I am on a journey to quit sugar. It seems boring and difficult for me at times. To my relief and joy, I have recently discovered liquorice tea(also known as licorice), and you know what? Everyday I look up to my afternoon cup of licorice tea. It’s naturally sweet, warm and nutty flavour makes it an excellent sugar-craving buster. Liquorice tea is made with the roots of licorice, also available in powder form.
Ayurveda lists a lot of health benefits of drinking liquorice tea. It is known to be extremely beneficial for treating throat infections. It is also known to offer relief from various other health conditions including anxiety and depression, canker sores, infections, ulcers, skin rashes, liver disorders, and menopausal issues to name a few. Licorice is also known good for strengthening hair roots and growing beautiful hair. Early Egyptians used licorice tea as a cure-all concoction. Licorice is also known good for your hair. Licorice was later imported to China where it became an important herb in Chinese medicinal tradition.
A Guide Medicine
A very interesting fact to note is licorice has been used in Chinese medicine as a “guide drug.” What does it mean? It means Licorice root is used with other herbs and remedies to enhance their effects and essentially ‘guide’ the other herbs to where in our bodies, they would be most beneficial. In 2013, this use was observed and reviewed by the Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
With the traditional Chinese medicine approach, healers focus on the twelve “channels” of your body. It’s actually quite remarkable, as each channel represents an energy highway. Basically, these channels can be mapped throughout the body. And unlike in Western medicine, traditional Chinese practitioners access the energy of the body to encourage the healing process. Licorice root is one of the few herbs that is known to go to all twelve channels. In turn, it can act as a guide for other herbs that would not normally enter these channels.
A storehouse of Nutrients
There are four major types of compounds found in licorice root: flavonoids, coumarins, triterpenoids and stilbenoids. The flavonoid glabradin, which contributes to numerous licorice root benefits, first discovered in the 1970s, is observed to be anti-inflammatory, have an effect on metabolism and function as a phytoestrogen — which can sometimes benefit women’s health in many ways. Your cup of licorice tea contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C and E; such important minerals as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. It also has volatile oils, resins, alkaloids, tannins, phenols, saponins, flavonoids, glycyrrhizin, bitters and mucilage.
1. Licorice Tea : A Natural Remedy for Cold
This herbal tea is one of the most sought after and most effective remedy for cold and cough. While the antiviral property fights the infections, the tea also ensures that the body’s immunity power gets a boost. Once your immunity is pumped up, infections slowly vanish by themselves. It is also a good way to ease sore throat.
A warm licorice tea eases inflammation and pain, ensuring faster recovery from cold. The expectorant properties of this herbal tea also ensures that the clogged nasal passages as well as lungs are cleared, guaranteeing quicker relief. That is why the licorice root tea is recommended by Ayurvedic doctors as a cure for various bronchial issues.
2.A Blessing for your Stomach
Licorice root is used to soothe gastrointestinal problems. In cases of food poisoning, stomach ulcers, and heartburn, licorice root extract can speed the repair of stomach lining and restore balance. This is due to the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of glycyrrhizic acid, contained in liquorice.
One study found that glycyrrhizic acid can suppress the toxic bacteria H. pylori, and can prevent it from growing in the gut. There is also research that’s shown people who have peptic ulcer disease, heartburn, or gastritis had improved symptoms when taking DGL. DGL is licorice with glycyrrhizin removed, which is a safer form. DGL should contain no more than 2 percent glycyrrhizin. This form is recommended for gastrointestinal symptoms as long-term intake may be needed.
3. Cures Leaky Gut Symptoms
Licorice root is known to cure leaky gut symptoms. Our gut is meant to form a barrier to protect it from toxins and wastes. However, with leaky gut, the cell junctions are not closed properly which makes it leaky and permeable to toxins and wastes entering the bloodstream. Liquorice root is great for healing the gut due to its soothing and anti-inflammatory actions.
4. Licorice Tea Clears Respiratory System
Liquorice has traditionally been used as an expectorant, which soothes coughs and relieves congestion. Licorice herbal tea is mainly used to treat upper respiratory ailments. This is because it has a wide action against these maladies as it cures and strengthens your respiratory system at the same time. This tea acts a great expectorant, by breaking up mucous and phlegm in the respiratory passage and releasing them more easily. Also its antispasmodic qualities will offer you relief from asthmatic attacks.
5. Fights Adrenal Fatigue: Relieves Stress
Our modern society is plagued by environmental, physical and mental stress disorders. For so many of us, our adrenal glands are doing overtime. In the medical journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, licorice was mentioned to help the body more efficiently regulate cortisol — the stress hormone — thus giving your adrenals a break. It turns out it’s one of the main adaptogen herbs to help improve stress response.
