Formerly known as the main ingredient in candies and beverages due to its sweet taste, licorice has found a new home in the growing field of alternative and holistic medicine. From being a sweetener, this herb is now considered to have healing properties that can alleviate various illnesses and medical conditions. Notably, the health benefits of DGL or Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice is currently in focus as a supplement that can help you address different medical issues.
But first, let us have an overview of licorice and how DGL can provide natural benefits for your body.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is an herb that is known to be abundant in the regions of Asia and other parts of Europe. Thanks to the monks, licorice was introduced in the area Pontefract in the U.K. in 1562. It was first used together with sugar to make the famous Pontefract Cake by the chemist George Dunhill. Later on, from cakes, it will become licorice candies that will soon be brought by the early settlers to America's land.
Although it is practically utilized to induce sweet taste to your favorite drinks today, ancient Egyptians and Chinese had already included licorice as one of the potent herbal medicines in their list specifically against hormonal problems. It is usually added to their drinks like in tea. Chinese traditional medicine has put licorice as one of their primary healing herbs. Another ancient but practical usage of licorice recorded in history is that it is used by people who undergo long marches like traveling merchants and soldiers to inhibit their thirst sensation.
Understanding DGL and Its Origins
Based on the studies done to investigate the chemical properties of licorice, it was found that this herb contains many antiviral and antibacterial compounds that can be harnessed for medicinal purposes. Though technically the medical community hasn't guaranteed the 100% sureness of its health benefits, licorice has undergone several tests that show its healing and therapeutic capability.
As of the moment, licorice is now being sold in different forms like supplements, extracts, or even herbal teas. In these forms, licorice can be glycyrrhizinate or deglycyrrhizinated. Glycyrrhizinate, though potent, can be harmful in the long run, which can cause problems in hypertension and regulation of certain hormones. On the other hand, DGL, which as the name implies, removed its glycyrrhizinate content, making it safer to use this form of licorice than the former.
Is It Safe To Use?
Licorice is safely taken orally or as an add ons to your meals or drinks. It can be made in a large amount for a four-week duration or take it in a small amount if you want to take it for your medication in the long run. However, you need to be cautious when taking it for an extended period can become problematic due to the side effects of licorice. This might include an increase in high blood pressure, a decrease in potassium level, a sudden stop of menstruation, and others. Those who take too much salt on their diet can catch these side effects by taking 5 grams of licorice each day. Other side effects that might happen if licorice is taken without moderation as follows:
Heart Disease - it is not advisable for someone who has heart disease to take licorice since it urges the body to store water that can be a contributing factor for heart failure.
Pregnancy Problems - taking licorice when you are pregnant can cause early delivery, which may lead to miscarriage.
Hypertonia and Hypokalemia -both of these conditions are caused or triggered by a low potassium level in one's body. You mustn't have these medical conditions when you are taking licorice.
Sexual Problems - prolonged use of licorice can cause a loss of sexual interest specifically to men. It is known to decrease the testosterone level in a long duration of intake.
High blood Pressure- large intake of licorice can cause a substantial increase in blood pressure, which can be critical for individuals with certain heart conditions or those who will undergo or have already undergone surgery.
Conditions that are sensitive to estrogen or other hormones- licorice is known for having the capability to act like estrogen when taken in the body. It is recommended to avoid taking licorice if, by chance, you have any health issue that is particular to your estrogen levels like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and ovarian cancer.
What Are The Health Benefits of DGL?
Below are among the known significant health problems where DGL can provide relief or augment to its treatment by taking it as part of their diet or supplement:
Sore Throats and Teeth Problems
Because of its antibacterial compounds, DGL can be used for tooth decay to lessen the development of bacteria in the cavities. Toothpaste with licorice used two times a day can reduce the risk of bleeding gums, plague, and even gingivitis. Using a licorice solution as a gargling agent has been proven by Ain Shams University in Egypt to be an effective counter against postoperative cough and sore throat. In another study, it was also shown that it can be used as a healing agent that, when placed inside the mouth for eight days, can help in relieving the pain brought by a canker sores and can relatively reduce pain in no time.
Several studies found out that DGL has the repairing properties necessary for the stomach lining of individuals who suffer from ulcers, gastritis, and other gastrointestinal problems. This is due to the anti-inflammatory effect of glycyrrhizic acid from licorice. The effect was discovered first by F.E. Revers from Dutchland as he used it on his patient. This was further backed up by a study in 1950 which confirmed that licorice acts as a catalyst for the stomach to release protective mucus on its lining to prevent the harmful effects of pepsin. Thus, licorice also acts as an alternative means in countering the discomfort caused by acid reflux.
