Licorice

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Licorice: natural ingredient of Zetastop

The liquorice plant also spontaneously grows in Mediterranean regions, including Italy, and is cultivated especially for confectionery and pharmaceutical industries.
Its botanical name means “sweet root” as it has quite a sweet taste that allows its use above all as a sweetener in candies or herbal teas. Of the plant using the roots and rhizomes, which are present even in the Official Pharmacopoeia.

Traditional uses of licorice

Licorice root enters into the composition of herbal preparations as a corrector of the flavor and when used as an antispasmodic plants with laxative properties. In old herbal preparations was recommended as a cough suppressant and against stomach pains.

Scientific knowledge of licorice

Today we know that the main constituents of licorice are flavonoids and saponins, including, in particular, glycyrrhizin, a triterpene saponin constituted by calcium and ammonium salts of glycyrrhizic acid. Complete the picture coumarins and phytosterols.
Extracts of licorice root have cytoprotective activity, anti-inflammatory and healing on the gastric and duodenal mucosa, in particular due to glycyrrhizin, either by direct contact with the lesion, either for indirect stimulus to mucus production by the cells of the gastric wall.

Licorice is therefore indicated in the prevention and treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers, for gastritis and ulcers caused by the drugs (NSAIDs, steroids), alcohol and mucositis from chemotherapy. Anti-inflammatory effect of glycyrrhizin is associated with the antispasmodic effect on smooth muscle exerted by flavonoids. Glycyrrhizin also has potent immunomodulatory effects and reduces the risk of cancerization from hepatitis C virus.

The plant contains Triterpenic saponosides, glicirizzina, up to 6%), flavonoids (isoflavones, licoricerizine, isolicoricerizine), polysaccharides, sterols, coumarins and other substances. Licorice has anti-inflammatory properties, expectorant, soothing, stimulating the adrenal glands, laxative.
The anti-gastric ulcer action that has the licorice is given by the glicorizzine and flavonoids substances contained in it; it can, in most cases, to disappear the painful symptoms and greatly reduce the ulcerative lesions (GUTMAN-KANONI, Societe Nat. Franc. de Gastroenterologie, 9-3, 1953).

Licorice also helps to treat Addison's disease, which is due to insufficient secretion of hormones from the adrenal glands. This action was due to an active principle (18-beta-glycyrrhetinic acid) which has many structural similarities with corticosteroids, which would exert an action of ACTH-like stimulus directed specifically on the adrenocortical glomerular zone.

Licorice: natural ingredient of Zetastop

Constituents and chemical formula of the licorice
  • Triterpenic glycosides (saponins, triterpenoids penta cyclic): mainly glycyrrhizin (GL-synonyms: glycyrrhizic acid and acid glycirrizinic), present as salts of K and Ca [6- 14%], hydrolyzed by the intestinal flora to glucuronic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid (GA- synonym: glicirritic acid). The GL is responsible for the sweetness of licorice, being 50 times sweeter than sucrose. There are also 13 other saponins lower
  • Flavonoids and isoflavonoids (1%)
  • Phytosterols: b-sitosterol and stigmasterol
  • Coumarins
  • Polysaccharides, especially Lucan
  • Amines and amino acids
  • Other constituents: bitter principles (glyciramarine), starch (about 20%), asparagine (1-2%), sugar (15%), gum, lignin, triterpenes and essential oils, licofuranone, stilbenes, tannins, wax.
The active ingredient most important of the licorice: glycyrrhizin

Glycyrrhizin (formula: C 42H62O16; molecular weight: 822.94) is a triterpene glucoside whose triterpenic skeleton is formed by glycyrrhetinic acid, which is not sweet, and to which are linked two residues of iduronic acid.
It can be called either glycirrizinic acid, glycyrrhizic acid, glycyrrhetinic glycosyl acid. The content of glycyrrhizin in the root varies from 2 to 4% depending on the growth conditions of the plant. Glycyrrhizin is a partially hydrolyzed by glucuronidase in the corresponding aglycone, the glycyrrhetinic acid.

The history of modern research on the mechanisms of action of licorice begins in 1946, when the Dutch chemist Revers observed that his patients, sick stomach, noticed significant improvement with the use of a preparation of licorice.
Revers also noted that, at therapeutic doses, patients had edema of the face and limbs. Thanks to the studies that followed, GL and GA were identified as the compounds responsible both of antiulcer that the edematogen, and it was discovered their strong anti-inflammatory activity. Carbenoxolone, the anti-ulcer medication most important of the 60's, was nothing more than a synthetic version (more absorbable) of GA; but also caused side effects edematogen of the Licorice.

The glicirizzina, after ingestion, is converted by the bacterial flora (Clostridium innocuum, Ruminococcus spp., Eubacterium spp.). Prior to acid 18-ß-glycyrrhetinic acid and then to 3-epi-18-ß-glycyrrhetinic acid, which is the form in which the molecule is actually absorbed (apart from a negligible amount of unmetabolized GL).

