The benefits of licorice depend on the type you're eating.
Licorice, the food my dental crowns are never happy to see coming their way. Licorice has taken on kind of a generic label over the years. So, lets differentiate between the pure candy, and the beneficial herbal plant extract. Red licorice candy never contains actual licorice root from the licorice plant, and most black licorice seldom does either. Most licorice candy consists of refined sugar, a food coloring, and has no health benefits at all, other than putting a smile on someones face. Black licorice however, made from real licorice can have several health benefits but also has some health risks. Talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts of real licorice or taking licorice supplements. Licorice candy made in the United States contains no glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient, although licorice candy from other parts of the world do.
It was the English who introduced the herb to the American Indians, which is strange because it was usually the other way around. John Josselyn of Boston in the sixteenth century lists Licorice as one of the "precious herbs" he brought over from England. He would brew a beer for the Indians when they had a bad cold. It was strongly flavored with elecampane, a combination of, licorice, aniseed, sassafras and fennel. The most common use of licorice world-wide is to treat coughs and colds. Licorice is especially useful for treating coughs with sticky phlegm, or for treating colds that accompany stomach upset. Chinese medicine also uses licorice to treat various forms of chronic fatigue. Gastric and duodenal ulcers and canker sores can be treated with the herb or with its common derivative, deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). If you use DGL, however, you must remember to chew the capsules or they will not work. Saliva activates DGL. According to the Licorice Root Extract Research website: Licorice Root Extract is being studied for it's anti-viral effects. In laboratory studies using cells, hen eggs, and animals it has shown a protective effect against:
- Influenza (and SARS)
- Influenza A (Avian Influenza, Bird Flu)
- Hepatitis B
- Herpes simplex
Don't use licorice if you have high blood pressure. The excretion of potassium stimulated by licorice. If you use steroids or an asthma inhaler, licorice will increase both the effectiveness of the drug, and the severity of it's side effects. It's not recommended for use by pregnant women.
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