A Nutritionist Picks the Best Licorice Supplements

By Melinda Mrachek Staehling

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has a long history of medicinal use in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. Because of its sweet taste, it’s also often found in the cooking traditions of these countries.

Licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin. The sweetness level of glycyrrhizin is 50 times sweeter than sugar. Licorice candy plays off this sweetness and is popular around the world for its unique flavor.

As a key player in Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas, licorice is thought to benefit Qi, or life force. Ayurvedic medicine also turns to licorice to manage liver disease.

Most often, people seek out dietary supplementation with licorice for aid with heartburn, sore throat and cough. Licorice root is also thought to help with chronic hepatitis, and as an anti-cancer remedy. Finally, this sweet root contains ingredients that may improve dark spots on the skin.

Licorice benefits are well researched.  That said, precautions should be taken when using this product. Always seek medical advice before adding in a new supplement, especially for any side effects and drug interactions.

Best Chewable Supplement 

Nature’s Way DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) Digestive Relief

Nature’s Way DGL contains licorice that has been deglycyrrhizinated (DGL). The removal of glycyrrhetic acid may help eliminate many of the possible side effects of licorice. DGL licorice is typically used to treat digestive problems as it can be calming to the digestive tract and improve stomach ulcers.

Summary of Nature’s Way DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) Digestive Relief:
  • Chewable tablet
  • May be soothing to the stomach
  • Contains less than 1% glycrrhizin to avoid any effect on blood pressure
  • Contains 75mg deglycyrrhizinated licorice

Best Digestive Supplement

Pure Encapsulations – DGL Plus

This supplement is a blend of deglycyrrhizinated licorice root extract and other herbs thought to benefit digestion, including ulcers. DGL licorice, aloe vera, slippery elm and marshmallow may calm the lining of the stomach. Improving the stomach lining can also benefit the immune system.

Summary of Pure Encapsulations – DGL Plus:
  • 300 mg DGL licorice plus other calming herbs
  • Aloe vera, slippery elm and marshmallow root
  • Contains 60 capsules
  • Benefit to the stomach mucosal lining is thought to improve overall immune health
  • Pure Encapsulations products are free from wheat, gluten, egg, peanuts, artificial sweeteners and colors

Best Licorice for Skin

Nature’s Answer Alcohol-Free Licorice Root

Nature’s Answer is a licorice root extract taken internally or used on the skin. This licorice supplement is alcohol free. Licorice root extract may have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, licorice root extract may help with cough and mucus, and support digestive system issues. Licorice could reduce overall heart disease risk, and lower cholesterol.

Licorice root may assist with melasma which is the appearance of dark spots and acne when applied directly on the skin.

Summary of Nature’s Answer Alcohol-Free Licorice Root:
  • This is an alcohol free, licorice root extract
  • Because this product contains the full root (this is not DGL licorice) there may be certain increased benefits and certain side effects to this product

What You Need to Know

It’s very important to know what kind of licorice root supplement you’re looking for. There are two major types available, licorice root extract, or deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice. While it’s been known to be effective for a variety of uses, straight licorice root extract may also cause problems when taken at high doses or long term.

Because the dosage for licorice can cause issues, it’s important to look at any possible drug interactions or current concerns before starting this product. Individual dosage for licorice root will vary from person to person.

Types of licorice supplements

Licorice root extract may be found in liquid, capsule or powder form. DGL licorice is typically used for soothing the stomach and comes in capsules and powders.

Without the active ingredient glycyrrhizin, DGL licorice will not have the same possible side effects. Keep in mind, it will also not provide some of the benefits of pure licorice root, as the glycyrrhizin is one of the main medicinal components of this healing herb.

Benefits of licorice root extract

Licorice root may benefit several serious ailments. The supplement has been through clinical trials for prostate cancer and hepatitis C. The primary process of licorice is to lower inflammation. This explains its traditional use to cure cough, remove mucus, and improve the stomach lining.

Because of its potential boost to hormone levels, licorice might increase energy levels. Licorice is thought to boost cortisol, a hormone released from the adrenal glands during times of stress or pressure. People with low levels of cortisol might see a benefit from this supplement.

For women specifically, licorice root may help to increase estrogen. It may also improve the symptoms of hot flashes during menopause. Licorice root has also been studied for its assistance with the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS.

Cons of licorice root extract

Because of its potency, it’s important to take care when using a licorice supplement. Licorice may cause high blood pressure and increase cortisol, or “stress hormones.” Use of the herb may lower potassium levels when used for long periods of time or with larger doses. Some drugs are not as effective when using large amounts of licorice. There may also be an increase in drug side effects or interactions. Always speak with a medical professional before starting a new supplement.

Why Would You Take Licorice?

Licorice root may also be protective for the heart and brain. For people with ulcers, licorice may help to kill the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Some people with chronic hepatitis C respond well to licorice when other drugs do not work. Studies have also investigated its effectiveness for weight gain and controlling blood sugar. A licorice root extract may heal the skin of infection and reduce the appearance of dark spots.

With a broad range of uses, a licorice supplement could improve overall health due to its anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial ingredients.

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