Licorice the herbal supplement and licorice the candy are decidedly different. In contrast to the sweet candy, the herb licorice is used in natural medicine to treat upper respiratory infections and stomach ulcers internally. Topically, licorice is used to treat conditions such as canker sores and eczema. Herbal licorice is available with or without a naturally occurring substance called glycyrrhizin. Purdue University also adds that licorice may act as a laxative in your body. Check with your doctor before using a licorice supplement.
Uses for Herbal Licorice
The herb licorice is available as an extract, tincture, capsule and powder at your local health food store. It is used to treat upper respiratory conditions that produce excessive amounts of mucous. Licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed, known as deglycyrrhizinated, or DGL, licorice is administered for stomach ulcers, although the University of Maryland Medical Center explains that evidence to both support and disprove this use is available. Used in topical form and found in creams and salves, licorice may help decrease symptoms of eczema, as well as relieve canker sore symptoms.
Laxative Effects of Licorice
According to Purdue University, one of the properties of the herb licorice is its laxative effect. When used as directed by the manufacturer, it may help decrease discomfort caused by constipation. When taken along with over-the-counter laxatives, licorice can cause a loss of the mineral potassium, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Loss of too much potassium can lead to heart rate irregularities that can be life-threatening. Also, because licorice can interact poorly with certain medications and medical conditions, it's best to check with your physician before using it for constipation.
Other Side Effects of Licorice
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice appears to have fewer adverse effects than the version with glycyrrhizin. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that licorice with glycyrrhizin can cause your body to be more sensitive to the effects of cortical hormones. This can lead to increased blood pressure, headache and can cause an unexpected heart attack. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine adds that, regardless of the type of licorice you use, you should discontinue use after a maximum of six weeks. This will allow your body to restore hormonal and blood pressure balance.
If you have a preexisting condition of the heart, liver or kidneys, avoid using the herb licorice. Both the herb and the candy should be avoided by women who are pregnant, because either can cause preterm labor or miscarriage. Licorice, according to Purdue University, may also have properties that cause it to act like estrogen in your body. If you are taking oral contraceptives or are trying to become pregnant, avoid taking licorice.
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