Have you come across licorice tea but been unsure of the health benefits?
Of all the herbal teas, licorice is arguably one of the most beneficial yet under-appreciated.
Why? Licorice root, also known as sweet root, is native to Asia and Europe and has been used for centuries for its medicinal benefits including in both Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
These days, the licorice root can be obtained in powdered form and applied to the skin to relieve conditions like eczema, while the leaves of the plant are dried up and made into tea.
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Although it's often linked to candy and sweet beverages, licorice root is a medicinal herb that treats various health conditions, particularly those related to the digestive system. This herb comes from the root of the licorice plant, which is scientifically known as glycyrrhiza glabra, and it's usually prepared in long, dried pieces and boiled before consumed to treat stomach ulcers, chronic cough, low blood pressure and menstrual problems, among others.
The licorice extract is used as a sweetener in the food service industry. It's a byproduct of the fermentation of licorice roots, which is added to health products that are orally administered to reduce their bitter taste.
Licorice tea is simpler to prepare than licorice extract as it simply involves paring and soaking of the root in a cup of boiling water. Apart from using the root shavings, licorice tea can also be made using licorice root tea bags or dried, pulverised licorice roots.
Not only is glycyrrhiza glabra almost universally believed to be one of nature's best medicines, but it also tastes delicious!
If you like sweet beverages but want to wean yourself off sugar, substitute your sugar-sweetened beverage for a cup of licorice tea or add a little licorice root to your favourite herbal blend.
Licorice contains a natural sweetener, glycyrrhizin, which is 50 times as sweet as sucrose. Take care, though, and limit your intake of licorice to one or two cups per day and if you want to use it for medicinal purposes, use it under the supervision of a healthcare professional. There is such a thing as "too much of a good thing" and licorice can have unwanted side effects when taken in excess.
Licorice tea abounds in many health benefits when taken in moderation. It is packed with antioxidants to support the immune system's ability to fight off infections. As well as boosting the functions of the cells and tissues in the body, it contains natural detoxification agents that support bowel movement. We list below the reported benefits of licorice tea, according to herbalists and other natural therapists:
- A mild laxative, licorice tea can relieve constipation.
- Licorice tea has anti-inflammatory properties that may ease the pain of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
- It helps protect the stomach lining and is recommended for use for those who use medications that may damage the mucous membrane in the stomach. Ask your health care provider before taking licorice tea with other medications as it may reduce their effectiveness or cause an adverse reaction.
- Licorice is an expectorant and can be beneficial to bronchial conditions.
- Studies have shown that licorice helps the liver neutralise toxins and can be beneficial in treating liver conditions such as hepatitis.
- Licorice tea is reported to have antispasmodic properties.
- Licorice is often recommended by herbalists as a substitute for St. John's wort as a treatment for depression.
- It is reported to significantly ease premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Licorice tea is used to treat low blood pressure.
- Licorice is believed to fight the formation of plaque in blood vessels and may help prevent heart disease.
- Drinking licorice tea regulates high levels of cortisol levels to relieve stress.
- Licorice root tea increases urination to help lighten the load of the kidneys and bladder, as well as filtering the liver.
- It regulates the cellular activity and fights free radicals that damage cells and tissues, leading to a host of diseases.
- It improves metabolism and prevents complications due to diabetes, including vision impairment, heart disease, kidney damage and nerve damage.
Consuming a reasonable amount of licorice tea every day helps address low blood pressure, or hypotension, increasing it to normal levels. Studies show that drinking 50g of licorice tea for two consecutive weeks has significantly increased the blood pressure of individuals with low blood pressure.
The antiviral and antimicrobial properties of licorice tea can combat microorganisms that cause sore throat. If you're already suffering from the condition, drinking at least two cups of tea each day will help eliminate the pain fast. Research shows that gargling a licorice root solution is also a proven remedy.
Ulcers are caused by the inflammation of the stomach lining resulting from the presence of bacteria in the digestive tract. Drinking a cup or two of licorice root tea can treat stomach ulcers and other gastrointestinal conditions thanks to its antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
The moisturising agents and antioxidants contained in a topical licorice solution help maintain healthy skin and reverse premature signs of ageing. Glycyrrhetinic acid is another active ingredient that helps soothe skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Drinking licorice root tea sensibly can help relieve menstrual cramps. It also makes the pain and discomfort associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including mood swings, bloating and exhaustion, more manageable.
The antimicrobial agents of licorice root tea are responsible for fighting bacteria that cause chronic cough, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. Its anti-inflammatory components, on the other hand, soothe the airways to make breathing easier and painless.
Licorice Tea for Stress Relief
In today's fast-paced world, stress and anxiety have become common issues for many individuals. If you're searching for a natural way to find relaxation and calm, licorice tea might be just what you need. This herbal tea, derived from the roots of the licorice plant, has been used for centuries to promote stress relief. Let's delve into how licorice tea can help alleviate stress and anxiety.
