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Licorice: An Essential Herb for Adrenal Fatigue

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April 12, 2018 | Published by


Licorice – the word alone usually elicits one of two responses: yuck or yum. Regardless of how you feel about the taste of licorice, you have to agree that this divisive herb has some significant health benefits. Licorice has been shown to promote and help sustain healthy normal adrenal hormone activity, optimize cortisol, help balance sex hormones, reduce negative effects of stress on immune function, enhance sugar metabolism for energy production, and help balance mood, to name a few. In this blog we’re focusing on licorice’s role in supporting the HPA axis, primarily the adrenal glands.

Licorice and the HPA Axis

The herb best known for supporting adrenal function is licorice. Yes, the ingredient that gives that common black twist of candy its flavor is beneficial to the adrenal glands. Licorice is an anti-stress herb known to increase energy, endurance and vitality, and act as a mild tonic. It has been used to stimulate the hormones for anti-inflammatory action, as well as naturally fortify cortisone levels–arguably the most important hormone in stress and adrenal fatigue. Here are some specific ways licorice supports adrenal function:

  • Optimizes HPA axis functions to enhance stress management capacity and cognition
  • Supports healthy hormone balance and healthy normal cortisol and glucose levels
  • Promotes balanced energy, stable moods, healthy sleep cycles, fitness and sexual function

Other Benefits of Licorice

Licorice has also been used to help decrease symptoms of hypoglycemia, a common side effect of decreased adrenal function. Wound healing, which can be slowed down by stress, has been improved by using licorice. Both blood circulation in the heart and arteries and production of interferon-like substances by the immune system are stimulated by licorice. Here are some other health benefits of licorice:

Digestive support

Licorice root is often used to soothe gastrointestinal problems. In cases of food poisoning, stomach ulcers, and heartburn, licorice root extract can speed the repair of stomach lining and restore balance. This is due to the anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties of glycyrrhizic acid, an active compound found in licorice.

Respiratory system support

Taking licorice as an oral supplement can help the body produce healthy mucus. The production of clean, healthy phlegm keeps the respiratory system functioning without old, sticky mucus clogging up the pipes.

Skin and teeth health

Licorice can be a successful dermatological treatment due to its antibacterial properties. For that reason, holistic health practitioners often suggest applying licorice to tooth decay to kill bacteria. Topical gels containing licorice are also recommended for treating eczema.

Licorice and Blood Pressure

There has been some concern that licorice increases blood pressure. This is because licorice partially blocks the conversion of cortisol into cortisone, which can produce higher amounts of circulating cortisol. Cortisol slightly increases contraction of the medial arteries and heart muscle, causing blood pressure to rise. However, you would have to consume approximately 1/4 pound of licorice candy per day in order to produce any elevation in your blood pressure. In any case, people who suffer from hypoadrenia typically have low blood pressure, so this is not usually a concern. If you’re concerned, simply monitor your blood pressure after licorice use, and start off with small doses.

What if I Can’t Take Licorice?

For those who are sensitive or allergic to licorice, there are alternatives. Maca, ashwagandha, and eleuthero are all great herbs to take for HPA axis support. Eleuthero has been shown to boost mental and physical endurance, heighten attention, increase tolerance, and enhance sleep under stressful conditions. Ashwagandha has been shown to counteract biological changes accompanying extreme stress that adversely affect short-term memory, blood sugar, cortisol levels, mood, sexual function, and sleep. Maca has been shown to support and help sustain homeostasis, balance cortisol, and enhance mood and sexual function in both men and women.

References:

Al-Dujaili EA, Kenyon CJ, Nicol MR, Mason JI. Liquorice and glycyrrhetinic acid increase DHEA and deoxycorticosterone levels in vivo and in vitro by inhibiting adrenal SULT2A1 activity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2010 Dec 22.

