licorice tea - the plant

This is the plant that licorice tea comes from! Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (Public Domain).

At some point, you’ve probably tasted licorice-flavored candy. Or perhaps you’ve even had the pleasure of enjoying licorice tea. But have you ever stopped to wonder where it came from?

It’s actually a shrubby plant with feathery green leaves and light purple flowers, called Glycyrrhiza glabra in Latin. Specifically, we dig up the root and use it to flavor food, candy, medicine, and tobacco. The intense sweetness in the root is because of a component called glycyrrhizic acid, a molecule with a lot of surprising health effects.

Some of the reported benefits of licorice tea include:

  • soothing gastrointestinal issues, like indigestion or ulcers
  • easing respiratory issues, like allergies, asthma, sore throat, or congestion
  • balancing adrenals depleted from chronic stress

 

Is it true? Let’s take a closer look!

 

Licorice Tea Dried Root

Dried root used to make licorice tea. It’s really not that pretty…

Licorice Tea Helps Gastrointestinal Issues?

This claim appears to be true!

For example, one study promoted licorice as “beneficial in patients with functional dyspepsia” with “some gut health-promoting properties” (Asha et al., 2016). Another study (Raveendra et al., 2012) concurred.

Additionally, researchers demonstrated licorice’s anti-ulcer effect in mice (Jalilzadeh-Amin et al., 2015). Others (Momeni et al., 2014) found this to be true for humans, too.

 

Licorice Tea Helps Respiratory Issues?

This claim may be true.

Wang et al., 2015 reviewed all the antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice. These properties in licorice tea could help boost the immune system and fight off respiratory cooties.

At least one study (Hocaoglu et al., 2011) found evidence that licorice root helped alleviate asthma in mice. And for people, licorice seems similarly promising. Shergis et al., 2016 conducted a meta-analysis of human studies. They found that traditional medicine plus herbal medicine (including licorice) was more effective in treating asthma that traditional medication alone.

Yet another experiment alluded to potential benefits of licorice in inflammatory immune-mediated diseases, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases (Ebrahimnezhad, Amirghofran, & Karimi, 2016). Scientists definitely need to study this further!

 

Licorice Tea Helps Stress and Adrenal Balance?

This claim has mixed evidence.

In my research, I came across multiple herbalists’ claims that licorice can combat stress. The theory goes like this:

You encounter stress (physical, mental, or emotional). Your adrenal glands produce adrenaline and cortisol in response. Over time, chronic stress takes its toll, and your adrenals can’t keep up. However, overburdened adrenal glands can get a little help from licorice root.

Indeed, the glycyrrhizic acid in licorice does appear to boost the effect of cortisol (Dalton, 2002). Also, it does help individuals with Addison’s disease, in which the adrenals don’t produce enough cortisol (Methlie et al., 2011).

However, for most people with normal adrenal function, the above scenario seems overly simplistic. Furthermore, multiple studies warn overconsumption of licorice can lead to a condition called pseudohyperaldosteronism (Armanini et al., 2002; Tanaka, 2015, for example). This disorder involves high blood pressure and low potassium levels, among other issues. So… no, we can’t conclude that licorice tea will help reduce stress.

But it’s not all sad news…

A few studies suggest that licorice consumption has a protective effect against damage to the liver (Jung et al., 2016) and kidneys (Zhao et al., 2016), due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

And surprisingly, multiple experiments indicate that the compounds in licorice tea exhibit an anti-cancer effect (Roohbakhsh, Iranshahy, & Iranshahi, 2016; Tang et al., 2015)!

 

Cup of Licorice Tea

 

In conclusion…

There seem to be quite a few benefits of licorice tea consumed in moderation by healthy individuals.

If you’d like more licorice in your life, then please check out CommuniTea Center‘s licorice-containing teas:

 

A word of caution…

Licorice tea can decrease potassium and increase sodium levels. It can also increase blood pressure and interfere with certain medications. People who have heart or blood pressure problems, certain chronic illnesses, or who are pregnant, should not consume licorice.

And again, overconsumption of licorice can lead to many health problems.

*Please, please, please: consult a doctor before using any nutritional product, including licorice tea. The statements in this Tea Blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on the internet.

 

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