Being a woman comes with a lot of caveats. If you struggle with frequent yeast infections or have dealt with frustrating digestive issues, there’s a chance that you could have a bacterial overgrowth of yeast in your body — something that’s more likely to happen as we age. Luckily, however, natural remedies like licorice root may be able to bring some relief and restore the body back to balance.
Licorice grows natively in areas of Asia, Greece, and Turkey, and it comes from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. Ancient Egyptians used it traditionally in medicine and cooking, it was later used in China and Greece, and in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda (the Indian sister science of yoga) for things like soothing digestive issues, respiratory health, and even skin and hair care. And now, modern science shows that it could be useful against bacterial overgrowth that causes infections.
Yeast is a fungus, and licorice is said to aid fungal balance in the body. One specific type of yeast, Candida albicans,is believed to cause the most fungal infections in people. Small amounts of candida yeast can live in the stomach, throat, and other areas in the body without causing issues, but a condition called candida overgrowth can lead to vaginal yeast infections and conditions like oral thrush.
Licorice root may help you prevent gut issues, oral conditions, and yeast infections by helping to eliminate harmful candida bacteria. One study showed that the three main chemical compounds in licorice — glycyrrhizic acid, glabridin, and lichochalcone-A, — had strong antifungal activity on candida albicans fungus. The researchers determined that these compounds should be considered for treatment of oral candida infections.
Vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections are also often caused by candida overgrowth. Again, it’s normal for some candida yeast to exist in the mucous membranes of the vagina and urinary tract, but an overgrowth can lead to infection. Medications like antibiotics and other factors like pregnancy or menopause can cause candida to overgrow in the urinary tract or vaginal membrane. While there isn’t a whole lot of research on the direct effect of licorice on yeast infections, licorice can help you keep your candida levels in check so an infection could be prevented.
Licorice may also be a beneficial root for women because it shows some promise for the relief of menopause symptoms. One small study in menopausal women found that taking licorice root resulted in a significant improvement of hot flashes, reducing their severity and frequency.
Before you start using licorice root to fight candida and alleviate hot flashes, there are a few things to note: According to one news release, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that licorice not be eaten in large amounts during one sitting, and warns that excessive consumption can lead to irregular heart rhythm and muscle fatigue.” In addition, it may interact with medications by affecting drug metabolism in your liver, but taking small amounts of licorice is generally considered safe. As always, you should consult a doctor before beginning any new supplement regimen.
Licorice root itself contains a compound called Glycyrrhetic acid, which could potentially raise cortisol (the stress hormone) when taken for long periods. The safer form of licorice is deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, which is usually recommended to people when long-term use is needed. For a DGL supplement we love, try this one from NOW Foods ($9.71, Amazon).
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This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.