Ghosh D, Erman M, Pangborn W, et al. Inhibition of Streptomyces hydrogenans 3α,20α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase by licorice-derived compounds and crystallization of an enzymecofactor-
inhibitor complex. J Steroid Biochem Molec Biol. 1992;42:849–853.

Hanafusa, J et al. Altered corticosteroid metabolism differentially affects pituitary corticotropin response. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002; 282:466-473.

“Health Benefits of Licorice Root.” Healthline, 10 July 2017, https://www.healthline.com/health/licorice-the-sweet-root#1.

“Licorice Root.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Sept. 2016, https://nccih.nih.gov/health/licoriceroot.

Ofir R, Tamir S, Khatib S. Inhibition of serotonin re-uptake by licorice constituents. J Mol Neurosci. 2003 Apr;20(2):135-140.

Somjen D, Knoll E, Vaya J et al. Estrogen – like activity of licorice root constituents: glabridin and glabrene, in vascular tissues in vitro and in vivo. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 14.

Zamansoltani F, Nassiri-Asl M, Sarookhani MR, Jahani-Hashemi H, Zangivand AA. Antiandrogenic activities of Glycyrrhiza glabra in male rats. Int J Androl. 2009 Aug;32(4):417-22.

 


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12 Comments

  • Lubo says:

    Are leaves OK for tea preparation or I need the root itself?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Lubo,

      Thank you for writing. Licorice root tends to work better for HPA axis support, which is why Dr. Wilson uses the root part of this herb in his formulas. This is not to say that the leaves can’t be helpful.

  • Gray says:

    How much liquorice extract should I take and how often?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Gray,

      Great question – that amount can vary, but we can speak to what we recommend with our Herbal Adrenal Support Formula, which contains licorice, maca, ashwagandha, and eleuthero. This liquid tincture contains .85 ml of this herbal mixture per each 20 drop serving. I hope that helps – please let us know if you have any further questions!

  • Gayle Callender says:

    I’m on Prednesone for Polymyalgia Rheumatica (3 months). As I don’t like taking steroids and would prefer to treat PMR naturally and have a supplement protocol in place. I am working with my doctor to come off the steroids asap. Tapering so far is 15,12.5,10,7.5,7 over 3 months – planned tapering is 5,3,1 over the next 2 months. Since I’ve been on the 7.5 some of my symptoms have returned. Would a low dose of licorice help to ease the symptoms and help my adrenal glands as I continue the steroid tapering.

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Gayle,

      That is a great question, and one better suited for a healthcare practitioner. If you are not currently working with one, we may be able to offer a referral. If you’re interested, email us at customerservice@drwilsons.com and include your zip code. Thank you for writing!

  • Irmgard says:

    Is Deglycyrrhizinated licorice Root or just normal Licorice root best for adrenal fatige?

  • W. Taylor says:

    5 years ago I was on a 2% Benzo taper. At the beginning of the taper I my adrenals became over stressed. Cortisol was high. The Dr. that was overseeing the Benzo taper has warned me it may happen. He put me on DHEA to rebalance the high cortisol. It worked good. Approx 4 weeks after I was free of the Benzos I tapered off the DHEA that I was on.

    With my stressful job and the addition of the stress from COVID I’m feeling the same way I did 5 years ago. The Dr. I used then has since passed away. My Cortisol is back up. What would you suggest?

  • Nicole says:

    I am going crazy got tyroid meds and adrenal meds from Amazon ;still tired but helps at like 8 pm! (After I take several naps I usually feel better anyway) I got so many supplements and gamma for sleep? All the way at bottom it says licorice for the 1 body adrenal med. can I mix? I also bought a hormone pill but I take other supplements I read I can’t mix like calcium and multivitamin . How many mg of licorice ? And what other supplements do I need? Ty

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Nicole,

      We can’t advise on other supplements and hormone pills. Are you currently working with a healthcare practitioner? If not we may be able to provide a referral. If interested, please email us at customerservice@drwilsons.com along with your zip code. Thank you!

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