and Tinctures

You can purchase licorice capsules and tinctures at health food stores. Speak to your healthcare provider before taking licorice on a regular basis in order to determine the appropriate dosage for you and/or whether you are on any medication that may be negatively impacted.

Licorice Powder

Licorice root powder can be found at health food stores. It is made by drying licorice root and then grinding it into a fine powder. You can add the powder to baked goods in order to sweeten them, or make a licorice latte by adding the powder to steamed nut milk. 

Herbal Tea

You can buy licorice tea or herbal tea blends that contain licorice, or you can brew your own licorice tea by adding boiling water to dried licorice root or licorice powder placed in a tea infuser and allowing it steep for a few minutes. Many people like to add honey or lemon to licorice tea in order to offset the strong flavor.

If you are interested in promoting health through nutrition and herbal supplements, a career in naturopathic medicine may be the right choice for you. 

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