Licorice Extract and Skin Care
Traditional herbal medicine has used licorice root in many remedies to treat a wide range of health problems. Considered one of the most vital herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, licorice has been used to treat digestive problems, coughs, sore throat, diabetes, tuberculosis and a variety of skin conditions. Today, licorice extract is sometimes recommended for helping treat eczema, psoriasis, herpes, canker sores and melasma. Consult your doctor before using licorice extracts as part of your skin-care regimen or to treat a skin condition.
Applied topically to your skin, licorice extract gel or ointment may help treat eczema, and gargling with a licorice extract solution may help treat canker sores according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Licorice extract might also help if you have cold sores, melasma, genital herpes or shingles. Topical applications of licorice could help treat psoriasis as well, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. No widely conclusive medical evidence entirely confirms licorice extract's effectiveness for treating these skin conditions, however.
Licorice extract contains glycyrrhizin and flavonoids, which are thought to produce anti-inflammatory action in the skin according to the University of Michigan Health System. The glycyrrhiza extract in licorice may be responsible for its actions in healing canker sores as well. Another substance found in licorice called liquiritin may help treat the skin-pigmentation disorder melasma. Most licorice extracts have the glycyrrhizin constituent removed, because it can cause serious health problems like low potassium levels and elevated blood pressure. This common form of the extract is called deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL.
To treat most skin conditions, such as psoriasis, herpes and eczema, you might apply a 2-percent-concentration licorice extract gel or cream twice each day to the affected skin areas, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. To treat canker sores, you can dilute 200 mg of DGL powder in 200 mL of warm water and swish it in your mouth for about three minutes, then spit it out. You can swish with the DGL solution three to four times daily, recommends the University of Michigan Health System.
Published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2000, a clinical trial involving people with melasma found that those who applied a cream containing the licorice extract liquiritin twice each day for one month experienced a 70-percent improvement in their condition. The study participants who used the placebo cream experienced only a 20-percent improvement, however.
Another preliminary clinical trial conducted in 1989 in India found that using a DGL mouthwash helped speed up the healing of canker sores. Published in the Journal of Dermatology Treatments, a 2003 double-blind clinical trial involving 30 people with eczema determined that applying a 2-percent licorice gel was more effective than placebo at reducing inflammation and other symptoms.
Despite this research, all evidence supporting licorice's use for treating skin conditions is still very preliminary. You should talk with your doctor before using licorice extracts to treat any skin problem.
Most of the dangers associated with using licorice extracts orally or topically relate to its content of glycyrrhizin. Therefore, use of DGL extracts is generally considered safe, but no safety studies have confirmed this, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Even small amounts of glycyrrhizin may be dangerous if you have heart failure or heart disease, edema, hypertension, diabetes, or kidney or liver disease, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center.
You may experience negative interactions from licorice if you take medications like ACE inhibitors or diuretics, digoxin, corticosteroids, diabetes drugs or insulin, laxatives, MOIs and oral contraceptives. Discuss any potential side effects or health risks with your doctor before using licorice extracts for skin conditions.
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