If heartburn and indigestion are dictating what you eat and keeping you up at night, it may be time to consider a new treatment. Licorice root is a natural remedy used to treat digestive issues for centuries.
What Is Licorice Root?
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) grows in both Europe and Asia. The long, brown roots of the plant are harvested for both food and medicine and are yellow on the inside. Because of their flavor, which is considerably sweeter than sugar, licorice root is sometimes referred to as "sweet root," according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Licorice Root for Digestion
Licorice root is a common herbal remedy for symptoms of indigestion like GERD and heartburn. There are two compounds within licorice that contribute to this action: flavonoids and glycyrrhizin. First of all, the flavonoids are a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the cells of the body from the damage of free radical invaders. In the case of licorice, the flavonoids are believed to help protect the cells of the liver in particular. They can also assist the cells of the digestive tract in healing from any damage caused by stomach acid.
Next, the glycyrrhizin works as an anti-inflammatory for further protection. However, glycyrrhizin can have negative side effects from prolonged use, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) and edema (swelling). This is why deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL is available -- it's been shown to provide the same benefits but without the glycyrrhizin at all. If you're interested in taking a whole licorice root supplement, with the glycyrrhizin, look for one that contains between 6 and 10 percent, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, an expert on naturopathic medicine.
The third way licorice root benefits the digestive system is by increasing mucous production to better coat the lower esophagus, intestinal tract and stomach. These tissues can become irritated and damaged by stomach acid, leading to further discomfort and long-term problems.
Additional Benefits of Licorice Root
Licorice root has been taken for centuries to treat indigestion as well as other ailments. Licorice is most commonly taken by those suffering from conditions like fatigue (usually linked to the adrenal glands), hormonal imbalance, stomach ulcers, canker sores and respiratory issues like asthma.
More research is needed to determine licorice root's exact effects on the body in relation to these conditions.
How to Take It
You can find licorice root supplements and DGL supplements in a variety of forms, including liquid extracts and chewable tablets, which are convenient for when you're on the go. Licorice root works best to prevent and relieve symptoms of indigestion and heartburn when taken before meals or between meals.
Anyone being treated for a medical condition should always consult their doctor before adding new supplements to their daily routine. If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, you shouldn't take licorice root. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also consult their doctor before taking this supplement.
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