Examining Licorice Root for Acid Reflux Relief
Article

Examining Licorice Root for Acid Reflux Relief

Published on Tuesday, January 02, 2024
by
Haley McGaha

Health & Wellness

Understanding Licorice Root: Its Role in Easing Acid Reflux

Are you among the 20% of adults experiencing the challenges of GERD in our society? If so, you're likely well-acquainted with the discomforts of heartburn, regurgitation, and other symptoms like difficulty swallowing, burping, coughing, and nausea. Having personally faced these frustrations, I know the impact they can have. Various risk factors, including age, tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, lying down after eating, pregnancy, and certain medications, directly link to the onset of GERD symptoms.

Beyond the Candy Aisle: Tracing Licorice’s Medicinal Roots

For those navigating GERD, the term "licorice" may have crossed your path as a potential aid for symptom relief. If you're not yet familiar with it, numerous articles online highlight the benefits of licorice in alleviating acid reflux symptoms. Let's explore the potential of licorice root in managing GERD symptoms.

When "licorice" comes up, my mind often jumps to Twizzlers. Yet, the world of licorice extends beyond candy, making it easy for people to feel perplexed about its potential benefits for acid reflux. The purpose of this article is to bring clarity to the connection between licorice and acid reflux.

To understand this better, let's look into the medicinal history of licorice. In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, licorice holds significant importance, boasting various healing properties. Licorice roots function as diuretics, laxatives, antimicrobials, antioxidants, and expectorants. Additionally, it is known for increasing gastric mucus secretion and possessing antiulcer properties.

Scientific Support: Examining Studies on Licorice’s Efficacy in GERD Management

You may wonder if this is all hearsay or if any research has been done. Well, several studies out there support the use of licorice to help reduce the symptoms of GERD. So, let’s take a look at some of them.

The primary active component of licorice is called Glycyrrhiza glabra. It derives from the Greek words glykos (sweet) and rhiza (root). A processed licorice extract, called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), is generally known for its antiulcer properties. 

This 30-day study found benefits in reducing heartburn in adults taking licorice in the form of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard®) compared to those taking a placebo medication. The dose was 75 mg, taken twice daily. The study not only looked at the benefits but also monitored any side effects that could have arisen with the use of licorice supplements. They found no reported side effects and believe licorice is a fairly safe dietary supplement. 

One of the reasons it is theorized that licorice (DGL) may be helpful for reflux is that it has been shown to increase mucus activity, which can protect the lining of the esophagus from acidic damage. Other studies have included licorice root in treating functional dyspepsia (recurring upset stomach) in combination with other herbs with positive results.

Clinical Insights: Understanding Licorice’s Impact on Blood Pressure and Sodium Retention

Although licorice root seems pretty safe, some side effects can come with its use. If you have high blood pressure, this alternative option to help reduce the symptoms of GERD may not be the best for you, as licorice root is known to increase blood pressure. It can also lead to sodium retention; low potassium levels have been reported in several cases.

Even though a side effect of using licorice root is increased blood pressure, there may be some hope. A trial published in Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology found that when low doses of licorice root derivatives (25 mg) were paired with a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), it did not result in high blood pressure. They actually found that combining licorice root derivatives with PPIs resulted in a large decrease in chest pain, heartburn, stomach pain, regurgitation, cough, and hoarseness. 

Optimizing Digestive Health: Lifestyle Changes and Treatment Options for GERD Relief

Although licorice root may provide relief, dietary and lifestyle management practices are key to supporting digestive health. Luckily, there are several options available to help manage and treat GERD. Implementing lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, waiting at least three hours before lying down after eating, and adjusting your diet to exclude triggers like chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, citrus, and carbonated beverages, is crucial for managing GERD.

If these lifestyle adjustments do not effectively alleviate GERD symptoms, individuals often explore medication options, which can include both over-the-counter and prescription remedies.

Guidance for Safe Supplementation

Always consult with your healthcare provider before considering any dietary supplements, ensuring that the chosen supplement is safe and suitable for your individual health conditions and medical history. Your healthcare provider can offer personalized guidance, considering potential interactions, allergies, and specific health considerations to make informed and tailored recommendations. For more information on choosing the right supplements, check out this smart supplement shopping essentials article!

 

  1. Antunes, C., Aleem, A., & Curtis, S. A. (2023, July 3). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441938/ 
  2. G, W., YR, K., Y, C., J, M., K, B., YR, J., & HC, R. (n.d.). Licorice. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/licorice
  3. Ghalayani, P., Emami, H., Pakravan, F., & Nasr Isfahani, M. (2017). Comparison of triamcinolone acetonide mucoadhesive film with licorice mucoadhesive film on radiotherapy-induced oral mucositis: A randomized double-blinded clinical trial. Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology, 13(2), e48–e56. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajco.12295 
  4. Madisch, A., Holtmann, G., Mayr, G., Vinson, B., & Hotz, J. (2004). Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a herbal preparation. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. Digestion, 69(1), 45–52. https://doi.org/10.1159/000076546 
  5. Mumoli, N., & Cei, M. (2008). Licorice-induced hypokalemia. International journal of cardiology, 124(3), e42–e44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2006.11.190 
  6. Pastorino, G., Cornara, L., Soares, S., Rodrigues, F., & Oliveira, M. B. P. P. (2018). Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): A phytochemical and pharmacological review. Phytotherapy research: PTR, 32(12), 2323–2339. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6178 
  7. Penninkilampi, R., Eslick, E. M., & Eslick, G. D. (2017). The association between consistent licorice ingestion, hypertension and hypokalaemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of human hypertension, 31(11), 699–707. https://doi.org/10.1038/jhh.2017.45 
  8. Raveendra, K. R., Jayachandra, Srinivasa, V., Sushma, K. R., Allan, J. J., Goudar, K. S., Shivaprasad, H. N., Venkateshwarlu, K., Geetharani, P., Sushma, G., & Agarwal, A. (2012). An Extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) Alleviates Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM, 2012, 216970. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/216970 
  9. Di Pierro, F., Gatti, M., Rapacioli, G., & Ivaldi, L. (2013). Outcomes in patients with nonerosive reflux disease treated with a proton pump inhibitor and alginic acid ± glycyrrhetinic acid and anthocyanosides. Clinical and experimental gastroenterology, 6, 27–33. https://doi.org/10.2147/CEG.S42512

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