South Korean researchers reported that licorice extract reduced inflammation and progression of collagen induced arthritis, which is an animal model of human rheumatoid arthritis, in mice. Licorice extract applied directly to the ears also reduced inflammation from a standard procedure used to test anti-inflammatory substances.
Licorice extract is widely available in health food stores and over the internet. It comes from the dried roots of Glycyrrhiza plants. Licorice candy is commonly made from a different herb, called anise or aniseed, which is popular in Indian restaurants.
Licorice extract is widely used in alternative medicine to treat conditions including:
1. Gastric ulcers
4. Adrenal insufficiency
6. Sore throat
8. Visceral fat
Spices in general are widely recognized for health benefits. Researchers at Cornell University did a survey of recipes from different cultures, and found that meat dishes in hot climates tend to be much spicier than those in cooler climates. They attributed this result to the anti-oxidant effects of spices.
Anti-inflammatory effects of herbal products are also recognized. Turmeric has demonstrated excellent results for inflammatory bowel disease. Its use for other conditions is limited, however, by its poor absorption from the intestines. Thus researchers continue to explore other herbal options.
The Korean team studied both licorice extract and roasted licorice extract. Both contained flavonoids including glycyrrhizin, licochalcone A, liquiritin, and isoliquiritin. The roasted version had half as much glycyrrhizin and isoliquiritgenin, but a five-fold increase in licochalcone A, and performed better in their tests. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a source for roasted licorice extract.
Treatment of inflammatory conditions has progressed greatly with the development of new medications, including immunosuppressive and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. However, these drugs have serious side effects and toxicities that limit their use for many patients.