When most people hear the phrase licorice root, they are taken back to times spent at the candy store. While sweet, licorice root – also known as Mulethi – is no candy. In fact, it’s far from it.
Mulethi is the root of the licorice plant, which is a member of the legume family. Its uses go back to ancient times where it was actually found in great quantities in the tomb of King Tut. The Egyptians believed it to be a cure-all.
Additionally, Mulethi has been used by the Hindus, who believed it to increase sexual vigor. The Greeks used it to chew on when water was scarce to prevent dehydration.
Though its roots are ancient, today most of Mulethi is imported from Spain and Italy. Its uses today are a bit different than those of our ancient ancestors. However, the medicinal properties of licorice root live on.
That being said, here are some benefits of licorice root you might not know about:
1. Promotes a Healthy Liver
In an extracted form, Mulethi has proven the ability to reduce and protect against liver disease such as Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis. The liver is the body’s filter. It works to detoxify the body from pathogens, environmental pollutants, metabolic waste and more.
2. Prevents Balding
Licorice root is a natural DHT (dihydrotestosterone) blocker and anti-androgen. Androgens can lead to excessive DHT, which when not metabolized efficiently by the body can attach to the hair follicle, leading to patterned baldness. DHT shrinks the hair follicle, cutting off its blood supply, which eventually starves the hair shaft of nutrients. Licorice root has demonstrated phytoestrogen abilities, reducing testosterone that may lead to excessive DHT.
3. Treats Chronic Fatigue
Many people are suffering from environmental, physical and mental stress disorders. The adrenal glands (the glands that handle our stress response) are in overdrive as if we were in still in primitive times. It doesn’t mater whether our stress is imaginary or real, the adrenals act accordingly, sending a surge of stress hormone, or cortisol, at every pang of terror. Over time, the adrenals become fatigued and we no longer produce adequate energy, leading to chronic fatigue. Licorice is one of the most effective herbs to regulate cortisol, giving your adrenals a break and you more energy.
4. Acts as Internal Sunblock
Studies have found that an active antioxidant, Licochalcone A, which happens to be the main component in Licorice root, can protect the skin from subsequent UV irradiation damage from within. It does so by strengthening the skin’s immunity. In this way, licorice root provides protection from sun exposure while supporting the health benefits of the sun. Best of all, you don’t need to purchase and use potentially questionable sun block lotions.
5. Treats Eczema
Inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema have been treated with licorice root. Taking internally, licorice can work systemically to lower inflammation in the liver and kidneys, which will have its effects holistically on the skin. Applied topically, a gel or lotion with licorice root extract has been shown to alleviate itching, redness and swelling caused by eczema.
6. Heals Canker Sores
A mixture of 1/2 teaspoon licorice extract with 1/4 cup water used 4 times daily has been shown to reduce size of canker sores. Canker sores are often caused by stress, hormonal fluctuations, and bacteria imbalances that lower immunity. Licorice demonstrates antimicrobial benefits that may also help to heal canker sores by inhibiting the overgrowth of pathogenic microbes.
7. Soothes Inflammation
Licorice root has natural plant steroids that have anti-inflammatory properties.
8. Stimulates the Immune System
Taking Licorice stimulates the immune system by elevating interferon levels, which stimulates SOD (superoxide dismutase) to produce natural hydrogen peroxide. This ‘supercharges’ white blood cells and hormones to fight off infection.
9. Prevents Diabetes
Licorice root contains a phytoestrogen called Glabridin that has been shown to protect against diabetes. It does so by up-regulating manganese superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant.
10. Protests the Prostate
Licorice root extract contains ingredients that may slow the growth of tumor cells. In one study, it was found to be more effective in shrinking prostate tumors than medical drugs.
Generally speaking, this popular herb is very safe to consume. However, like any other supplement or herb, you will want to consult with your physician before using as treatment.
Featured photo credit: Lakrids/Johan Bülow via flickr.com