Summary of all the health benefits of licorice root – an underestimated natural remedy
The licorice root, from the real licorice, has been used as a medicinal plant in Far Eastern medicine for thousands of years. The health benefits of licorice root are also becoming increasingly popular in America.
It achieves many positive effects in the body and we can use it for nourishing reasons in a wide variety of applications. Find out everything you need to know about licorice root, its effects and how you can utilize it below.
What is licorice?
The licorice is a plant from the genus of the butterfly flowers. It is less known for its flowers and leaves, but more for its roots – the licorice root.
Do you like to snack on licorice? If so, you ate licorice before, as they use it for the production of licorice and gives it its typical flavor.
In this form, you are probably familiar with licorice
The sweet root has been a medicinal herb used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years and is the most important herb in Chinese medicine.
This is because it is an extremely strong adjuvant compared to other medicinal plants, that is, it strengthens the effects of other medicines and medicinal plants.
It also has a stress-regulating effect on the body and is an important adaptogen.
One can apply the herb as licorice root tea or as an *organic and alcohol-free licorice root extract.
Before we take a detailed look at the various health effects of licorice, I want to briefly introduce the most important ingredients.
Because the effects are due to these ingredients, and you may have heard of one or the other molecule:
This is a class of substances that dwell in plants as antibodies. They ward off microorganisms and mold and protect against the damaging sun rays.
In the human body, flavonoids develop their effects as signal substances and as strong antioxidants. They are able to capture and neutralize radical oxygen species (ROS) and, thus, counteract inflammation in the body.
This group of a substance also belongs to the antioxidants, although not as potent as the flavonoids. This class is known from cinnamon, another important medicinal herb from Far Eastern medicine.
Stilbenoids and triterpenes
These substances also function in the plant to defend against microorganisms. They are also antibacterial in the body and counteract infections of the gastrointestinal tract and inflammation.
This is probably the most interesting and important ingredient in licorice root. Glycyrrhizic acid is molecularly similar to steroid hormones and has almost equal effects:
The molecular structure of glycyrrhizic acid
The ring structure on the right is common for steroid hormones and, thus, explains the steroid-like, healthy effects of licorice root.
But before you think of testosterone injections: There are many types of steroid hormones, all of which are important in the body.
Glycyrrhizic acid particularly mimics the body’s own anti-inflammatory hormone cortisone. This is important if a person suffers from adrenal fatigue and the cortisone level in the body continues to decrease.
In a healthy body, glycyrrhizic acid does not lead to an increased release of cortisone, but to a healthier and better-regulated stress axis (HPA axis).
We can attribute many of the effects of licorice root to glycyrrhizic acid, as the anti-inflammatory effects have many reactions in the body. Furthermore, a partial imitation of the end results of other steroid hormones often takes place as well.
Because of its Glycyrrhizic acid content, licorice root, in any form, can cause interference with certain diuretic medications (water pills), blood pressure control medicine and drugs that help lower potassium levels.
In people suffering from hypertension, licorice root may also cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure. So, please, consult with your medical practitioner before consuming licorice root in any form.
How does licorice work?
Below is a list of the different effects. They were all described and confirmed in naturopathy or conventional medicine:
Here, licorice has a stimulating effect and imitates the outcome of activating substances such as caffeine (from coffee).
Licorice mimics the reactions of cortisone in the adrenal cortex. It is a hormone that naturally works strongest in the morning to wake up and activate the body.
Licorice also has an activating and regulating effect throughout the day. It is known to have a positive influence on the water, sugar and salt balance, as well as the sex hormones.
While cortisone is a stress hormone, it is primarily an anti-inflammatory hormone. Therefore, doctors also routinely prescribe it for autoimmune diseases. Licorice also has this anti-inflammatory effect.
Licorice counteracts arteriosclerosis due to its high antioxidant content and the now known glycyrrhizic acid.
Oxidative stress reduction
Oxidative stress is the cause of chronic inflammation in the body. These are the main cause behind many affluent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
It is particularly worth noting that regular consumption of licorice root reduces the harmful oxidized LDL cholesterol in the blood vessels.
Growth of endothelial cells
All blood vessels are lined with a layer of cells called endothelial cells. In chronic inflammation, such as high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases, these endothelial cells are exposed to increased stress.
Licorice serves as a growth signal for the endothelial cells and, thus, regulates healthy new growth in order to repair damage as quickly as possible.
Acetylcholine is an activating neurotransmitter in the brain, and the enzyme acetylcholine esterase breaks it down.
Licorice inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine and, thereby, ensures a higher acetylcholine level in the brain. This explains the stimulating and concentration-promoting effects of licorice root.
Scientists have not yet fully clarified the molecular mechanisms. However, doctors know this far that people who regularly consume licorice have improved glucose tolerance.
Both diabetics and healthy people seem to benefit from this. Of course, this does not refer to licorice candy, but to sugar-free use.
Since it mimics the effects of cortisone, it can also reduce pain signals in the body. It acts as a kind of natural pain reliever. This is particularly effective in combination with ginger and peppermint tea.
Many chronic inflammatory diseases (including autoimmune diseases) lead to an imbalance of immune cells.
This means too many inflammatory immune cells, but too few anti-inflammatory ones within the system. The balance of the TH1 and TH2 cells is also crucial for health.
TH1 cells dominate certain autoimmune diseases (e.g. Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis). Licorice causes a shift towards TH2 cells. This means that we can shift the balance to the positive in TH1-dominant diseases.
In the next article, you will learn for what exact health issues you can use licorice root, how to use it to get the best results and when to refrain from taking it.
In the meantime, I hope you found the above post regarding the health benefits of licorice roots helpful.
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