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Boost Your Digestive Health with Licorice Root

February 10, 2014

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When you’re racking your brain for a natural remedy for stomach distress, indigestion, and bloating, ginger may spring to mind first. But adding licorice to the equation will have an even more powerful soothing effect. Licorice is considered a “peacemaker” in traditional Chinese medicine, which means it helps herbs work together and even ups their potency. It’s also chock full of tummy taming properties on its own, so if you can handle the tang of licorice root alone, go for it! But even if you don’t adore its strong, distinct flavor, its many natural health benefits make it worth sneaking into your herbal mix.

When fresh licorice is sliced up, it looks like pieces of fibrous wood with yellowish brown inner flesh. These earthy roots are teeming with valuable antioxidants and phytochemicals that fend off illness and fight inflammation. They are also bursting in B vitamins to supercharge your metabolism, and contain heavy-hitter nutrients like calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, and beta-carotene.

All these components combine to help make licorice a natural antacid, helping to relieve heartburn, indigestion, gastric and stomach ulcers, mild acid reflux, and symptoms of GERD. In fact, it works far better than any synthetic antacid, because it provides more long-lasting relief. Licorice gets to work by coating your digestive tract with mucous so that your stomach lining isn’t damaged by irritants like stomach acid. It also revs up the activity of your intestinal cells and circulation in your gut, all of which makes for a happier belly. It may even combat stomach bloating, water retention, and constipation, because of its mild laxative and diuretic effect.     

But before you tap into all the health benefits of licorice, take heed of a few caveats. Licorice root and whole licorice root extract contains glycyrrhizin, a substance that may cause side effects such as muscle weakness, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat in people with related conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Glycyrrhizin can be used in small amounts for short-term relief of stomach ailments, though  you may want to avoid it entirely if you experience mild reactions, like fatigue or headache, after use. 

Thankfully, there’s a way to hone in on the health benefits of licorice root that’s side effect-free. It’s called DGL, or deglycyrrhizinated licorice, a digestion-friendly herbal supplement that comes in chewable tablets, capsules, powders, and tea form. DGL is basically licorice root with all its nourishing qualities minus glycyrrhizin, the culprit of any undesirable side effects.

DGL may be swapped in for whole licorice root in recipes by using the powder, according to your taste—the difference won’t be substantial, though DGL does have a slightly less sweet flavor.

Try out some of these recipes featuring this digestive-friendly root: 

To warm up, brew your very own Licorice Refresher Tea, a simple but intriguing blend of licorice and fennel seed that you can sweeten with natural apple juice or honey, if desired.

Need a quick gut-friendly breakfast? How about a frothy non-dairy dessert? Blend this creamy, vegan Licorice, Fig, Vanilla and Coconut Smoothie, which also includes cashews and vanilla bean. Yummy!  

Lemon, parsley, ginger root, spicy turmeric, and tangy licorice all partner up in this coconut-milk-based Carrot and Ginger Soup with Licorice Root. Stomach-soothing benefits by the spoonful!

Do you have a go-to natural remedy for stomach problems that works for you? Tell us about it in comments!