1. Calming properties
Licorice tea contains compounds that have been shown to have calming effects on the body. It may help regulate cortisol, the stress hormone, and promote a sense of relaxation. By sipping on licorice tea, you can create a soothing ritual that helps you unwind and de-stress after a long day.
2. Adrenal support
Chronic stress can take a toll on the adrenal glands, leading to adrenal fatigue. Licorice tea is known for its potential to support adrenal function and restore balance. It may help nourish the adrenal glands and assist in maintaining healthy cortisol levels, thus aiding in stress management.
3. Mood enhancement
Licorice tea may positively influence mood and promote a sense of well-being. Some studies suggest that certain compounds found in licorice root may have antidepressant effects. By enjoying a cup of licorice tea, you can potentially lift your spirits and promote a more positive mindset.
4. Nervous system support
Licorice tea is believed to have a soothing effect on the nervous system. It may help reduce nervous tension and irritability, promoting a greater sense of calm and tranquility. Incorporating licorice tea into your daily routine can create a peaceful moment for yourself, allowing you to relax and rejuvenate.
Licorice Tea for Hormonal Balance and Women's Health
Among its many potential effects, licorice tea has been found to impact hormonal balance, making it an intriguing herbal remedy for women's health.
Licorice tea contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which has been shown to interact with hormone regulation in the body. Glycyrrhizin inhibits the enzyme that breaks down cortisol, the stress hormone. By slowing down cortisol breakdown, licorice tea can lead to increased levels of cortisol, which may have implications for hormonal balance.
One area where licorice tea's impact on hormonal balance is particularly noteworthy is in managing symptoms associated with menopause. Menopause is a natural phase in a woman's life when the body undergoes hormonal changes. The decline in oestrogen levels during menopause often results in bothersome symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.
Licorice tea has been traditionally used to alleviate these symptoms. Its potential to support hormonal balance may help reduce the intensity and frequency of hot flashes, making them more manageable for women experiencing menopause. Additionally, licorice tea's calming properties may provide relief from mood swings and promote a sense of calm during this transitional phase.
Licorice Tea as a Natural Support for a Healthy Gut Microbiome and Improved Digestion
Apart from its distinct sweet flavour, licorice tea is known for its potential in supporting a healthy gut microbiome and improving digestion. Let's explore how this herbal beverage can positively impact your digestive system.
Soothing Properties for Digestive Issues
Licorice tea contains compounds, including glycyrrhizin and flavonoids, which possess anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. These components help in reducing inflammation and irritation in the gastrointestinal tract, making licorice tea a natural remedy for digestive issues such as indigestion, bloating, and heartburn. By calming the digestive system, licorice tea can provide relief and promote a more comfortable digestion process.
Support for a Balanced Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome plays a vital role in maintaining overall digestive health. Licorice tea has shown potential in supporting a balanced gut microbiome by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. The prebiotic properties of licorice tea serve as nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria, helping them thrive and maintain a healthy microbial balance. A harmonious gut microbiome is essential for optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, and a strong immune system.
Alleviating Digestive Inflammation
Chronic inflammation in the digestive system can lead to various digestive disorders. Licorice tea possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the gut. This soothing effect can be particularly beneficial for individuals suffering from conditions such as gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). By reducing inflammation, licorice tea may contribute to a calmer and more resilient digestive system.
Enhanced Digestive Function
Licorice tea has been traditionally used to improve digestion and enhance the functioning of the digestive system. It stimulates the production of digestive enzymes, which are essential for breaking down food and aiding in nutrient absorption. By supporting proper digestion, licorice tea can help prevent issues such as constipation, gas, and abdominal discomfort. Regular consumption of licorice tea may promote a healthier digestive process, leading to improved overall well-being.
Licorice is part of our world's traditional medical history. In addition to being an important herbal remedy in traditional Western medicine, it has been used in both Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
- The Roman legions used licorice to help increase stamina and endurance. They also used it because its water retention properties helped them survive longer without water.
- In Ayurvedic medicine, licorice is used alone and in combination with ginger and/or cardamom as a general tonic, in addition to its use for the treatment of many of the conditions mentioned above. Combined with milk, it is believed to be a sexual tonic.
- Licorice is considered a "first-class" medicine in TCM because it helps preserve life.
When shopping for licorice tea, see to it that the item meets the standards of the food and drug administration, whether it's a dried licorice root, powdered licorice tea, or a box of tea bags. You also want the amount of glycyrrhizin clearly stated in the label to avoid potentially consuming more than you should of this substance.
