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Much more than that black candy

Licorice root has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years. Its botanical name, Glycyrrhiza, comes from the Greek words glycos riza, meaning “sweet root.” Standard licorice root extracts contain chemicals that can be harmful in large doses, but deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, supplements are free of those components. Most licorice candy sold in the United States does not contain the same chemicals as true licorice.

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Uses: Herbalists recommend it for coughs, colds, asthma, sore throats, canker sores, arthritis, hepatitis and ulcers.

Dose: Usually about 250 milligrams three times a day, taken before meals for ulcer treatment. Supplements also are available as liquid extracts and powdered or dried herb.

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Precautions: Non-DGL supplements should not be taken for longer than six weeks because prolonged use can cause water retention, high blood pressure, low potassium levels, weakness and heart problems. Pregnant women should avoid the herb because large amounts may cause premature delivery. Drug interactions may occur with anticoagulants, corticosteroids, diuretics and some heart medications.

Research: Animal and lab studies suggest that licorice can combat inflammation, that the glycyrrhetic acid in licorice decreases stomach acid levels, and that the root’s glycyrrhizin has antiviral activity. Several human studies suggested that licorice is a useful treatment for ulcers and hepatitis.

Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your healthcare provider for advice on selecting a brand.

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-- Elena Conis


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