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Licorice Root Tea: Good, but not Reliable
Licorice has stood the test of time as a medicinal herb, having been used for over 2,000 years in a number of traditional Chinese remedies as well as playing a role in modern protocols. Although it has been used as an emoliant, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic, the glycerrhizinic acid contained within the herb makes it extremely useful to boost low cortisol levels.
The active compound, glycerrhizinic acid, inhibits a liver enzyme called 11-beta-steroid-dehydrogenase. This enzyme would normally deactivate cortisol, so slowing down it's function results in a rise in circulating cortisol. The glycerrhizinic acid is found within the root of the plant, and is available as a tea and a capsule.
Many people like the taste of the tea. Others detest it. Many people like the 'natural feel' of drawing support from a tea, rather than throwing pills down their throat. However, the problem with the tea form is that these products are very rarely standardized; certainly, none of the teas I have ever encountered in health food shops in the UK are. A standardized product is one whereby the active ingredients are the guaranteed to a certain level. In the case of Licorice Root, glycerrizinic acid is typically standardized to 20%, meaning a 250mg product will deliver 50mg of this specific compound. In an unstandardized product, such as the tea, you have no way of knowing how much of the active component you are consuming and it may vary from one batch to the next.
This is a problem because if you feel particularly good on Monday and Tuesday but then experience a slump on a Wednesday, it may because you are getting less support for your cortisol levels. Yet you would not know this. As a consequence, settling on a suitable dosage can be difficult.
This is why I prefer to use standardized extracts in capsule form. Not only does this mean that you can provide a specific dosage – and know that this is the dosage the individual is actually receiving – but capsules are much easier to grab and swallow on a busy day; there are many herbs that you can take later in the day without it having any impact on how you feel, but licorice root is not one of them.
Licorice root tea is potentially great, but just not suitable when you need to deliver very precise amounts of glycerrhizinic acid to the liver. Adrenal dysfunction causes enough complications across the body's various organ systems; there is no need to add to the confusion with non-standardized supplements.
Marek Doyle DipAET is a nutritional therapist and allergist with locations in Kensington, Chelsea and Basingstoke. He has been recognised as one of the top practitioners in the country, counts world champion athletes and TV celebs amongst his clientele, and specialises in the treatment of fungal issues and adrenal fatigue. His website is www.blueprintfitness.co.uk and can be found @marekdoyle and on Google+