Licorice root has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine and other medical systems for a diverse range of conditions. You can find licorice root powder in teas and capsules. You also have the option of eating the root whole or taking it in tincture form. The University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, suggests taking one to five grams of powder daily with hot water.
Length of Use
The University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, cautions against taking any form of licorice for more than a week. Consult with a doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner for longer courses of treatment. Generally, you should not use this supplement for longer than four to six weeks.
Licorice is probably best known for its benefits to digestive health. The University of Maryland Medical Center and MedlinePlus, note a particular supplement that contains licorice and other well-known herbs for digestion, might help heartburn. The supplement, Iberogast, has been shown to reduce heartburn and related symptoms after taking one mg three times a day for four weeks. The UMMC also notes it might benefit peptic ulcers but studies have produced mixed results. Positive studies have stemmed from both animal and human subjects.
Other Traditional Uses
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center explains testing has found licorice has anti-bacterial effects. Some of its traditional uses include treating both topical and internal conditions triggered by bacterial infection. The UMMC notes licorice as a popular treatment for respiratory issues like coughs, congestion and asthma though research into these matters has produced mixed results. According to the MSKCC, studies of isolated cancer cells and animal studies have shown licorice prompted apoptosis -- a process where cancer cells self-destruct and inhibited the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells. Topically, licorice might also help skin conditions like eczema. Gargling with a mixture of water and licorice root is a popular natural treatment for canker sores. Traditional Chinese medicine frequently includes licorice in concoctions for female fertility.
One of the components in licorice, glycyrrhizin, has been known to cause serious side effects. Many products do not contain this compound, known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, extract. Use these forms instead, particularly for stomach complaints.
Do not use licorice if pregnant or breastfeeding or if you have liver disorders, kidney disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems. Possible dangerous reactions include high blood pressure, excess potassium levels, headache, irregular periods, decreased male libido, fluid retention and fatigue; this does not constitute an exhaustive list. It can potentially interact with blood-thinning medications, estrogen, furosemide, digoxin, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, steroids, laxatives and MAO inhibitor medications.