Licorice is more than just a flavoring of candy. For hundreds of years the extract of the root of the licorice plant, from which the flavoring is derived, has been used in traditional medicine and continues to be used today for a variety of medicinal applications. In fact, due to potential effects on the body, licorice candy is now more likely to be flavored with anise.
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Licorice extract is frequently suggested for treating peptic ulcers and may have similar results, when used in conjunction with antacids, to that of some prescription drugs. Licorice may also relieve symptoms of indigestion and may be helpful in treating gastro-esophageal reflux disorder, or GERD. Licorice extract is sometimes used together with peppermint and chamomile to help ease gastrointestinal problems.
Topical application of licorice as a gel or cream has been used to treat skin ailments such as psoriasis and eczema, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A gargle of licorice and extract mixed with water can be used as a mouthwash to treat canker sores.
Licorice may have applications for the treatment of viral infections, including herpes simplex virus, viral hepatitis and HIV. Studies are currently underway to determine if licorice, when used in conjunction with the medication carbenoxolone, may help to inhibit viral reproduction and spread.
Upper Respiratory Treatments
Licorice acts as both an expectorant and cough suppressant and has long been used for upper respiratory ailments such as sore throats and coughs due to colds, according to MedlinePlus. In Europe and Asia, licorice extract is a common ingredient in cough remedies.