How to Use Licorice for Hot Flashes
I am something of a licorice connoisseur. Seriously, I love this stuff. When I was a kid, I was always the one you could trade your unwanted black licorice to during Halloween.
As an adult, I have the stuff shipped to me from overseas so I can enjoy the best Dutch candies. So naturally I was thrilled when I discovered a very exciting fact—licorice can help treat hot flashes during menopause!
Hopefully you also enjoy licorice and find this equally exciting.
If you don’t, though, don’t fret—you are hardly alone. Licorice seems to be an acquired taste. So the good news is that even if you do not like it now, if you give it a chance, you may grow to love it.
In this article, I am going to tell you all about how you can use licorice to treat hot flashes and other menopause symptoms (that’s right—it’s good for more than one thing).
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But first, I want to tell you a bit more about licorice, since if you are in the USA, you probably do not know much about shopping for it!
Licorice vs. Anise
Licorice is actually pretty hard to buy in the USA. It may not seem that way at a glance, but start looking on the backs of packages of “licorice” in the store, and you will quickly see what I mean.
A lot of these products do not actually contain licorice at all. Many of them are actually flavoured by anise.
Licorice and anise are two totally different plants:
- Licorice, also spelled “liquorice,” is the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra. This plant is a type of herbaceous perennial legume. It grows throughout southern Europe as well as India and some other regions of Asia. It is not related in any way to anise or star anise.
- Anise, also called “aniseed,” is a flowering plant which is part of the Apiaceae family. It grows in Southwest Asia and the eastern Mediterranean.
Note that there are also a couple of other plants which have similar flavours: star anise and fennel. These are also sometimes used to produce a ‘licorice” flavour.
In Europe and the Middle East, licorice (actually licorice) is quite common. You will find it used regularly to make candies, and you can also purchase it as a sweetener for foods or beverages.
Why Is It So Hard to Find Licorice in the USA?
So why can’t you find licorice in the USA? I am not positive of the exact economic reason, but I suspect it has something to do with the health scare which surrounds this tasty treat.
The FDA has actually released a consumer advisory on the dangers of licorice. Basically, too much licorice is a bad thing—as in a really bad thing. It can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias, and can also lead to the following potentially serious consequences:
- Low potassium levels
- Congestive heart failure
Terrifying, right? No wonder a lot of manufacturers choose to flavour their products with anise instead of real licorice.
So Is Licorice Safe to Eat?
Actually … yes. Generally speaking, licorice is fine, so long as you are not eating absurd amounts of it.
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Going back to that same FDA advisory, you need to be doing the following to be at risk for the serious health effects mentioned previously:
- Eating multiple 2-ounce bags of licorice daily (consisting of 40-50 grams each)
- Continuing to do this for 14 days or longer
Additionally, the advisory applies specifically to those over the age of 40.
So basically, unless you plan to eat two whole bags of licorice every day for a two week period, you have nothing to worry about.
Loads of people in the Netherlands routinely eat through a bag of licorice within a day without ill effects (licorice is really, really popular there).
The Bottom Line: Licorice is SAFE so long as you are not eating it in ridiculously vast quantities.
What If You Do Not Enjoy the Flavor of Licorice?
Interested in eating licorice for menopause, but not a fan of the flavour? As I mentioned earlier, this is quite common.
There is actually a specific reason why salty licorice in particular is a turnoff for so many peoples’ taste buds. It has to do with compound which it contains called “ammonium chloride.”
This compound has an astringent, salty quality to it. For those who are not used to it, it can seem overpowering.
Sometimes ammonium chloride is even used in medicine, so if it reminds you of cough syrup, there is probably a reason.
In any case, many people get used to the ammonium chloride flavour after enough exposure to it. So you might find you like it if you give it a chance.
If you never do get used to it, you can try sweet licorice instead. You might enjoy that better.
As for me, I can tell you that salty licorice (and licorice in general) were an acquired taste for me as well. While I was that kid who would take your unwanted Halloween licorice, I remember I disliked licorice initially as well.
I just happened to be a stubborn kid, and I almost liked licorice, while everyone else hated it. I enjoyed liking something nobody else could enjoy, so I kept eating it. Over time, my dislike went away and my taste buds adapted. Now I legitimately love the stuff.
I’d say I can’t get enough of it, but I think I’ll stick to eating less than two bags per day!
Anyway, if you absolutely detest the flavour of licorice and do not care to develop a taste for it, there are supplements available in capsule form. I will share a recommendation with you at the end of the article.
How Licorice Can Help You During Menopause
Now you know the skinny on licorice and understand that in reasonable amounts, it is safe. So how can it help you out during menopause? It has four main benefits.
