Brazilian Natural Medicine

Licorice: what it is, what it is for and how to use it

Licorice is a medicinal plant, also known as glycyrrhiza, regaliz or sweet root, which is known as one of the oldest medicinal plants in the world, being used since ancient times to treat various health problems, especially stomach problems, inflammation and respiratory diseases.

While it has many health benefits, using licorice can also cause a number of side effects in the body, especially when the plant is consumed in excess. This is because licorice is rich in glycyrrhizic acid, a substance that prevents the conversion of cortisol to cortisone, which causes the kidneys to stop working properly and end up eliminating excess potassium, resulting in several serious problems, including changes in the heartbeat. heart.

The scientific name of licorice is Glycyrrhiza glabra and can be purchased at natural products stores, compounding pharmacies and some street markets. However, its use should always be done with the guidance of a doctor, herbalist or other health professional accustomed to the use of medicinal plants.

According to several studies done with licorice, the plant appears to have the following benefits:

1. Eliminates fungi and bacteria

Licorice has substances that seem to be able to eliminate different types of bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenesboth when used in the form of an aqueous extract or an alcoholic extract.

In addition, the use of licorice has shown good action against fungi, and is even effective in eliminating drug-resistant Candida albicans infections. According to a study done on HIV patients, licorice tea appears to be an excellent choice for treating fungal infections in the mouth.

2. Has antioxidant action

Several investigations carried out in the laboratory demonstrate the antioxidant effect of licorice, which seems to be justified by the presence of substances such as glabridin, apigenin and liquiritin.

3. Regulates blood sugar

Studies done on rats have shown that the use of licorice appears to be able to regulate blood glucose levels in diabetics. In addition, several reports indicate that the use of licorice appears to lessen common symptoms of diabetes, such as excessive thirst and frequent urge to urinate.

4. Fight malaria

Licorice has a substance known as licochalcone A, which seems to have a high anti-malarial action, being able to eliminate the malaria parasite without causing any side effects. For this reason, in China there are 3 different species of licorice that are included in the pharmacopoeia as a form of complementary treatment for malaria.

5. Stimulates the immune system

Laboratory investigations have shown that licorice is able to increase the production of some types of lymphocytes and macrophages, important cells of the immune system. In addition, licorice also appears to have some antiviral action, protecting the body against viral infections, especially the Influenza type.

6. Has anti-inflammatory action

In some studies, licorice has shown strong anti-inflammatory action, showing superior efficacy to hydrocortisone, a type of corticosteroid widely used in the treatment of inflammation, such as arthritis and skin problems.

Unlike over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, using licorice does not seem to affect the lining of the stomach.

7. Protects the stomach and liver

Carbenoxolone is a synthetic substance widely used to treat gastric ulcers and was originally created with a structure similar to a substance found in licorice root that helps protect the stomach.

In addition, glycyrrhizic acid has also shown hepatoprotective action, decreasing inflammation of liver cells and may help prevent the emergence of cancer in this organ.

8. Stimulates the elimination of phlegm

Although the mechanism of action is not known, there are several studies that show that the use of licorice helps to reduce irritations in the throat region, in addition to helping to eliminate phlegm.

For this reason, this plant has been widely used since ancient times to treat respiratory problems, especially when there is a cough with phlegm, as in bronchitis, for example.

how to use licorice

The part that is normally used in licorice is its root, from which its active substances are extracted. One of the most popular forms of use is tea, which can be made as follows:

  • Licorice tea: put 5 grams of licorice root in 500 ml of water and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Then let it cool, strain and drink up to 2 cups a day.

However, the best way to use licorice for medicinal purposes is to use it in the form of capsules, under the guidance of a herbalist, who should indicate the best daily dosage, according to the problem to be treated.

Since licorice can have some side effects, it is generally recommended not to exceed a dose of 100 mg of glycyrrhizic acid per day.

Possible side effects

Licorice is considered a safe plant for consumption, however, if consumed in excess, it can cause some side effects due to the presence of glycyrrhizic acid, which increases the concentration of cortisol in the body, resulting in decreased levels of potassium in the blood, which in turn cause increased blood pressure, muscle weakness and heart beat changes.

Although it is rare, it is possible for licorice poisoning to occur, especially when the plant is consumed in high doses and for a long time. This poisoning can result in kidney failure, heart problems, and fluid buildup in the lungs.

There are already some licorice supplements on the market that are free of glycyrrhizic acid, but this is also one of the most important substances in licorice, responsible for many of its therapeutic effects.

Who should avoid licorice

Since it has a number of side effects, licorice should always be used under the guidance of a physician, herbalist or other health care professional familiar with the use of medicinal plants.

Its use is completely contraindicated in people with high blood pressure, heart problems, kidney disease and low blood potassium levels. In addition, licorice should also be avoided in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Finally, licorice can also interact with some medications, particularly high blood pressure medications, anticoagulants, diuretics, birth control and anti-inflammatories.

Always consult a doctor.

Verified by RJ985 – Brazilian natural medicine

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