Topical preparations containing an extract from licorice can be used for skin conditions that produce redness, swelling, and itching. Ointments and gels contain licorice extract as well as other plant extracts to lighten freckles and other skin discolorations. Some research indicates that the chemical may enhance the reproductive ability of skin cells following ultraviolet light damage.
Research suggests that the licorice extract, glycyrrhizinic acid, also known as glabridin, has anti-inflammatory properties. The chemical inhibits the clyclo-oxgenase, the enzyme responsible for triggering prostaglandins and inflammation. Skin gels typically contain one to two percent of the chemical extract. Many offer these preparations for the relief of symptoms associated with dermatitis and eczema.
Some believe that the medicinal licorice extract also exhibits antimicrobial properties that combats bacteria, viruses, and yeast, and certain reports suggest that licorice extract inhibits the proteins necessary for antimicrobial activity and growth. These properties along with the anti-inflammatory effects lead some to use licorice for a skin condition known as rosacea. One study investigated the effectiveness of enzymes from licorice for skin that had been damaged by ultraviolet radiation. The report suggests that the test subjects who used topical extracts of licorice for skin exhibited faster skin cell regeneration.
Preparations containing glycyrrhizinic acid also inhibit the enzyme responsible for melanin production without having adverse effects on melanin producing cells or dermal skin cells. Individuals use licorice for skin when attempting to lighten discolorations or even out skin tone. Formulations commonly combine the licorice extract enzyme with other ingredients, including bearberry and mulberry extracts. Some health care providers recommend these preparations over prescription medications that may contribute to cancer development.
Before the use of licorice for skin conditions, licorice was used to treat upper respiratory ailments and licorice preparations for coughs and congestion associated with asthma and colds we available. One study reports that individuals suffering from the discomfort of canker sores gargled a solution of warm water and licorice extract up to four times a day and experienced symptomatic relief. Limited research suggests licorice might prove effective in relieving the symptoms that accompany gastric reflux disorder, indigestion, and peptic ulcers.
Researchers investigated the effects of glycyrrhizinic acid on body fat after the extract was applied topically or ingested. All reports indicate that the extract reduced body fat levels while other results suggest that the subjects also experienced overall weight loss and a decrease in low-density lipid cholesterol levels. Researchers warn that the chemical derived from licorice may increase aldosterone levels, causing adverse effects that include headaches, cardiac problems, and increased blood pressure.