by Amy Myszko
Black licorice isn’t just a chewy, delicious candy. (Or a disgusting one–hey, depends on who you ask.) The root of the licorice–Glycyrrhiza glabra for you science types–has been used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years to treat everything from digestive upset, gout and depression to skin ailments and dandruff. The demulcent, or moistening, qualities of licorice root help those who suffer from dry, itchy skin or other symptoms of dryness, such as constipation and headaches. Licorice is also known to reduce the effects of stress by extending the half-life of cortisol in the body, allowing the body to produce less of those fight-or-flight hormones.
Licorice Gets to the Root of the Issue
Even mainstream sources like Women’s Health Magazine have touted the positive effects of licorice root for healthy skin, noting that licorice has long been used to soothe inflammation both internally and externally. Dry, itchy skin originates inside the body, often in the digestive tract, and the soothing, moistening effects of licorice can moisten the body from the inside out. Used externally, licorice has the same moisturizing and soothing effects, among its other benefits to the skin.
Black Licorice and Hyperpigmentation
According to research published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, licorice extract is the safest pigment-lightening agent among known natural remedies and cosmeceuticals. For those prone to redness, age spots or uneven skin tone, glabridin could be a life saver. Research also shows that licorice root reduces pigmentation from UVB exposure, and the root’s powerful antioxidant action can help to prevent damage done by the sun and the aging process.
Side Effects and Safety of Licorice
Don’t let its candy status fool you. Black licorice is a strong herbal medicine should be respected as such. When taken daily for extended periods, some people find that licorice root can cause unwanted water retention and promote high blood pressure. These are temporary side effects that go away once ingesting licorice root ceases. Therefore, it is not recommended to take licorice for more than a few weeks at a time. Fortunately, there are no known side effects from using licorice root extract topically on the skin.
How to Use Black Licorice Root
Licorice root can be taken internally to soothe the tummy and support healthy skin. You can find Chinese licorice (safer than the American variety) as a tea or a tincture, in capsules and as a powder. You can also buy it in the form of natural licorice sticks, which are tasty to chew on and beneficial to the teeth and gums, despite their sweet taste. For skin care, keep an eye out for revolutionary topical preparations from companies like CoSo Health & Beauty, who integrate safe and powerful botanical ingredients in their quality skin care products.
Amy Myszko is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, Certified Lactation Counselor and Licensed Lactation Care Provider and has been practicing herbalism and nutrition since 2007. She recently graduated with a master’s in Lactation and is pursuing a career as a Holistic Lactation Therapist.