Licorice can help control Diabetes by preventing inflammation and liver disease
Licorice can help with diabetes by reducing liver fat and decreasing the risk of inflammation. These are important measures for diabetes treatment and control. As for lowering blood sugar, licorice might not score as high as some other herbs.
The main benefits of licorice for diabetes are:
- Liver protection
- Fatty liver disease prevention
- Blood sugar lowering
These four health benefits are specially useful for diabetics in advanced stages. Diabetes that has progressed to foot ulcers or nerve damage and general inflammation. Licorice does have some drawbacks as it can cause some side effects:
- Elevate blood pressure
- Lowers Potassium
There are however some advantages in blood pressure elevation for advanced diabetics who suffer from postural hypotension (dizziness when standing up). Diabetics that are being treated with metformin can sometimes develop dizziness and low blood pressure while standing. Licorice have shown to reduce these side effects. 
These are two conditions which are of chief concern to diabetics. Diabetes is both associated with potassium deregulation and high blood pressure. Low potassium is a serious condition but even more serious if you are diabetic.
There is a direct relationship between potassium levels and insulin action. Potassium is also important for glucagon production by the liver, so we don’t want to lower potassium here, if anything we want to have more of it. So should we discard the idea of using Licorice? Not yet.
Certainly the side effects of licorice for diabetes are mild if compared to traditional medication so its all a question of weighing the costs Vs. benefits (something we should do with any medicine). Again the best is experimentation using small doses at first and observing the results. Maybe not your preferred herb but it might be beneficial to try on temporary basis and stop if undesirable effects appear. Herbs like foods or any other substance may have different effects depending on the individual genetic makeup. People have different rates of absorption when it comes to drugs and food nutrients. There is no manual other then knowing how your body functions and also safe experimentation.
How licorice for diabetes works
The chief compound found in Licorice is called Amortifrutin which is named after the Amorpha fruticosa plant which also contains the compound. Research have demonstrated reduced blood sugar, anti-inflammatory, and anti fat liver disease properties in laboratory mice.
Amortifrutin molecules bind to peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) in the nucleus of the cell. PPARγ plays an important role in the cell’s fat and glucose metabolism. This binding activates several genes responsible for reducing fat in cells as well as reducing glucose and fatty acids. Both actions also prevent insulin resistance a hallmark of diabetes.
The binding of PPARγ is well known. Other anti-diabetic drugs also use the same mechanism such as Metformin, Glipizide, and triglyceride lowering drugs. These drugs however are not selective enough and there are problems with side effect such as weight gain and cardio-vascular problems. Amortifutin does not present side effects and is well tolerated as studies have shown.
How to use licorice for diabetes
Do not use licorice candy, they don’t have any licorice in it but only aromatic essence and sugar. Licorice products can be extracted from peeled or unpeeled roots. The roots are prepared as fine cuts for teas, tablets and capsules. Using teas or sucking on dry roots is less potent then liquid preparations. Extracts are the best form to consume licorice and are likely to have the most concentration of beneficial compounds.
Use the extract and get blood sugar levels. Be careful is you are using oral anti-diabetic drugs such as Metformin, Glipizide or insulin. Some licorice extracts do not contain glycyrrhizin the sweet component of licorice which has anti-inflammatory properties.
These extracts are known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). Some studies suggest it has less side effects such as high blood pressure. It is mostly used against ulcer formation, GI disturbances, specially when aspirin is used and GI disturbances. Have in mind that when you use licorice you are treating anti-inflammatory and fatty acids, liver protection. Observe sugar lowering, it might not be the chief benefit of licorice for diabetes.
Licorice can be taken in the following forms:
- Dried root: 1 – 5 g as an infusion or decoction (boiled), 3 times daily
- Licorice 1:5 tincture: 2 – 5 mL, 3 times daily
- Standardized extract: 250 – 500 mg, 3 times daily, standardized to contain 20% glycyrrhizinic acid
Licorice may interfere with several medications, including the ones listed below. If you are taking any medication, ask your doctor before taking licorice.
- ACE inhibitors and diuretics — If you are taking angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or diuretics for high blood pressure, you should not use licorice products. Licorice could cause these medications to not work as well or could make side effects worse, including a build-up of potassium in the body. ACE inhibitors include:
- Captopril (Capoten)
- Benazepril (Lotensin)
- Enalapril (Vasotec)
- Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
- Gosinopril (Monopril)
- Ramipril (Altace)
- Perindopril (Aceon)
- Quinapril (Accupril)
- Moexipril (Univasc)
- Trandolapril (Mavik)
- Digoxin — Because licorice may dangerously increase the risk of toxic effects from digoxin, do not take this herb with this medication.
- Corticosteroids — Licorice may increase the effects of corticosteroid medications. Talk to your doctor before using licorice with any corticosteroids.
- Insulin or drugs for diabetes — Licorice may have an effect on blood sugar levels.