6. Improves your Mood: Fights Depression
Mood disorders like depression can significantly reduce one’s quality of life. In many cases, patients are given antidepressants that come with a long list of side effects. Although they’re handed out like candy, these powerful medications not only interact with your liver, heart and brain, but they actually contribute to significant death rates, including stillbirths. It’s a sad reality. And if you can relate to this mental health experience, you need to know that there are more options out there.
While studying the effect of licorice extract on mice, researchers found that it significantly reduced immobility times within a forced swim test and tail suspension test. In fact, the effect of licorice was similar to that of two common antidepressants, fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine (Trofinal). After further investigation, researchers found that licorice appeared to increase levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, but not serotonin. Based on the antidepressant effects observed, the researchers concluded that licorice extract may, in fact, be used as an alternative remedy for depression.
6. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is essentially your body’s reaction to injury. In cases such as arthritis, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there’s nothing to fight. Based on these autoimmune diseases, the otherwise protective immune system begins to damage its own tissues, resulting in chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, there are consequences of too much inflammation. These include the development of heart disease and cancer. Glycyrrhizin is the component in licorice which blocks and relieves inflammation.
7. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Licorice root has been shown to heal the body, targeting both cholesterol and atherosclerosis risk. Within one 2016 study, published in Food & Nutrition Research, licorice root was examined in terms of carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) — a measurement that is used to determine the of the two inner layers of the carotid artery.
While studying patients with high cholesterol, researchers found that licorice produced positive effects. In fact, after following one year of licorice consumption, researchers found that mean CIMT, total cholesterol, blood pressure and LDL levels all decreased. The researchers concluded that licorice may reduce one’s risk of atherosclerosis, as well as other related cardiovascular diseases.
8. Licorice Tea Helps in Arthritis
Licorice benefits in arthritis in many ways. A study was conducted to analyze the effects of active compounds present in licorice as anti-inflammatory agents. Glycyrrhizic acid, liquiritin and liquiritigenin were analyzed for their effects on inflammation markers in our body.
It was observed that these three compounds found in licorice inhibit elevation of pro-inflammatory markers such as nitric oxide, interleukin, etc. Licorice extract actually suppresses the expression of pro-inflammatory markers. Hence, it is effective alternative for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, with little to no side effects. Licorice also acts as an immunomodulatory agent, thus benefiting in arthritis.
9. Treats Obesity
While studying the effects of licorice flavonoid oil, researchers found that this treatment could reduce both visceral fat and total body fat. To come to this conclusion, researchers assigned participants to one of four groups. Researchers gave the first group zero licorice extract, while the remaining three groups received either 300, 600 or 900 milligrams daily. After eight weeks, although calorie intake was similar across all four groups, total body fat mass decreased significantly among all three treatment groups. These individuals experienced no adverse effects, yet benefited from decreases in BMI, body weight, visceral fat and LDL cholesterol.
10. Heals Fatty Liver
It also helps your liver to neutralize toxins; it relieves viral liver inflammations and stimulates the liver function, thus also helping to control your hormone levels. Licorice tea can help in managing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by reducing the elevated liver enzymes. According to Ayurveda, although this may not be a cure for liver diseases, it can help in managing the condition, when taken with other liver protective herbs like Bhringraj, Giloy, Punarnava etc.
Apart from the above mentioned benefits of liquorice tea, there are multiple other benefits that are yet to be studied by modern science. Liquorice is called Yashtimadhu, meaning sweet-stick in Ayurveda. In Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, liquorice is described as a brain rejuvenator. Two grams liquorice along with half a cup of warm milk is prescribed as an anti-aging tea and a brain-tonic.
Licorice tea is considered good for eyesight, useful in increasing strength and immunity and improving skin complexion. It is good for improving hair quality and voice quality (on chewing and taken orally with honey). Licorice tea can protect against the carcinogenic DNA damage. This is because the root has certain polyphenols that can kill cancer cells. Further, studies have revealed that licorice root can be a potent alternative to chemotherapy in killing cancer cells, as it comes with lesser side-effects.
General Side-Effects of Licorice
Licorice helps to increase blood pressure, and used as a hypotensiom drug in Ayurveda. Hence it should not be consumed more than 3 gms per day. Licorice root products such as licorice tea should not be used for a prolonged period of time as they can have side effects and interact with medications. Also, if you currently have heart disease, it’s important to discuss this treatment option with your doctor. Although herbs can strengthen the body and treat disease, they often contain compounds that interact with prescription medications.
From the Book: Ayurveda in Daily Life By Katherine Bond