Licorice: natural ingredient of Zetastop

The most important mechanism of action of licorice is to block the hepatic redattase of corticosteroids and a direct stimulus of the production of adrenal hormones. Recently it has been demonstrated action at receptor level for the Gluco and mineral corticoids. In detail:

  • Anti-inflammatory action: Numerous studies have confirmed the anti-inflammatory activity of licorice, probably due to the strengthening of indirect glucocorticoid. In an animal study, GA has been shown to possess anti-arthritic activity similar to that of cortisol
  • Antiulcer action: the antiulcer activity has been studied mainly on the carbenoxolone (CB) that is chemically and pharmacologically similar to GL. CB improves the protective properties of the gastric mucosa, probably through a mediation of prostaglandins, production of secretin, or through a direct action on the mucosa the same. The fact that the de glicirrizinata licorice (DGL) has also demonstrated an anti-ulcer activities posed the problem of identifying the responsible principles. It should be clarified, however, that the DGL is not completely free of GL, but it contains less than 3%, and has a high content of flavonoids, molecules often at high antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory
  • Action at the pulmonary level: the expectorant activities of licorice seems to be attributable at least in part to the GL
  • Antispasmodic action: at the gastrointestinal level
  • Action on the immune system: GL acts on the hepatitis B virus and hepatitis A (in this case, preventing the virus from penetrating the cell); while the GA has shown, in two studies in vitro to inhibit the growth and plant pathology of various DNA and RNA viruses
  • Hepatoprotective action: GA inhibits chemically induced liver damage by preventing the damage from free radicals and preventing the formation of the same, with the reduction of transaminases and the accumulation of triglycerides. Transaminases are enzymes that indicate liver cell damage, while the alteration of serum lipids and lipoproteins are a sensitive index but nonspecific liver disease. An acute liver disease is frequently associated with increased plasma levels of triglycerides
  • Estrogenic activity: it seems that licorice has a behavior "amphoteric" compared to estrogen metabolism, that inhibits the effects of estrogen when levels are elevated in circulation and strengthens them when levels are low
  • Diuretic activity: the asparagine is a strong diuretic
  • Antibacterial action: the isoflavones are antimicrobial in vitro (SAPH. Aureus, Strept. Mutans, Candida albicans)
  • Antiallergic action: inhibition of histamine release.

Licorice: natural ingredient of Zetastop

In detail, the licorice is used for respiratory problems such as bronchitis, dry cough and asthma. In this area it acts as remedies mucilaginous or as expectorants relaxing. It is particularly indicated for inflammatory conditions, either alone or together with other remedies and possesses the unique ability to ease the effects of the other plants.

As anti-inflammatory is also indicated for inflammations at the gastrointestinal level as ulcers, gastritis and inflammatory diseases of the bowel and chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and psoriasis.
It is probably most nutritive of ginseng and this feature, together with moisturizing and soothing properties, making it an excellent remedy for convalescents. The plant can be used for chronic menstrual cramps and to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
The hepatoprotective activity combined with that invigorating suggests its use in therapy for hepatitis viral often characterized by weakening.

Lately it has been discovered that the roots of licorice are equipped with complex biologically active. The extract derived from the root is great to counteract microorganisms that are found in food: as a result could replace chemical preservatives that are used currently.

This discovery was published in the section “Antimicrobical Agents and Cheemiotherapy… and was carried out by a Japanese company named Higashimaru Shoyu. Licorice was actually used for centuries as a medicine for its faculty medications but not for the features that were discovered.
The biologically active compounds that licorice possesses are able to counteract up to 17 different types of microorganisms that make the poisonous food. The extract, however, fails to counter the gram-negative bacteria and fungi and is effective against gram-positive bacteria.

Antivirals effects

Since the 80s the effectiveness of the active ingredients in licorice has been demonstrated against several types of viral infections. Recent animal studies have shown that the antiviral effects may be indirect, and least in part due to the stimulation of interferon production by the tumor cells.
When tumor cells of mice were exposed to the flu virus 100% of the cells treated with glycyrrhizin survived, while those not treated went meeting to death.

The transfer of the treated cells conferred increased resistance to infection by Herpes simplex. Direct antiviral effects have been demonstrated in in vitro studies: glycyrrhizin inhibits plaque formation for three types of viral strains of Japanese encephalitis and also it shows also effective in inhibiting the in vitro replication of varicella virus-zoster. Has antiviral activity against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Glycyrrhizin blocks the formation of plaques and the expression of specific antigens of HIV and in subsequent studies glycyrrhizin sulfate has proved to four times more effective in inhibiting the glycyrrhizin of the HIV reverse transcriptase.

Phenolic compounds isolated of Licorice as the licopirano coumarin inhibit the activity of HIV cytopathic cell culture. Laboratory studies conducted mainly in Japan in 1992, have demonstrated the efficacy of glycyrrhizin in the treatment of viral hepatitis type A, B and C.
Numerous clinical studies in humans indicate positive effects of glycyrrhizin on viral hepatitis. Combination therapy of interferon and Glycyrrhizin increase liver function in patients with hepatitis C.