The health benefits of licorice root

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While licorice is well-known as a delicious black sweet, the herb itself – Glycyrrhiza glabra – has very different benefits. As a medicinal herb, licorice root has long been valued for the profound and positive effect it has on your digestive system.

Licorice has been used in many forms over the centuries. It is known that the glycyrrhizin in licorice root can cause hypertension (high blood pressure), so a procedure has been developed to remove this compound from licorice and this new safer form is known as DGL or deglycyrrhizinated licorice. Anti-inflammatory DGL is highly effective for soothing digestive disturbances, in particular, gastritis and peptic ulcers.

The proposed mechanism of DGL in peptic ulcer treatment is that it stimulates and/or accelerates the protective factors that protect against ulcer formation, which differs from conventional antacid medications that work by neutralising or suppressing gastric acid. Specifically, DGL improves both the quality and quantity of the protective substances that line the intestinal tract, increasing the lifespan of the intestinal cells as well as improving the blood supply to the intestinal lining. The licorice produces a thick protective mucus gel that covers the lining of the stomach wall providing welcome relief for heartburn sufferers too.

Chewing DGL between or twenty minutes prior to meals seems to produce positive results as it must mix with saliva to promote the regeneration of salivary compounds that stimulate the growth and regeneration of stomach and intestinal cells.

DGL may also prove useful in eradicating Helicobacter pylori. Patients with duodenal and gastric ulcers usually test positive to this bacterium.  Predisposing factors for H.pylori infection are low gastric output and low antioxidant levels in the gastrointestinal lining and a test by your GP will determine this. No longer are stress and anxiety thought to be the main cause of ulcers, evidence shows infection with H.pylori is the cause, this bacteria causes damage to the stomach lining and DGL is able to combat this damage.

It would be remiss not to mention that licorice is also one of a group of herbs that has a marked effect upon the endocrine system, and it that it was traditionally used as an adrenal tonic. Licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, similar to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, the glands which have the task of responding to any stress the body is under, whether it is study, work or life. This explains the beneficial action that licorice has on the treatment of adrenal gland problems such as Addison’s disease where the adrenal glands cease to function normally. 

Good for your gut

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) may help relieve:

  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Gastritis
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Peptic ulcers

A note of caution: Do not take licorice supplements if you are taking anti-hypertensive or diuretic medications, or if you suffer severe kidney insufficiency, liver cirrhosis or if you are pregnant, as they are contraindicated.

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