Licorice Root - A Remedy to Soothe Your Stomach

15 August, 2020
Licorice root has been used in natural medicine as an adjuvant to calm digestive discomfort for a long time. However, there are some contraindications and it isn't recommended for everyone. What should you know about it

Licorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra, has been used as a remedy for various types of ailments for a long, long time. The food industry also uses it as a sweetener and to soften the taste of some medicines due to its characteristic sweet taste.

You can also find it in the form of herbal teas, capsules, extracts, and supplements. Their purpose is to soothe digestive discomfort, menopausal symptoms, and infections, among others.

OK, but is it safe? Is there any evidence in regard to its supposed properties? There’s not enough evidence to consider this root as a treatment for diseases yet. However, some studies support its use as a supplement for digestive discomfort.

Properties of licorice root

Firstly, let’s do a brief review of the properties of licorice root. According to information published in Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, this plant contains more than 20 triterpenoids and almost 300 flavonoids. These could explain its pharmacological properties.

Some of its properties:

  • Antiviral
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory

For now, there’s still limited evidence in this regard and licorice root remains under study. However, some researchers suggest its effects are promising for the future development of effective affordable drugs.

An assortment of licorice candy.
The sweetness of the licorice root makes it desirable to the food industry.

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Licorice root can soothe stomach discomfort

There’s a common belief that some of the chemicals in licorice root, such as flavonoids, can help reduce bloating and accelerate the relief of gastrointestinal problems. There’s no solid evidence on this yet but some studies have led to interesting findings.

For example, a double-blind study published in the medical journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative medicine found that an extract of glabridin and glabrene flavonoids, contained in licorice root, was helpful in calming stomach discomforts such as nausea, abdominal pain, and heartburn.

Meanwhile, a review published in Phytotherapy Research states that glycyrrhizinic acid, contained in this root, has anti-inflammatory and immunostimulating properties that help fight H. Pylori bacteria, a microorganism that causes various digestive disorders, such as ulcers.

This was also evidenced in a clinical trial published in The Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases. In it, 120 people had positive effects against the eradication of H. Pylori after adding licorice extract to their standard treatment.

Contraindications

You must consult your doctor before using licorice root as a supplement against digestive problems in order to establish an appropriate dose for you. In addition, they can help establish any contraindications or possible drug interactions.

According to information compiled by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), no person should consume licorice root in excessive amounts or for long periods of time. Excess could lead to high blood pressure and low potassium levels and these increase the risk of heart and muscle disorders.

Its consumption isn’t recommended during pregnancy. Also, taking licorice root supplements while you’re also taking diuretic medications can be harmful to the heart. Other possible drug interactions include the following:

  • Medications to regulate the heartbeat
  • Potassium reducers
  • Blood thinners such as warfarin
  • Estrogens, hormone therapy, and birth control pills
  • Corticosteroids
A person with a stomach ache.
The benefits of licorice root for heartburn must be weighed alongside the risks and side effects.

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How to use it to soothe stomach discomfort

Currently, licorice root is available as chewable tablets, liquid extracts, capsules, powder, and in its natural form. Often, people infuse the latter. However, you must consume in moderate amounts to avoid any side effects.

In order to soothe stomach discomfort, add some licorice extract to any natural drink, hot water is great for it. You can also put a few drops directly under the tongue to soothe heartburn.

In any case, keep in mind this is not the first-choice treatment for digestive system conditions. So, consult your doctor if you have any digestive problems.

  • Wang, L., Yang, R., Yuan, B., Liu, Y., & Liu, C. (2015, July 1). The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widely-used Chinese herb. Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B. Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsb.2015.05.005
  • Raveendra KR, Jayachandra, Srinivasa V, et al. An Extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) Alleviates Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:216970. doi:10.1155/2012/216970
  • Hosseinzadeh, H., & Nassiri-Asl, M. (2015, December 1). Pharmacological Effects of Glycyrrhiza spp. and Its Bioactive Constituents: Update and Review. Phytotherapy Research. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5487
  • Hajiaghamohammadi, A. A., Zargar, A., Oveisi, S., Samimi, R., & Reisian, S. (2016). To evaluate of the effect of adding licorice to the standard treatment regimen of Helicobacter pylori. Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases20(6), 534–538. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjid.2016.07.015