Herb of the Week: Licorice Root

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Registered: 03-11-2004
Herb of the Week: Licorice Root
Wed, 07-21-2010 - 1:30pm

Licorice Root

Keywords: sweet root, gan zao, chinese licorice, Hepatitis C


This fact sheet provides basic information about licorice root—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Most licorice is grown in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. Licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin (or glycyrrhizic acid). Licorice has a long history of medicinal use in both Eastern and Western systems of medicine.

Common Names—licorice root, licorice, liquorice, sweet root, gan zao (Chinese licorice)

Latin Name—Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Chinese licorice)

What Licorice Root Is Used For

Licorice root has been used as a dietary supplementA product that contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has special labeling requirements for dietary supplements. for stomach ulcers, bronchitis, and sore throat, as well as infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis.

How Licorice Root Is Used

* Peeled licorice root is available in dried and powdered forms.
* Licorice root is available as capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts.
* Licorice can be found with glycyrrhizin removed; the product is called DGL (for "deglycyrrhizinated licorice").

What the Science Says

* A review of several clinical trials found that glycyrrhizin might reduce complications from hepatitis C in some patients. However, there is not enough evidence to confirm that glycyrrhizin has this effect.
* There are not enough reliable data to determine whether licorice is effective for stomach ulcers.

Side Effects and Cautions

* In large amounts, licorice containing glycyrrhizin can cause high blood pressure, salt and water retention, and low potassium levels, which could lead to heart problems. DGL products are thought to cause fewer side effects.
* The safety of using licorice as a supplement for more than 4 to 6 weeks has not been thoroughly studied.
* Taking licorice together with diuretics (water pills) or other medicines that reduce the body's potassium levels could cause dangerously low potassium levels.
* People with heart disease or high blood pressure should be cautious about using licorice.
* When taken in large amounts, licorice can affect the body's levels of a hormone called cortisol and related steroid drugs, such as prednisone.
* Pregnant women should avoid using licorice as a supplement or consuming large amounts of licorice as food, as some research suggests it could increase the risk of preterm labor.
* Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Web site: ods.od.nih.gov
NIH National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus

Licorice Root Listing: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-licorice.html

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.




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