Licorice is the root of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, a legume that is native to southern Europe and certain parts of Asia. Licorice, sometimes spelled liquorice, yields an extract that is sweet in flavor. The distinct sweet flavor of licorice extract is due to the compound glycyrrhizin, which is actually sweeter than sugar.
Licorice extract is used for a wide variety of purposes, both for cooking and herbal medicine. The use of licorice extract can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese. Some of the most common uses of licorice extract are in tobacco and alcohol, to add flavor; and as an additive for food.
Medically, some people swear by the effectiveness of licorice extracts for certain medical conditions. However, there isn’t much by way of scientific evidence for all the purported medical uses of licorice extract. One use does seem to be scientifically sound, though: licorice extract mixed with other substances to cure heartburn. The most common herbs mixed with licorice extract for this purpose include peppermint, chamomile, and milk thistle – all known to help ease digestion problems.
Licorice extract is also supposed to be useful in treating muscle cramps and ulcers. Tests have even been conducted to see if licorice extract can be used to treat hepatitis. More so, some evidence suggest that licorice extract can be used to aid weight loss. It may do so by reducing body fat. On the other hand, licorice extract is also known to enhance water retention, which may not make it that effective as a weight loss agent. Just like many other herbs used in alternative medicine, more studies are needed to cement the effectiveness of licorice extract.