By Connie Strasheim
I love licorice! Well, the candy, yes, but even more, the herb, because of how great it makes me feel! Since incorporating licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) into my health regimen several years ago, I’ve experienced greater stamina, energy and overall wellbeing. This could be because licorice causes the body to retain cortisol—which is a good thing if you battle advanced adrenal fatigue and are cortisol deficient-as I typically am. Cortisol helps to regulates a multitude of functions in the body, including energy, blood pressure, blood sugar, thyroid function and inflammation, among others—so it’s important to have the right amount; not too much, but not too little, either. Having either too much or too little will cause immune dysfunction.
My morning cortisol levels have always been “in the tank” so taking a teaspoon of licorice herbal extract seems to help me get up and get going at the start of the day, and helps me to shake off any heaviness in my body from the night. Whenever I feel inflamed, it seems to “cool” my body down.
What’s more, licorice helps me to stand for long periods of time. I battle postural hypotension; meaning, my blood pressure drops whenever I stand for long periods of time. Licorice boosts the body’s aldosterone, which is a hormone that plays a role in blood pressure regulation, so by boosting my blood pressure, licorice helps me to overcome postural hypotension.
In my experience, licorice is a helpful adjunct for many people that battle chronic illnesses such as Lyme disease, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, because of its immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory effects. However, I wouldn’t recommend taking it long term except under your doctor’s supervision, as long term usage has been shown to cause potassium depletion. Also, because it influences blood pressure, people with cardiac and kidney conditions should consult their doctors before using it.
Licorice root is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia, and is one of the most important and widely used herbs in the world. The Chinese especially, consider it to be an herb that is key to health and it is found in more Chinese medicinal combinations than any other herb.
Adrenal fatigue expert Michael Lam, MD, states, “Licorice is a highly prized Chinese medicine. It is used in almost all of the Chinese patented herbal formulas. Licorice is the most well known herb for adrenal support. It is an anti-stress herb known to increase energy, endurance, and vitality and act as a mild tonic. Licorice is known to naturally fortify cortisone levels and it has been used to help decrease symptoms of hypoglycemia, a common side effect of decreased adrenal function. It causes increased production of aldosterone, a hormone that is frequently deficient in advanced Adrenal Fatigue.”[i]
For adrenal-protective benefits, Dr. Lam recommends avoiding deglycyrrhized licorice (DGL),[ii] which is made by removing the glycyrrhizin, a compound in the licorice. Instead, he recommends taking pure herbal extracts.
Licorice contains over 200 compounds, many of which have been shown in studies to have broad-spectrum medicinal properties. For instance, a study review of 93 papers published in Pharmaceutical Biology in December 2017 states, “ Licorice extract, 3 triterpenes and 13 flavonoids exhibit evident anti-inflammatory properties mainly by decreasing TNF, MMPs, PGE2 and free radicals, which also explain its traditional applications in stimulating digestive system functions, eliminating phlegm, relieving coughing, nourishing qi (or the body’s vital force) and alleviating pain in TCM.”[iii]
It has been used worldwide treat a wide variety of conditions, including, but not limited to, gastrointestinal and liver disorders, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, menopausal symptoms, lupus, malaria, high potassium levels in the blood, food poisoning, and bacterial and viral infections. Studies show it also has anti-cancer properties.
Licorice comes in many forms; as an whole herb, powder, liquid extract, capsule, tea, and so on. Recommended dosages depend upon the individual, so if you are considering taking it, ask your doctor whether it’s an appropriate remedy for you, and if so, how much you can take. Indeed, licorice can be a valuable supportive remedy for people with Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other inflammatory conditions, but like all things, it isn’t for everyone. Short-term use of the herb is safe for many people, but again, you’ll want to ask your doctor whether it may benefit you.
In any case, it is one of my go-to staples for wellness; one I look forward to taking every morning as a tincture in my energy drink, and one which helps me to face the day with joy , energy and positive expectation!