Licorice has a secret life. A

series of medical studies have

revealed that this mild-mannered

candy is actually a superhero

herb in disguise.

For example, research with

animals and humans supports

the traditional use of licorice root

to prevent and treat stomach ulcers.

In a study of rats given

either plain aspirin or licoricecoated

aspirin (high doses of aspirin often causes ulcers in

rats), the rats receiving the licorice aspirin developed 50 percent

fewer ulcers. Studies with humans have found that compounds

containing glycyrrhizin (an active substance in licorice

– more on this later) may be as effective as leading antiulcer

medications in relieving stomach ulcer pain and preventing

ulcers from developing. In a study that utilized licorice

root extract to treat one hundred stomach ulcer patients

(of which eighty-six had not improved from conventional medication),

90 percent of patients improved. The ulcers totally

disappeared in twenty-two of these patients.

A study done by a team of Scottish researchers concluded

that a chemical derived from licorice may boost brain function

and slow age-related memory loss. The chemical is

carbenoxolone, a substance traditionally used to soothe ulcers.

Ten healthy elderly men without any memory impairment

took carbenoxolone three times a day. A month later the subjects performed about 10 percent

better on tests of the ability to use and

recall certain words than nonmedicated


Other research suggests that licorice

can help prevent and treat chronic hepatitis

(a liver disease), lower cholesterol

and blood pressure, and reduce the risk

of heart disease. All this from what

many of us regard as a pleasant candy.

Licorice Background

This purple and white flowering perennial

is native to southern Europe,

Asia, and the Middle East. Sweet tasting

licorice has been used for over two

thousand years to soothe chest and

throat complaints.

Modern herbalists also use licorice

for its anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory

properties, particularly its healing

qualities for inflamed mucous membranes

of the respiratory tract.

The plant flowers between May and

August. In the late fall, the roots are

gathered and dried. It is the root that is

most widely used in herbal medicine.

Known as “sweet root,” licorice root

contains a substance (glycyrrhizin) that

is about fifty times sweeter than sugar;

hence, the candy sticks derived from this

versatile herb. Licorice is the second

most prescribed herb in China following


Consistent with traditional usage,

Edgar Cayce recommended licorice primarily

for its healing effects on the mucous

membranes of the stomach and intestines

in the sixty-three readings that

discuss this herb. The readings always

prescribed licorice as an ingredient in

various complex herbal formulas – never

by itself.

Licorice root and its derivatives can

be purchased at many health food stores.

In addition to the dried root, this herb is

available as a powder, cream, lozenge,

tablet, or liquid.


As with any powerful medicine, licorice

can be harmful if misused. Glycyrrhizin,

one of the active ingredients in licorice,

can produce negative side effects

including increased blood pressure, sodium

and water retention, and a variety

of harmful medication interactions. For

licorice without glycyrrhizin, look for

products labeled DGL (deglycyrrhizinated).

To avoid these potential problems,

many modern candy products substitute

anise (an herb with a pleasant licorice

flavor) or remove the glycyrrhizin. Be

careful to consume only modest amounts

of any candy labeled as “real licorice.”

Although I am sure that I am preaching

to the choir, be aware that swallowing

saliva from licorice-laced chewing tobacco

can also result in toxic reactions.

Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends

avoiding whole licorice or licorice root

products if you have high blood pressure,

kidney or liver disease, diabetes or heart

disease, if you’re using diuretics, and

during pregnancy. For anyone considering

using licorice as an ulcer treatment,

be sure to seek the assistance of a

qualified health professional.

Source by David McMillin