Little Known Facts about Licorice Root for Menopause Symptoms
Did you know that licorice root extract can help your menopause symptoms like hot flashes, depression, mood swings and adrenal fatigue? It is available in numerous forms and you can even make your own home remedies (We will give you some recipies further down the page).
Like any herb, licorice has benefits and side effects so make sure that you read both sections. The side effects can be dangerous if you have certain health conditions or exceed the safe dose of licorice root extract.
Licorice root is a very versatile herb with numerous health benefits (and not just for women in menopause). Over 40 active compounds (flavinoids, saponins) have been identified. It contains specific isoflavones that can help to alleviate hot flashes and other active compounds can help with menopausal depression, mood swings and adrenal fatigue.
What is Licorice Root Extract
Licorice root extract is very readily available and more powerful than the dried root. Licorice extract is made by smashing the roots and boiling them in water (similar to a decoction). The resulting liquid is evaporated until a powder or syrup is produced. But you can also get the root or powdered root if you want to make your own remedy or tea.
Licorice (lat. name Glycyrrhiza glabra or Glycyrrhiza uralensis) is a perennial herb, mostly grown in Greece, Turkey, and Asia with a root system that is about 30-50x sweeter than raw sugar. It is also known as sweet root, or liquorice.
Aside from its popularity as a candy, licorice root has a very long history of medicinal use in both Eastern and Western medicine. Licorice root extract is used to treat many ailments and diseases, ranging from several menopause symptoms, to respiratory and gastro-intestinal diseases, auto-immune diseases and skin irritations.
Aside from the benefits for menopause, research has identified the following attributes, but some of these benefits are not well understood:
There is some research by Rutgers University which supports the use in the treatment of breast cancer.
How Does It Relieve Menopause Symptoms?
Licorice contains numerous active compounds and over 40 flavinoids have been identified. Those with potential benefits for women in menopause are saponins and phytoestrogens.
The primary saponin is glycyrrhizin which has a mildly stimulating effect on the adrenal gland and can help with adrenal and chronic fatigue. To alleviate adrenal fatigue, licorice root is often combined with ginseng and other herbs.
The active substances work similar to some of the anti-depressant drugs (it works on the neurotransmitter serotonin), which can help women with mood swings and menopausal depression.
Licorice contains specific flavinoids that have a weak estrogen-like activity, which should help with hot flashes. If you want to use it for this purpose, use a commercially prepared licorice root extract.
(If you really want to understand some of the biochemistry, here is an interesting article: “Saponins: Surprising benefits of desert plants” by P. R. Cheeke, Ph.D. from Oregon State University. It will open in a new window.)
Here is a recipe for Licorice Herbal Tea:
1 teaspoon licorice root with 1 cup very hot water, seep 20 min. 1 – 2x per day.
Licorice tea is delicious hot or cold. Also great as ice tea in the summer.
*This tea is also an excellent remedy for a coughs or a stuffy nose, because licorice acts as an expectorant.
If you want a great tasting drink that not only helps your menopause symptoms but also boosts your libido, licorice root together with sarsaparilla can act as an aphrodisiac. Since both herbs can help with hot flashes, you get double benefits. Try the following recipe:
Licorice – Sarsaparilla Tonic:
- 2 Tbls Licorice Root
- 2 Tbls Sarsaparilla
- 1 Quart Water
- 1 Drink 1/2 cup 2x day for 1 week
Use a non reactive pot (stainless steel or ceramic), add the herbs and water.
Cover and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn of the heat let seep for 5 minutes with the cover on.
Let the Sarsaparilla / Licorice Root extract completely cool before straining. You can store the tea for up to 48 hours in the fridge.
There is also a de- glycyrrhizinated form available for people who use licorice root extract for the treatment of ulcers and some other ailments. For women who want the benefits for their menopause symptoms, use the regular form that contains glycyrrhizin.
Dosage and Side Effects of Licorice and Licorice Root Extract
The dosage depends on which form of the root is used (licorice root extract or powdered or dried root). It also makes a big difference if you drink a cup of licorice tea or use supplements, which have a much higher concentration of the active substances.
The general recommended dose is: 1 cup of licorice tea from 1 teaspoon licorice root 2x day for up to 4 weeks.
If you want more control of the dosage of your tea, use commercially available licorice tea.
Always follow the instructions of your herbalist or the manufacturer. The table contains some general guidelines which indicate that there is no clear understanding about the dosage of licorice root.
Guidelines for the Use of Licorice Root:
Guidelines by the European Union recommend to limit the amount of glycyrrhizic acid to 100 mg a day which is about the equivalent of 50 grams of licorice root.
Guidelines from Japan, where glycyrrhizin is commonly used as a sweetener, recommend to limit the amount to 200 mg per day.US recommendations by the National Institute of Health are stricter:“Licorice is LIKELY SAFE for most people when consumed in amounts found in foods. It is POSSIBLY SAFE when consumed in larger amounts use as medicine, short-term. However, it is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used in large amounts for more than four weeks. Consuming 30 grams or more of licorice daily for several weeks can cause severe side effects including high blood pressure, low potassium in the blood, weakness, paralysis, and occasionally brain damage in otherwise healthy people. In people who eat a lot of salt or have heart disease, kidney disease, or high blood pressure, as little as 5 grams per day can cause these problems.”
Side Effects and Drug Interactions
- Licorice root should only be used in the recommended dosage for up to 4 weeks.
- People with high blood pressure, those with kidney disease and diabetes should not take licorice.
- Do not use it if your are pregnant.
- If you take water pills (diuretics), cortisone medications or medications for heart disease (especially digitalis) consult your doctor or pharmacist.
- Excess use of Licorice is toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system.
According to the literature and the information by the National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplement, the glycyrrhizin in licorice can cause high blood pressure, salt and water retention, and low potassium levels, which could lead to heart problems.
There are preparations without glycyrrhizin (DGL or De-glycyrrhizinated licorice) which may have fewer side effects.
If you are prone to high blood pressure, be careful when you take this herb. As always be safe and check with your health care provider before you start taking any supplements.
Summary about Licorice Root Extract
As with all the herbs and natural remedies, scientific research is lacking to support most of the claims. Licorice has a very long history as a medicinal herb and side effects and drug interactions have been established. However the benefits and potential uses are mostly based on anectodal reports, theoretical models or small animal studies.
Licorice and other saponin-rich plants have so many potential benefits that hopefully, scientific research will reveal their best use and applications. In the meantime, menopausal women will do what they have done best for thousands of years: Make up their own mind about the benefits of licorice root extract for their symptoms.