Licorice Root

Licorice root is an herbal therapy derived from the roots and rhizomes of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant.

It is often recommended for digestive problems, particularly when it is DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) form in which the glychyrrhizin is removed.

Glychyrrhizin (also known as glycyrrhizic acid) interferes with the actions of enzymes that break down the adrenal hormone cortisol. It can cause elevated levels of cortisol and aldosterone hormones. A common symptom of these is elevated blood pressure.

However, sometimes increasing cortisol levels is a desirable effect. People with Addison’s Disease, adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome often suffer from low cortisol levels that result in low blood pressure, low body temperature, chronic pain, sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety. Licorice root with the glychyrrihizin intact may be helpful to such people.

People with frequent low cortisol may also benefit from the use of licorice root as it blocks the actions of enzymes that degrade cortisol in the body. This helps the IsoCort and any cortisol the adrenal glands are able to make last longer. It may also help reduce the necessary dosage of IsoCort. Licorice root is considerably less expensive than IsoCort, so it may help to potentiate the effects of replacement cortisol at a small additional cost or, in some cases, even a net savings.

Before you consider using licorice root or any other type of therapy for adrenal fatigue, you must do testing to determine your cortisol levels.

We recommend that you run a series of four cortisol saliva tests for the most accurate understanding of your cortisol levels because they vary widely throughout the day in a circadian pattern in which cortisol is typically lowest at bedtime and highest at waking.

Treating a person who suffers from high cortisol levels with a product such as licorice root will worsen the health problems.

Those who suffer from high and low cortisol levels probably should avoid the use of IsoCort. Instead, investigate adaptogens that normalize cortisol levels such as ashwagandha.

When using cortisol boosting therapies, you should periodically recheck your cortisol levels. As an added safeguard, check your blood pressure and body temperature multiple times per day to monitor for changes.

If you find that your formerly low blood pressures and temperatures are rising to normal or even high levels, you may need to reduce your use of licorice root or cortisol replacement supplements or medications because your adrenal glands are recovering and are again able to make enough cortisol on their own.

An added caution is that taking too much licorice root could further damage the adrenal glands. This is also a potential risk from cortisol replacement therapies such as IsoCort and the conventional medication hydrocortisone.

It is best to start with a low dosage of licorice root and gradually increase based upon how it helps your symptoms and whatever side effects it may cause.

When starting therapies that increase low cortisol levels, some people report initial discomfort that may be tied to the body resuming normal metabolic processes that were suppressed due to low cortisol levels. For instance, some people report worsened nausea and even vomiting which is confusing because they are also common symptoms of dangerously low cortisol levels. Be especially cautious about such symptoms because they can also be caused by a sudden drop in cortisol levels due to illness, acute stress, or injury that causes an adrenal crisis that may necessitate immediate emergency medical care to save your life.

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Conditions For Which Use May Be Beneficial

Low cortisol
Low aldosterone
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Viral hepatitis
Herpes infections
Digestive discomfort and indigestion (DGL form works also)
Peptic ulcers (DGL form works also)
Expectorant for mucus in respiratory tract
Liver detoxification
Canker sores

Conditions For Which Use May Be Detrimental

High blood pressure
High cortisol
High aldosterone
Bloating and fluid retention

Note that the DGL form of licorice root carries lower risks of adverse affects for the conditions listed above.

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Further Reading

University of Maryland Medical Center: Licorice

Wikipedia: Liquorice or Licorice


Acute Adrenal Crisis

Health Alert: Adrenal Crisis Causes Death in Some People Who Were Treated With hGH

Licorice Licks Herpes Virus Infection

Glycyrrhizic acid alters Kaposi sarcoma–associated herpesvirus latency, triggering p53-mediated apoptosis in transformed B lymphocytes

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