When I talk about the health benefits of licorice I’m not talking about Twizzlers or Good –n- Plenty, even though they are delicious (especially the chocolate Twizzlers, but I digress.) No, I’m talking about unadulterated licorice that has been used for years for treating coughs and lung disease. In China it is the second most prescribed herb, following ginseng.
So what is so wonderful about licorice? For starters it is known for supporting upper respiratory tract health and having a soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes. Have you ever had a licorice cough drop? Well, now you know why they used licorice root. Licorice root is also used for urinary tract irritation, adrenal fatigue and exhaustion, immune-deficient states, allergies, liver disorders and detoxification. The Japanese even use licorice to control hepatitis because it works well in patients who need immune support. Licorice also has been shown to help patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as CFIDS.
Licorice is considered one of the top 50 “power herbs” according to Louis Vanrenen. This is party because licorice has over 25 flavonoids, terpenoids, amino acids, lignans and plant sterols, including glycyrrhizin, which is the most well known active ingredients. Glycyrrhizin is both anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating. And, listen up Mom, it can also raise blood pressure. For some this may not be a good thing, others who have low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, could use a boost in blood pressure when feeling light-headed or dizzy. For those with high blood pressure, use caution. Because the active ingredient in licorice works similar to the hormones of the adrenal gland, it is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is anti-inflammatory, but on the other hand the glycyrrhizin content can raise blood pressure.
There are numerous studies showing the many benefits of licorice. One study even showed that the flavonoids in licorice help reduce abdominal fat. Other studies show that it has an antioxidant effect. Others even show that licorice is among the top six food and herbs with the highest anticancer activity. Licorice has also been shown to soothe joints, which is good news for me in my marathon training. It can also help support normal blood sugar, aid digestion and ease menstruation woes.
The catch of all of this is actually finding “real” licorice and not just candy flavored with anise extract. I went on my hunt for the real thing and found “real” licorice at EarthFare. You can also find the Panda real licorice on Amazon if you don’t have an EarthFare near you. We went to a drive-in movie to see Toy Story 3 this past weekend and I decided that it was a good time to pull out the licorice and see how it fared as a movie-time treat, in place of my box of Good –n- Plenty. First, I must say that the flavor was very rich. It was very satisfying to eat just a little of it because of its’ full, rich flavor. It was very delicious and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it might taste too strong, without all of the added sugar, but it was delicious! Give licorice a try the next time you are craving something sweet. You will get a double bonus of feeling like you are splurging while giving your body a boost of health.
Have you ever tried “real” licorice? Do you like it or do you find the flavor too strong?