Becoming more and more popular in natural skin care products, and boosted by Dr Oz on Oprah recently as a must-have ingredient when it comes to anti-aging and skin lightening, Licorice Root (from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant) has been an ingredient in various Alchemilla skin care products since the day we began creating them.
The purpose of this article is to provide a little insight into Licorice as a plant, medicinal herb and, most importantly, a valuable natural skin care ingredient.
Licorice – The Plant
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) goes by many names, including “sweet root”, “sweet wood”, and “licorice”. A member of the pea (Fabaceae) plant family, licorice is a perennial herb that grows about 1.2-1.5 meters in height and has pinnate leaves about 7-15 cms in length. It thrives and grows wild in southern Europe and some regions in Asia.
The licorice plant’s flower varies in color, from lilac to light blue, and produces seeded pods of 2-3 cms in length on its branches.
The most sought-after part of Licorice, however, is its roots. These long, cylindrical pieces of creased, fibrous wood grow horizontally underground, are brown on the outside and yellow on the inside.
Licorice Root – A Sweet Treat
Licorice Root is a flavorful herb that contains a natural element that is about 50% sweeter than sucrose. For this reason, it has been extensively used throughout history and in modern times as a sweetener, not only for candies but also in cough syrups, tonics, laxatives and as an ingredient to improve the flavor of otherwise unpleasant tasting herbal remedies.
Licorice Root is also used to flavor various kinds of liquors, frozen dairy treats, puddings and gelatins and sometimes the soft and chewy root is consumed on its own as a sweet natural treat.
A Rich History of Medicinal Use
While it has been used as a flavor enhancer for centuries, many individuals may not realize that Licorice Root also possesses very valuable medicinal attributes.
In fact, Licorice Root has a long, rich history of medicinal use by cultures worldwide, including the Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, and Hindus. It was also highly treasured in ancient Egypt and when King Tutankhamen died, he was buried with a supply.
Its first notable report of health-giving benefits comes from the Greeks, however, who prescribed Licorice Root for treating gastric and peptic ulcers. Since that time, Licorice Root has been recommended throughout the world to help soothe coughs, colds and symptoms of bronchitis.
In China, Licorice Root has been used to promote vitality and is said to help revitalize the heart, treat palpitations and boost the spleen.
In India, Licorice Root is used in traditional Ayurdevic medicine for the relief of constipation, swelling of the joints and peptic ulcers.
Research shows that Glycyrrhizin, one of the major components found in Licorice Root, is responsible for many of this herb’s healing qualities. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that glycyrrhizin decreases inflammation, aids in the secretion of mucus, soothes irritation, and protects the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.
Other studies demonstrate that Licorice Root extract contains a glabridin flavonoid, which promotes the activity of the adrenal glands (controls cortisol, the stress hormone) and makes it an effective antioxidant.
Licorice Root in Skin Care
So why is a skin care company like Alchemilla so interested in this fascinating herb?
Why, indeed! Recent studies have confirmed that this wonder herb also provides remarkable effects on the skin as a natural skin lightener and antioxidant.
During the early 1990s, Japanese scientists first isolated the substances in Licorice Root that were shown to be highly beneficial for the skin: Glabridin, Glabrene, Licochalcone, and Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate.
Glabridin is a potent skin whitening agent. It helps re-balance dermal cells and decreases melanin formation (the pigment responsible for skin discoloration).
Glabrene is an anti-oxidant at least as powerful as natural vitamin E.
Licochalcone is an effective anti-acne ingredient that regulates oil production and eliminates bacteria. In addition, licochalcone helps soothe acne-prone skin, making it highly recommendable for sensitive and allergy-prone skin types.
Stearyl glycyrrhetinate has potent soothing anti-inflammatory properties. This contributes towards Licorice Root’s suitability as an ingredient for the most sensitive skin.
Time and again, Licorice Root has proven its huge contribution to both traditional and modern medicinal uses, and with more and more research supporting its value as an effective topical ingredient, Licorice Root is one ingredient to look for in any natural anti-aging skin care product.
Look for Licorice Root in Alchemilla’s Antioxidant Concentrate Serum, or view Glycyrrhiza glabra in the Alchemilla skin care herbarium for more details on this herb and where to find it in the Alchemilla product line.