- Laxatives — Licorice may cause potassium loss in people taking stimulant laxatives.
- MAO inhibitors — Licorice may make the effects of this class of antidepressant stronger.
- Oral contraceptives — There have been reports of women developing high blood pressure and low potassium levels when they took licorice while on oral contraceptives.
- Warfarin (Coumadin) — Licorice may decrease the levels of this blood-thinner in the body, meaning it may not work as well.
- Medications processed by the liver — Licorice may interfere with several medications processed by the liver, including celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fluvastatin (Lescol), glipizide (Glucotrol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), phenytoin (Dilantin), piroxicam (Feldene), phenobarbital, and secobarbital (Seconal).
Other Warnings for when using licorice for diabetes
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is UNSAFE to take licorice by mouth if you are pregnant. High consumption of licorice during pregnancy, about 250 grams of licorice per week, seems to increase the risk of early delivery. It might cause a miscarriage or early delivery. Not enough is known about the safety of licorice during breast-feeding. Don’t use licorice if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
High blood pressure: Licorice can raise blood pressure. Don’t consume large amounts of it if you have high blood pressure.
Heart disease: Licorice can cause the body to store water, and this can make congestive heart failure worse. Licorice can also increase the risk of irregular heartbeat. Don’t consume licorice if you have heart disease.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Licorice might act like estrogen in the body. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use licorice.
A muscle condition caused by nerve problems (hypertonia): Licorice can cause the level of potassium to drop in the blood. This can make hypertonia worse. Avoid licorice if you have hypertonia.
Low potassium levels in the blood (hypokalemia): Licorice can lower potassium in the blood. If your potassium is already low, licorice might make it too low. Don’t use licorice if you have this condition.
Sexual problems in men: Licorice can lower a man’s interest in sex and also worsen erectile dysfunction (ED) by lowering levels of a hormone called testosterone.
Kidney disease: Overuse of licorice could make kidney disease worse. Don’t use it.
Surgery: Licorice for diabetes might interfere with blood pressure control during and after surgery. Stop taking licorice at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
About the plant
Licorice are graceful shrubs with foliage spreading almost with a feathery look. The axils of the leaves have small pale-blue, violet, yellowish-white or purplish flowers followed by small pods.
At night the leaflets hand down on each side or the midrib. Licorice is a legume and it is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel which have similar flavor compounds.
The word licorice or licorice is derived from old French licoresse. There are several well known species: G. glabra, glandulifera, echinata but the only the G. glabra is the main source of medicinal compounds.
These plants are native of South-East Europe and South East Asia. Licorice have been used for thousands of years and the Greeks were the first ones who learned to use it. It was than named Glycyrrhiza (Greek glukos, sweet, and riza, root).
Licorice extract also appeared to be of common use in Germany during the middle ages. Today approximately 60% of all licorice production is used as a flavoring enhancement, and moisturizer for cigarette manufacturing.
The tobacco industry also use it as a kind of bronchodialator allowing your lungs to open up so smoke can easily be inhaled; this trend has diminished 10% in the past years. Candy making is the other well known use of licorice but don’t think for a moment you are getting the benefits by eating it.
Black licorice may have some actual licorice depending on how its was made but mostly do not. Red licorice is just refined sugar and food coloring. Bottom line candy is just candy, stay away from it unless they are prepared naturally and don’t have added sugars; nothing substitute the extracts if you want to use it as a medicine. Look for natural products when using licorice for diabetes.
As herbalist and WishGarden founder Catherine Hunziker explains, the Rocky Mountain foothills are an exciting bio-region; a place with multiple influences that can bring in unexpected visitors. Take licorice, for example; a plant normally associated with exotic faraway places like China. And yet, there it is growing right in Colorado! Revered as an invaluable medicinal herb for its anti-inflammatory, adrenal tonifying properties and ability to harmonize formulas, learn why this surprising visitor to the Rocky Mountain landscape is one of the world’s best-loved herbal remedies.
Licorice is used as a natural plant based raw-materials and flavor ingredients around the world. Alfarid Corporation is an Organic Certified Company for Licorice, botanical name Glycyrrhiza glabra; an ISO 9001 and HACCP certified and USA FDA Registered. Licorice Roots originating from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Turk Mandi, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. AFC has been supplying to major international extract manufacturers, food & beverage, flavor, pharma, confectionery, nutraceuticals, cosmetic, liquor, ayurvedic, herbal, tobacco, flavor and tea industries.
www.alfarid.org and product websites www.liquoriceroots.com and www.mulethi.com
Dr Meschino explains how the dangers of licorice supplements.
- A Licorice Ethanolic Extract with Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor- Ligand-Binding Activity Affects Diabetes
- Hypoglycemic effects of glabridin, a polyphenolic flavonoid from licorice, in an animal model of diabetes mellitus
- Reduction of Cholesterol and Other Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors by Alternative Therapies
- Drug of the Millenia, pharmacognosy, chemistry, and pharmacology of liquorice