The bacteria that also cause peptic ulcers called H. pylori can significantly be affected in their stomach growth through the aid of glycyrrhizic acid. The flavonoids taken from licorice, namely glabrene and glabridin, are known to ease the pain and discomfort caused by nausea and heartburn. In addition to this, licorice, when taken with other medications, can also combat dyspepsia or indigestion symptoms.
Lengthy bouts of stress can push the limits of the adrenals in producing vital hormones like cortisol. This could leave your body to experience fatigue and put you always in low energy. Licorice can help boost your adrenal gland to prevent it from running out of producing glands that fight stress. Licorice is actually among the foods that are considered to be an effective stress reliever.
Good For The Skin
The redness and itchiness due to the skin condition eczema or atopic dermatitis can be reduced using gel or cream containing licorice. Apply three times a day for two weeks, and the severe symptoms will be decreased significantly. Since it has antibacterial compounds, licorice was also shown to be potent against Staphylococcus aureus, which is typical for serious skin infection problems such as cellulitis and impetigo. This potency of the anti-microbial properties of licorice was being tested and proven by the University of Texas in 2010. They uncovered that glycyrrhizin triggers damaged skin to produce peptides that fight against infection.
Helps In Treating Cancer
Licorice, as suggested by some researchers, can augment in the treatment of cancer, particularly in prostate and breast cancers, when taken with the prescribed medications. This is proven by the study done by Roland Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in India. The main reason why licorice can halt malignant tumor formation is that it contains compounds like licochalcone-A, glabridin, and licocoumarone, which shows promising potential in preventing the growth of cancer cells. Licorice can also be added to the healthy diet of those who have the above mentioned types of cancer to improve their condition.
For Hepatitis C and B
The virus that is said to be the responsible element for hepatitis C, which targets the liver, can be combated through the anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of glycyrrhizin from licorice. This was shown in the study by Japanese scientists wherein licorice is used as an alternative for hepatitis patients who develop resistance against the drugs against it. In addition to this remarkable effect, licorice has shown its counter effects against mouth sores or lichen planus, which is prevalent with individuals who have hepatitis C. It is also demonstrated that an IV solution with licorice can cut down the risk of death caused by hepatitis B by 50%.
Licorice taken as an oral supplement allows the lungs to produce a healthy and sufficient amount of mucus essential for cleansing the lungs and maintaining the respiratory system in good shape. It prevents the clogging of its passages due to old mucus or phlegm.
Though still needing further study, an experiment conducted by the University of Edinburgh last 2004 have shown that licorice possesses the potential to improve one's memory. Based on their research, older men display improvements in their verbal memory and even their fluency as they take licorice extract together with carbenoxolone, which is known to stop the stress hormone responsible for the brain's changes in function as we age.
Other medical conditions and problems where licorice is known to be effective against are as follows:
High cholesterol - daily intake of licorice or DGL for one month can gradually lower the levels ofbad cholesterol and triglycerides.
Hot flashes in menopause - hot flashes or night sweats are among the uncomfortable symptoms occurring in women who are about to enter their menopause phase. Reducing the effects of this symptom is possible via licorice extracts.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Swelling caused by lupus and other autoimmune diseases
Familial Mediterranean fever
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and other hormonal problems/disorders in women due to the effects of licorice to lessen testosterone in one's body and prevent some PCOS symptoms like hirsutism or the increased amount of facial hair and body hair.
Obesity - In a studyconducted by Armanini et al., intake of licorice can reduce body fat by halting certain substances in the fat cells, which results in reducing the fat mass without any adverse side effects to the mass index of the body.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
DGL Forms and Dosages
DGL contains less than 2% of glycyrrhizin, making it suitable as an alternative long-term treatment against conditions related to gastrointestinal problems. It comes in a variety of forms. The most popular in the market today are chewable tablets, capsules, and dietary supplements, which are becoming in-demand for those who take a vegetarian diet. Depending on the prescription, DGL can only be taken for about less than 5 grams a day.
In tea form, DGL is commonly extracted from licorice leaves. It is more attuned for digestive problems and adrenal and respiratory ailments like bronchitis and throat problems. Be mindful, though, that licorice in tea form should also be taken in moderation. It is suggested that one should not take more than 8 ounces of tea from licorice daily to prevent its side effects.
For skin problems like eczema, acne, and infection, DGL powder mixed with gel-based topical ointment is preferred by many to cleanse their skin. Licorice powder can also be used as a vegetable capsule for oral intake. The World Health Organization suggests that when taking powdered licorice, one should only take not more than 75 milligrams per day.
In addition to the above mentioned forms, licorice can also be taken as a liquid extract. It is limited only at a dosage of 30 mg/ml because the excess intake of glycyrrhizic acid can lead to side effects such as hypokalemia and metabolic alkalosis.