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Revealed: Three health benefits of liquorice

by , 14 June 2013

Liquorice is one of mankind's very first modern medicines. And even today, it's used to treat ulcers and a host of other intestinal problems and discomforts due to its ability to stimulate and normalise gastric activity. However, by altering the way human steroid hormones are metabolised, studies now suggest liquorice may be beneficial in treating various hormone-related illnesses too. Read on to find out how…

According to Dr Jonathan Wright of Nutrition & Healing, studies have also shown the steroid like compounds in liquorice, glycyrrhizin (GL) and glycyrrhetinic acid (GA), exert a powerful influence on steroid-hormone function.

And it’s for this reason they believe liquorice may be an effective treatment for certain illnesses.

Use liquorice to treat the following hormone-related illnesses

#1: Liquorice helps clear up skin disorders, including eczema

According to Dr Wright, in early studies, GA created considerable interest as a topical treatment for inflammatory skin disorders. Liquorice also showed anti-inflammatory activity when demonstrated on guinea-pig skin as a liquorice-extract liniment. The liniment exhibited activity similar to that of a 0.5% prednisolone preparation.

Liquorice has also shown good results when used as an ointment containing crude liquorice powder for the treatment of chronic eczema. In addition, “appreciable activity without side effects was demonstrated for topical application of liquorice extract in patients with melasma (increased melanin pigmentation),” says Dr Wright.

#2: Alleviate chronic fatigue with liquorice

Liquorice has also been reported to be a successful treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Although the cause of CFS is unknown, the symptoms (such as low cortisol levels) may reflect a mild glucocorticoid insufficiency and that’s why it’s likely to respond to treatment with liquorice.

#3: Help treat dehydration associated with Addison’s disease with liquorice

Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disorder characterised by chronic insufficient functioning of the outer layer of the adrenal glands (adrenal cortex), which are located above each kidney.

Because of those glands tend to under function, a deficiency in the production of hormones causes an increase in the release of sodium from the body, which leads to increased sweating, urination and dehydration.

Liquorice then becomes an effective treatment as it helps prevent the loss of this excess sodium, thus controlling the sodium imbalance in Addison’s disease, in conjunction with cortisone, the main treatment for this disorder. GA inhibits the enzyme that inactivates cortisol, thus increasing levels of cortisol in the kidney. This, in turn, causes sodium retention.”

Interestingly enough, “in a remarkable testimony to the body’s instinctive ability to heal itself, a craving for liquorice sweets was found in 25% of patients with Addison’s disease,” says Dr Wright. Dutch researchers in the early 1950s found liquorice extract alone had a dramatic effect in maintaining mineral equilibrium in patients with Addison’s disease.

So how much liquorice should you take?

“The therapeutic dose of liquorice containing optimum levels of glycyrrhizin is in the range of 2 to 6 grams per day of root (or the equivalent in liquid extract, tablet or capsule form),” says Dr Wright

Just remember that while doses at the lower end of that range won’t cause side effects, long-term consumption at the higher end could lead to the characteristic aldosterone-type side effects, with potassium depletion being the first development.

So if you wish to take liquorice long-term, it’s best not to exceed 3g per day of dried root.

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