Licorice for IBS? It's a strange supplement, but it can make an improvement on your IBS symptoms.
We all know of licorice as that sweet treat that is so enjoyable because it is so much fun. You get to tear apart the strips that are stuck together and chew, chew, chew! There's nothing like chomping on a few pieces during a night out at the movies.
Most of the licorice that is available on the store shelves and movie concession stands is the red, cherry flavored licorice. However, for those braver souls, there is the truer form—black licorice. I still remember fondly my Dad's cravings for it. Now that is an acquired taste! You either love it or you hate it!
Actually, it is the root of the licorice plant that gives black licorice that very distinct and unique flavor. That flavor of sweet, bitter and, well, just plain unusual, all mixed together. So it is the licorice root that is, surprisingly, a beneficial digestive aid and helpful supplement for IBS symptoms.
Licorice is a plant that grows wild in Europe and Asia. The root of the plant has been used for thousands of years for a variety of ailments, including gas and bloating, the classic symptoms of IBS. Since it can be a soothing and coating agent, it has been used to treat ulcers and GERD. It also acts as an expectorant, which is helpful for treating coughs and breaking up phlegm.
I had first heard about licorice for IBS and a digestive aid from Dr. Andrew Weil, integrative medicine guru, when he appeared on the Dr. Oz Show. In this show, he discusses "5 Health Essentials" that provide an immediate boost to your well being, with licorice being one of those 5. You can check out the information by clicking here.
Now, unfortunately, just eating black
licorice sticks all day will not help your symptoms. It is the
licorice from the whole root that has the protective benefits. Many
of the licorice candy products made in the US do not even contain
licorice! Also, there is a part of the licorice root called
glycyrrhizin, that can increase blood pressure. As a way to combat
this, producers of the supplement have been able to make
deglycyrrhizinated licorice, also known as DGL. This is readily
available in most health food stores or online. It is this form of
licorice root that helps promote the production of mucous in the
stomach that soothes and protects it. Using licorice for IBS symptoms worked best when I began taking two (quite tasty, I might add!) chewable
tablets before each meal.
You can also find licorice in herbal teas, powder, capsules and liquid extracts. There is an excellent, soothing tea called Egyptian Licorice Mint by a company called Yogi. One large cup of this, with two tea bags and some honey, has been very good to help relieve some of the pain and bloating of IBS for me.
While I have found licorice to be a very beneficial addition for treating my IBS symptoms, it is important to check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you and will not interact with any medications you are taking.
I hope you can enjoy the benefits (and the flavor) of using licorice to treat IBS as much as I have!