› Health benefits
Historically, licorice root was used in Greece, China and Egypt for stomach inflammation and upper respiratory problems. It was also used as a sweetener. Today people use the root for digestive problems, menopausal symptoms, cough, and bacterial and viral infections. It is also used as a shampoo.
Many studies have been published, but not enough to support the use of licorice root for any condition. A few clinical trials have tested glycyrrhizin, a compound found in the root, in hepatitis C patients, but there is not enough evidence that it is helpful. Lab studies in Japan suggest that glycyrrhizin may have some effect on hepatitis C.
There is some evidence that topical licorice extract may improve skin rash symptoms, such as redness, swelling and itching.
A Finnish study of mothers and young children suggests that eating a lot of licorice root during pregnancy may harm a child’s developing brain, leading to reasoning and behavioral issues. Studies on using the extract for cavities, mouth ulcers and oral yeast infections have returned mixed results.
› How much do I need?
The dosage varies depending on age and what it is being used for. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels, and consult your pharmacist, physician or other healthcare professional before using.
In large amounts and with long-term use, licorice root can cause high blood pressure and low potassium levels, which could lead to heart and muscle problems. Taking licorice root containing glycyrrhizic acid with medications that reduce potassium levels may be bad for the heart. Pregnant women should avoid licorice root as a supplement.
› Dietary supplements
Licorice is harvested from the plant’s roots and underground stems, and is turned into capsules, tablets and liquid extracts.
Please consult your health care provider before making changes to your vitamin/supplement regimen.