1. Licorice has estrogenic effects in the body.
First of all, licorice has an estrogenic effect when you eat it. When you are in menopause, your body is no longer manufacturing the high levels of estrogen it did when you were still experiencing your menstrual cycles.
As a result, taking herbs like licorice which have an estrogenic effect may help to balance the effects out while your body is adjusting to the lower levels.
This may be the mechanism behind licorice’s effectiveness in curbing hot flashes (see below). It may also help to reduce some of the other symptoms of menopause which are also caused by a decline in hormone production.
Herbal treatments like these are safer than hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which may have negative health effects over the long term.
Indeed, while you are at it, you should think about taking an herbal supplement for menopause which contains a blend of healthy ingredients to balance out your hormone levels.
2. Licorice has been shown in scientific studies to decrease hot flashes.
In scientific research studies, licorice has been shown to reduce both the frequency and severity of hot flashes. In fact, the researchers in the linked study concluded, “The administration of this harmless, inexpensive herb well accepted by the menopausal women together with the appropriate and continuous physical activities and consumption of dairy products are recommended for relieving this complication.”
For many women in menopause, hot flashes are among the most life-disrupting symptoms, so the fact that licorice makes a measurable difference in reducing them is a big deal.
3. With licorice, you can also fight heartburn and its associated discomfort.
Here is a study which was conducted on GI symptoms that can go with menopause. The study found that 34% of postmenopausal women experienced heartburn and acid reflux.
Licorice is a remedy which you can use to treat heartburn. I have yet to find any scientific studies backing this use up, so this is anecdotal only (for now).
When I told my physician assistant about it, she told me she suspected it had to do with an absorbent effect.
I have noticed that licorice is classified as alkaline, so I think that may also have something to do with it. The pH is balancing out the excess acid in my gut.
Just how effective is it? I cannot speak for everyone, only share my own experiences, but I have found that eating a single piece of licorice is often all it takes to reduce the heartburn pain I am feeling by about half.
I have found that it is particularly effective if I take a piece at the onset of mild symptoms. Doing this seems to get my stomach acid balanced before it spirals out of control.
The licorice I buy is chewy, but I do not chew it. I just suck on it as if it were hard candy and wait for it to dissolve. It provides relief the entire time, and often my symptoms do not return. If they do, a couple more pieces is often enough to sort things out completely. In fact, it is fairly rare now for me to get a really severe bout.
Considering I have tried many other home remedies for heartburn and this is the only one to produce significant and repeatable results, I am quite convinced of its effectiveness and highly recommend it.
4. Lose weight.
As you get older, it is common for your fat to migrate from your hips and thighs up to your abdomen. This visceral fat is very hard to burn, and it also is quite bad for your health—more so than other types of fat. Indeed, visceral fat is associated with inflammation (which itself is implicated in many diseases), metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance.
Interestingly enough, licorice has been shown to be useful in promoting weight loss. It appears that it reduces fat by inhibiting 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase Type 1. Rather technical, but the point is that it seems to be effective, and researchers already have a guess at the mechanism.
So if you have been struggling with stubborn belly fat during menopause, this is just one more way in which licorice can help you!
Where to Get Real Licorice
I do not suggest going to your local grocery store if you are in the USA and shopping for licorice. You will have to search around to find the real stuff, if you find it at all.
Instead, my recommendation is to get online and shop for licorice from overseas, specifically from the Netherlands. Why the Netherlands? Because licorice is practically the national food over there.
You can read an interesting post about this topic here. According to that post, the Netherlands has the highest per capita licorice consumption on the planet.
So if you are shopping for Dutch licorice, you can easily find the real thing, and you get a wider selection to choose from.
I usually purchase Klene licorice. It is a popular brand in the Netherlands, and their licorice is very tasty. If you visit the Amazon link I just shared, try not to be deterred by the more expensive products. Quite a few bags of licorice there are available for under $10. One bag lasts me for months if I am sparing with it (I use it for heartburn). You may go through them faster if you are taking it to balance hormones.
You also have another cheaper option, and that is to purchase your licorice in supplement form. This Nature’s Way Licorice Root product contains 100 capsules with 450 mg per capsule. It is inexpensive, and a good brand.
Conclusion: Licorice is a Safe, Delicious, and Enjoyable Remedy for Hot Flashes and Heartburn During Menopause
Whether you take licorice in capsules or you enjoy the candy, you will find that this is a great option for managing your menopause symptoms. You will be balancing out your hormones, treating your hot flashes, and even promoting weight loss and reducing the severity of heartburn. So give it a try. If you don’t love licorice now, I think you will when you discover all it can do for you!