Licorice for Peptic Ulcer Disease


Next to juicing, there is no more effective natural remedy for gastrointestinal ulcers than licorice. Only one type of licorice, however, fits the bill, and it has to be used in a prescribed way.

DGL and Ordinary Licorice

The kind of licorice used to treat peptic ulcer disease is deglycyrrhizinated licorice, which is also known as DGL. As the name suggests, deglycyrrhizinated licorice is licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed. Glycyrrhizin is the chemical compound that makes licorice sweet. The sweet sensation begins slowly and lingers after licorice candy has been swallowed. As everyone who has ever eaten licorice knows, the sweetness of licorice is very different from the sweetness of sugar, and it is mostly glycyrrhizin that gives licorice its sweet taste.

The problem with glycyrrhizin is that it interferes with the way that the kidneys break down the stress hormone aldosterone. The longer aldosterone stays in circulation, the more fluid the kidneys retain. This causes bloating, tissue swelling, and high blood pressure. Aldosterone also causes the kidneys to retain potassium. When people who take certain blood pressure medications that likewise cause the kidneys to retain potassium, such as any medication in the ACE-inhibitor or ACE-receptor blocker class (ask your pharmacist if you are not sure), the combined effect can be so much retained potassium that a condition called hyperkalemia results. There are no documented cases of “licorice poisoning,” but it's not necessary to run the risk to get good results in treating peptic ulcer disease.

There are licorice products that have the glycyrrhizin removed. In Europe, Asia, and Africa, the most common brand of deglycyrrhizinated licorice is called Caved-S. In the USA and Canada, you would ask for “DGL.” This form of licorice contains the anti-inflammatory compounds that help bring peptic ulcer disease under control without the glycyrrhizin that can cause complications.

How to Use DGL

The active ingredients in DGL have to be activated by chewing. Mixing the product with saliva in your mouth releases the anti-inflammatory agents. Simply swallowing DGL like a pill won't do your stomach any good (or any harm), with one exception to this rule.

When the product is standardized for a chemical called glabidrin, and contains at least 3.5% glabidrin, just taking a 300- or 350-mg capsule without chewing is OK. When the product is standardized for “10% total flavonoids,” then it should be chewed. It is the the glabidrin that needs to be released by chewing DGL, but if it is concentrated, chewing is not necessary.

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About Andy Williams

In a processed food culture, simply eating may not be enough. Andy Williams, B.SC., Ph.D. is a scientist with a strong interest in Juicing and how it can supply the body with the nutrients it needs to thrive in modern society. You can subscribe to his free daily paper called Juicing The Rainbow and follow him on Facebook orTwitter. You can also follow me on Google +

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