What it does… liquorice
What is it?
The stem of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, sweet root, contains many antioxidant properties. In its raw state liquorice contains glycyrrhizin, which can cause side effects such as fluid retention and raised blood pressure. However, the extract used in confectionery is very low and unlikely to cause problems. For supplements, glycyrrhizin is removed, creating a modified form called de-glycyrrhised liquorice (DGL, which has fewer side effects.
What does it do?
Reduces hot flushes: In a study by the University of Southern California, DGL was shown to reduce hot flushes by up to 80 per cent. This is due to liquorice’s oestrogen-mimicking constituents.
Eases damage caused by stomach ulcers: Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increases risk of stomach ulcers. Research from Wales found DGL given alongside aspirin led to a marked drop in damage to the stomach’s mucous membrane. DGL also reduces acid reflux.
Heals cold sores: A Department of Health-funded study found liquorice is active against the herpes virus that causes cold sores.
Fights respiratory infections: Glycyrrhizin and other flavanoids in liquorice have been shown to reduce bronchial spasms. The whole extract is needed, not just DGL, but as treatment is short-term, side effects are minimal.
Beats sugar cravings: There is anecdotal evidence that chewing liquorice root can reduce cravings for the sweet stuff.
When do I need it?
When any of the conditions above appear.
How do I get it?
DGL is mainly sold in tablet or capsule form. Liquorice is also used in many herbal tea blends.
Be careful if…
DGL has fewer side effects than pure extract, but use with caution if you have heart disease, hormone-sensitive cancers, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes or low potassium levels.