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Licorice Is More Than That Tasty Treat In The Grocery Store

Jun 1, 2008
Medical professionals, especially in Europe and Japan, have been using licorice more and more in medicine. The Chinese consider licorice to be a superior balancing and harmonizing agent, so it is added to many herbal formulas. It is reputed in many countries, including the United States, to be a treatment for stomach, intestinal and many other problems. What is it used for?

Antioxidant Properties

Licorice is being studied for its effects against oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is a major component in atherosclerosis. Approximately 300 different phytonutrient compounds found in natural licorice are considered possible antioxidants.

Anti-Viral Properties

Licorice is being tested for its ability to help prevent certain viruses from replicating themselves in body cells. It appears to stimulate the immune system into producing interferon, which is known for its anti-viral effects. It is an effective aid in treating herpes and hepatitis. Promising results are also being reported in tests using licorice to combat SARS, influenza and HIV.

Stomach and Intestinal Problems

Licorice is a natural home remedy for heartburn, gastritis and acid reflux. It helps to promote new cell growth in the lining of the stomach. It also enhances the stomach's self-protecting abilities. Licorice has been used to treat peptic ulcers and aid in healing other types of ulcers.

Throat and Respiratory Problems

Licorice is widely known in the world of alternative medicine as an expectorant and cough suppressant. Colds and flu have been treated with licorice since the days of the Romans. Many over-the-counter cough medicines contain licorice extract because it soothes the mucous membranes.

Other Medicinal Properties

* Cleansing the colon
* Supporting lung health
* Promoting adrenal gland function
* Soothing sore throats
* Lowering stomach acid levels
* Coating the stomach wall
* As a laxative
* As a diuretic
* Stopping flatulence
* Relieving rheumatism
* Relieving arthritis
* Regulating low blood sugar
* Treating Addison's disease
* Treating symptoms of menopause
* Regulating menstruation
* Relieving menstrual cramps
* Possibly reducing the occurrence of night sweats
* Balancing hormones
* Healing cold sores and canker sores

The Romans made licorice extract. Chinese herbalists use licorice for treating a wide range of conditions. Its confectionery use originated in England in the 16th century. The roots are used to flavor fruit juices and syrups. They are also used to flavor alcoholic drinks such as Sambuca and Guiness beer.

Is Licorice Safe?

Licorice is not recommended for use by people who suffer from diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension or kidney disease. It is also not recommended for use by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Side Effects

Licorice, although not thought to suppress the immune system like pharmaceutical cortisones, may cause similar side effects in high doses. Some of these include weight gain, fluid retention and high blood pressure.

Description and Cultivation

The licorice plant stands up to five feet tall. It has spikes of lilac-colored flowers that have bean-like pods containing three or four seeds apiece. The root, which is used most frequently, reaches underground about three feet and branches into networks of rhizomes.

After three to five years, the roots and rhizomes are cleaned, pulped, boiled and then concentrated by evaporation. The root, if kept dry, will keep for an indefinite amount of time. If the licorice is powdered, it should be stored in an airtight container.

Licorice has been used for centuries in conjunction with established medicine, as an alternative herbal medicine, and as an herbal confection in many parts of the world. It is noted for its medicinal value in treating stomach, intestinal and other ailments, including helping to stimulate the immune system. Studies are ongoing to discover more potential uses for this naturally sweet herb.
About the Author
More information on licorice root is available at VitaNet , LLC Health Food Store. http://vitanetonline.com/
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