Suppose you're buying licorice extract for medicinal purposes, make sure that the item is registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to ensure your safety. Better yet, seek advice from your primary health practitioner first before making your selection.
Preparing licorice root tea takes longer than powdered tea or tea bags. The reason is that you have to boil the root in water, give it ample time to steep, strain it, and throw away the dried root. With the powdered formula, you only have to put a teaspoon of it in your cup, add water and drink up. The tea bag's the simplest to use; just plop it into your cup and add water.
Potential Side Effects of Licorice Tea
Licorice tea has gained popularity in recent years due to its delicious flavour and potential health benefits. However, it's important to be aware that licorice tea can have certain side effects, especially when consumed excessively or for prolonged periods. Let's explore some of the potential side effects and precautions associated with licorice tea.
1. High blood pressure and oedema
Licorice root contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which can cause the body to retain sodium and lose potassium. This effect may lead to an increase in blood pressure and fluid retention, resulting in oedema (swelling). Individuals with high blood pressure, heart conditions, or kidney problems should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before consuming licorice tea regularly.
2. Hormonal imbalances
Glycyrrhizin in licorice tea can affect hormone levels in the body, particularly by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for breaking down cortisol. Prolonged or excessive consumption of licorice tea may disrupt hormonal balance, leading to issues such as menstrual irregularities, decreased libido, and potential effects on hormone-sensitive conditions like breast or prostate cancer.
3. Interactions with medications
Licorice tea may interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, diuretics, corticosteroids, and medications for high blood pressure. It can affect the absorption, metabolism or excretion of these medications, potentially altering their effectiveness or causing unwanted side effects. If you are taking any medications, it's crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating licorice tea into your routine.
4. Special considerations
Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and individuals with certain health conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, or hormone-sensitive disorders should exercise caution when consuming licorice tea. It's advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare professional to determine whether licorice tea is safe for your specific circumstances.
5. Decreases potassium levels
Taking excessive amounts of licorice tea will release too many mineralocorticoids, a group of hormones produced in the adrenal cortex, which regulates the salt mineral in the body. Once this happens, your potassium levels will go down while your sodium levels go up. Low potassium hinders the nerves and muscles from functioning properly, while high sodium makes it difficult for the kidneys to excrete waste products.
6. Licorice paralysis
Licorice paralysis is a condition wherein muscle weakness resulting from overconsumption of licorice leads to paralysis. Although it's not common, licorice paralysis does happen so be wary of your daily doses of licorice root tea.
Drinking licorice tea every day will no doubt boost your health in no time. However, it pays to be mindful of the amount you consume because too much can lead to a slew of health conditions. The list includes high blood pressure, irregular heart palpitations, swelling and brain impairments in infants whose mums consumed high amounts of the tea during pregnancy.
Despite its powerful health benefits, licorice root tea should be limited to three cups a day for a period of no more than four weeks, according to professional healthcare practitioners.
The Evidence Behind Licorice Tea's Therapeutic Benefits
While licorice tea has been traditionally consumed for its potential health benefits, it's important to note that the clinical evidence specific to licorice tea is limited. However, here is a summary of some relevant clinical trials and studies related to the potential health benefits of licorice:
Anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits: Studies have suggested that compounds found in licorice, including glycyrrhizin and flavonoids, possess anti-inflammatory properties. They may help reduce inflammation in conditions like arthritis and certain skin disorders. Licorice tea has also been traditionally used as a digestive aid, potentially soothing an upset stomach and promoting healthy bowel movements.
Respiratory health: Licorice tea has been used in traditional medicine to alleviate respiratory ailments like coughs, colds, and sore throats. Some studies have explored the potential antiviral and expectorant properties of licorice root extract, which may contribute to its traditional use in supporting respiratory health.
Stress relief and cortisol regulation: Licorice tea has been associated with potential stress-relieving effects. Some studies have indicated that licorice root extract may impact cortisol levels, a hormone involved in the body's stress response. By inhibiting the breakdown of cortisol, licorice may help regulate stress levels and promote a sense of calm. However, it's important to note that these studies have not specifically examined the effects of licorice tea itself.
Antioxidant and immune support: Licorice contains antioxidants that can help protect the body against harmful free radicals and oxidative stress. These antioxidants may contribute to licorice's potential immune-boosting properties, although more research is needed to establish the extent of its effects on immune function.
It's worth noting that the majority of studies exploring the health benefits of licorice have primarily focused on licorice extract or isolated compounds, rather than licorice tea specifically. Further research is needed to directly investigate the specific health benefits of licorice tea and its potential effects on various health conditions.
As always, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating licorice tea into your routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications. They can provide personalised guidance based on your individual circumstances and potential interactions.
To find an authorised seller or distributor of licorice root tea in Australia, check out our listings on the Natural Therapy Pages.
Originally published on Jun 18, 2018