Daily Archives: February 23, 2011

Licorice root and it’s use as a pain killer and in estrogen replacement therapy

Glycyrrhiza radix has been used in Ayurvedic medicine of ancient India, Traditional Chinese Medicine and ancient Europian family herbal mixtures. It is licorice, which the Dutch chew to ease arthritic pain as they age. It sounds like such a valuable medicinal plant that I wonder why every aging person does not chew at least one licorice lozenge a day! Animal studies (unconfirmed in clinical trials) have shown anti-inflammatory properties which may explain it’s role in easing arthritic pain (Chandrasekaran and colleagues of Natural Remedies, India in Phytomedicine 2011).

I was amazed to learn that it is also valued for its liver protective, anti viral and anti cancer properties. The root of the plant is of medicinal value and it’s active constituents are glabridin, glycyrrhizin, and isoliquiritigenin. Chandrasekaran and colleagues showed that the root extract inhibits prostraglandins, thromboxane and leukotriene. Why aren’t we recommending it for all people above fifty decades? We could do away with using pain killers with their list of side effects perhaps. Do you know why? I would love to know why we stopped using a natural root. Someone once told me that licorice grows wild and is difficult to find in large quantities. If that is true (please, correct me if I am wrong), then I suppose using pain killers is the easier option.

Now, I checked out the pink and black varieties available at the chain drug stores. They may be called licorice but they have no licorice extracts in them. So, please find genuine licorice extract containing sources. If you know of any, would you please, leave a comment so that our readers may try your sources too?

Do be cautious and read the list of adverse effects that may come from having too much licorice. So, please treat this medicinal plant with respect and use in moderation. It could decrease libido in men, and cause paralysis, interfere with hormonal therapy and interfere with anti coagulants.

glycyrrhiza radix roots

The Sloan Kettering Herbal Medicine site discusses the various uses of this plant as a tonic, expectorant and a demulcent in Ayurveda and as a detoxifier and to enhance the effects of other components of a herbal mixture of Chinese medicine. In addition, Somjen and colleagues of the Tel Aviv Medical School have shown that the root has estrogenic activity (J. Steroid Chem and Mol Biol.; 2004) and has been used for this condition in a mixture of Chinese medicine for female issues. Somjen and colleagues suggest the constituents of the root extract may be used for estrogen replacement therapy in post menopausal women, and I hope to update you about clinical studies on this.

The main ingredient of Licorice which has been researched is Glycyrrhyzin. Before I continue, let me add two warnings:
1) Excess use can be harmful – see below;
2) Pregnant women, or women who are nursing new born, or depressed people should not take Licorice. More on this another time.

What is the active ingredient of licorice and what does it do?
The active ingredient is a glucocorticoid, whose main function is to regulate glucose formation and glucose uptake in the brain.
Ingredients include others too which have not been well-researched yet. Suffice it to say that Licorice should be eaten in moderation. It is an anciet herb with different varieties local to different countries which may vary in ingredient content and hence mode of action. Hence, in different countries, the use of licorice may have different effects.

However, excess use can be harmful. Consume only in minute amounts and then discontinue use after 4-6 weeks if dose is higher temporarily.
Potassium levels may drop significantly with licorice use, so always include potassium rich foods such as a banana or dried apricot along with licorice.

Ancient leaders in the field are Chinese herbalists, Netherland herbalists, Riccardo Baschetti of Padova, Italy, Dr Mark Demitrack of University of Michigan Medical Center and many other unknown local herbalists.

An article on glucocorticoids of scientific value click here: Hope this helps in answering your questions and in pain management. It may be of interest that this article says that stress induces plasma glucocorticoids levels to rise and it is still not known exactly how that happens.

For source of photo click here.

For translations in other languages see an example here.


Filed under Health, Herbs, Women's Health