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The Effect of Licorice on Hypothyroidism

by
author image Henry Pitot
Henry Pitot has been writing since 1992. His work has appeared in leading peer-reviewed journals, including "The Lancet" and Cancer Research Online. He is certified in oncology and hematology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He received his Doctor of Medicine from University of Wisconsin in 1986.
The Effect of Licorice on Hypothyroidism
A close-up of English licorice on a wooden table. Photo Credit AuthenticCreations/iStock/Getty Images

Hypothyroidism happens in people with decreased or absent thyroid function and thyroid hormone production. Since thyroid hormones play an essential role in stimulating energy production, a deficiency of these hormones may result in extreme fatigue. Hypothyroidism is a major cause of fatigue but not all fatigue is due to impaired thyroid function. Herbs such as licorice may be utilized in the treatment of hypothyroidism. If you want to use licorice or other herbs, talk to your doctor first.

Licorice and Hypothyroidism

Many people who have suffered from hypothyroidism have found that small, safe dosages of licorice have been dramatically beneficial when prescribed by their physicians, says Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda, the Director of the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Oregon. People with hypothyroidism often produce lower levels of cortisol -- an hormone that helps your body cope with stress. Licorice stimulates the production of cortisol by the thyroid gland, suggesting that it could be useful in the treatment of hypothyroidism.

Other Health Benefits

In a 2010 study by Yoon Hee Kim and colleagues at the Hallym University in Korea, a phenolic compound isolated from licorice root has shown to have anti-cancer activity. The phenolic compound, licochalcone A, helps the body destroy tumor cells by increasing immune cell activity. In addition to the anti-tumor effects, several studies found that licorice root is useful in the treatment of various skin conditions such as abscesses, eczema, burns and a variety of skin wounds.

Side Effects: Potassium Deficiency

The glycyrrhizin in licorice produces effects similar to those of the natural hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone depletes potassium in the body. For this reason, do not take licorice at high doses. Potassium plays an important part in the transmission of nerve impulse and normal heart function. Therefore, severe potassium deficiency caused by excessive consumption of licorice or other causes can lead to the pathogenesis of many nerve and heart disorders.

Drug Interactions

Licorice may lower blood glucose levels by an unknown mechanism. Therefore, long-term use of licorice at high doses can cause hypoglycemia or excessively low blood sugar levels. People who take glucose-lowering medications and insulins should use licorice with caution and only under the supervision of their doctors.

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