Liquorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra, is a wonderfully versatile compound that is used in the food, medicine and cosmetics industries. It contains almost 300 compounds and phytochemicals that are anti inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial, among other properties. Liquorice extract is produced from the root of the liquorice plant, which is a legume native to Western Asia and Southern Europe. Its botanical name, Glycyrrhiza glabra, is derived from the Greek word glykis for sweet, and rhiza for root, and ‘sweet root’ is exactly what it is!
In foods and beverages, liquorice extract is a sweetener and flavourant, while in medicine the root is used to treat indigestion, acid reflux, constipation and IBS, as well as coughs. It can fight inflammation and viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. In skincare, liquorice is used as a brightener, anti ager, and anti inflammatory.
The liquorice sweet is famously made from liquorice extract, although now the sweet is often flavoured with anise rather than liquorice.
Liquorice root extract is particularly interesting for its unique components and skin benefits. It is a natural skin lightener and brightener, helps even skin tone and makes for a more radiant, youthful appearance.
Liquorice contains a number of active components which make it much loved in skin care.
The first is glycyrrhizin or glycyrrhizic acid, a saponin found in liquorice root that is responsible for its sweet taste. It is a powerful anti inflammatory. The anti inflammatory properties help with irritation and redness and liquorice is commonly used to treat acne marks, rosacea, psoriasis and hyperpigmentation.
Glabridin is an active component that inhibits an enzyme called tyrosinase, which makes the skin darken after sun exposure. Tyrosinase is needed to produce melanin - so by inhibiting it, this helps curb excess melanin which causes dark marks. This all helps lighten discolourations and promotes even skin tone.
It also contains liquiritin, an active compound that helps to disperse and remove existing melanin in the skin. This essentially helps fade dark marks. It can also assist with melasma.
Liquorice contains antioxidants which fight the free radicals that cause melanin cells to overproduce. This assists in helping to fade and reduce hyperpigmentation, which is the patchy appearance formed from excessive melanin production in some areas of the skin.
Liquorice can help even skin tone around scars, where the skin is often darker in colour due to excess melanin production
Lastly liquorice also contains Licochalcone A, which helps increase antioxidant production in the skin, helping to protect it.
Liquorice root can be added to herbal teas or to tobacco mixtures to sweeten and boost flavouring.
To make a tea, add 1-1.5 teaspoons of the root to a cup of freshly boiled water. Steep for 10 minutes then drink up to 3 times a day.
For use in skincare you can make your own liquorice botanical extracts using glycerine or water, which can then be incorporated into your DIY skincare products. Read our Botanical Extracts blogs to find out more on how to do this.
Liquorice extract can be safely used with Vitamin C and niacinamide, but don’t use it with retinol in case of irritation.
Comments will be approved before showing up.