What Are the Health Benefits of Glycyrrhiza glabra?

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The root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, better known as licorice, has many purported uses. Scientific evidence is insufficient to verify whether it actually helps any health conditions, according to MedlinePlus, a website affiliated with the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Licorice with the component glycyrrhizin can cause serious side effects, but deglycyrrhizinated licorice, called DGL, appears to be safe. Consult a qualified health care provider before taking Glycyrrhiza glabra.

Respiratory Benefits

Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India, considers Glycyrrhiza glabra to be a tonic, expectorant and a demulcent, notes the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A demulcent has soothing, coating properties, while an expectorant eliminates phlegm and mucous from the respiratory tract. These properties account for the traditional use of licorice as a cough reliever and an asthma treatment. Results in studies have been mixed, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Ulcer Treatment

DGL may be beneficial for treating stomach ulcers. A small number of studies indicate that DGL combined with antacids had results comparable to prescription drugs, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. One study found a high rate of success with licorice root fluid extract for treating stomach ulcers, but other studies had conflicting results. Animal research suggests DGL may protect against ulcers caused by aspirin use.

Acid Reflux Treatment

An herbal formula called Iberogast, containing licorice and numerous other herbs, may help relieve heartburn or symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Taking 1 ml orally three times daily for four weeks significantly decreases the severity of acid reflux and other symptoms, including heartburn pain, cramping, nausea and vomiting, according to MedlinePlus.

Topical and Oral Benefits

The University of Maryland Medical Center cites two studies indicating that licorice may have topical and oral uses. Applying a topical gel with 2 percent licorice content reduced skin itching, swelling and redness, and gargling with DGL and warm water reduced the pain of canker sores.

Weight and Fat Reduction

Although research is limited, Glycyrrhiza glabra may be beneficial for people who want to lose weight or decrease body fat. The University of Maryland Medical Center cites a study in which participants consumed 900 mg of licorice flavonoid oil per day for eight weeks and experienced significant reductions in body fat and weight, along with lowered cholesterol levels. In another study cited by the Medical Center, applying a topical preparation of the licorice component glycyrrhetinic acid decreased the thickness of fat on the thigh.

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