Extracts of licorice root has been shown to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol oxidation in mice and humans.
Licorice root is considered one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies and comes from the root of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra).
Native to Western Asia and Southern Europe, licorice has long been used to treat various ailments and flavor candies, drinks, and medicines.
Despite this history, only some of its uses are backed by scientific research. Furthermore, licorice may carry several health risks. Based on reports that licorice extracts can lower LDL-cholesterol, oxidized LDL-cholesterol, and possibly atherosclerosis, a study was performed.
This study examined the effect of licorice-root extract on carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) in individuals with high cholesterol .
Study Design: Individuals with hypercholesterolemia were randomly allocated to two groups: an experimental group that consumed 200 mg/day of an extract of licorice root for 12 months, and a control group that received a placebo.
Results: Overall, 94 study subjects (41-80 years old) completed the study. A significant CIMT decrease from 0.92 mm to 0.84 mm was observed in the experimental licorice extract group compared with an increase from 0.85±0.17 mm to 0.88±0.19 mm in the control group.
Mean plasma total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol decreased, at the range baseline to 1 year, from 284 mg/dl to 262 mg/dl and from 183 mg/dl to 174 mg/dl, respectively, for the experimental group.
Mean high-density lipoprotein (HDL) did not change significantly in either group.
In the experimental licorice group, systolic blood pressure decreased from 138 mmHg to 125mmHg after 1 year and increased in the control group.
Diastolic blood pressure decreased from 92 mmHg to 84 mmHg (p=0.01) in the experimental licorice group but not in the control group.
STUDY Conclusion: Following 1 year of licorice consumption, mean CIMT, total cholesterol, LDL levels, and blood pressure were decreased.
This suggests that licorice may attenuate the development of atherosclerosis and of related cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, licorice root extracts may have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects. Early research suggests that, as a result, it may ease upper respiratory infections, treat ulcers, and aid digestion, among other benefits.
The dose is the key. Data suggest that chronic use and large doses of licorice root can cause severe fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those with kidney disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure should avoid licorice products.