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Licorice for Adrenal Fatigue

  • Some relief from symptoms

Licorice is one of the most popular herbs for adrenal fatigue. Everyone tries it at some point. It's the 1st herb mentioned in Dr.James Wilson's book Adrenal Fatigue5

It can provide relief of some symptoms

This article includes some research on what licorice actually does, some comments from people on adrenal fatigue forums, and my own experience with licorice.

Like any other supplement, you really need to combine it with major changes in lifestlye, attitude, beliefs, detoxification, etc.

No single supplement can provide adrenal fatigue recovery. But they can often relieve some symptoms.

Increased Adrenal Hormones

Licorice helps boost adrenal hormones. This can make it very helpful.

There are other herbs that can boost adrenal hormones and energy, but they work by stimulation of the adrenal glands, which is not a great long term plan.
See the article Supplements to Avoid for more information.

Licorice increases a couple of important adrenal hormones, without stimulation, so Licorice does not increase the load on your adrenals. In fact, it should relieve some load.

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Increased Cortisol: Those with advance adrenal fatigue usually have low cortisol, at least during some period of the day, often in the afternoon. Hence, the afternoon energy crash that is so common.

Licorice has been shown to increase cortisol. Plus, it does so without stimulation.

  It is concluded from these studies that the licorice-induced changes in cortisol excretion are not a result of adrenocoritcal stimulation but more likely represent a change in the renal handling of cortisol.1

So licorice can relieve the symptoms of low cortisol, without asking your adrenals to produce more.

Now... Licorice is not supposed to increase hormones via stimulation. However, one of the most annoying things about adrenal fatigue is that supplements don't have the expected effect that they do for healthy people. There have been a few people on the adrenal fatigue forums that have mentioned that Licorice made them worse (forums posts are below).

Pseudo-Aldosterone

Craving salt is a very common adrenal fatigue symptom. In a survey on this site, 66.3% of 83 visitors answered yes to craving salt.

The adrenal hormone Aldosterone is the likely culprit for this symptom. The hormone Aldosterone results in increased sodium retention and lower potassium levels.

Another adrenal fatigue symptom that is fairly common is lack of sweat. People often note that they just don't perspire as much as they used to. In a survey on this site, 52.6% of 79 people answered Yes to sweating less than the used to.

Low Aldosterone leads to reduced fluid retention, which leads to dehydration.

This is actually one of the things I noticed when taking licorice. I actually started to sweat again in the heat. So it really helped with heat intolerance.

Well .... licorice acts like a pseudo-Aldosterone, producing the same effects as the adrenal hormone aldosterone.

  This aldosterone-like action is the fundamental basis for understanding its health benefits and the wide spectrum of adverse effects2

As noted in the quote, there are some potential adverse affects, and they mostly result from an excessive reduction of potassium.

Sodium, Potassium, Blood Pressure

One of the concerns for with healthy people using licorice is that it causes an elevation in sodium and reduction in potassium levels.

  ... a resultant cortisol-induced mineralocorticoid effect and the tendency towards the elevation of sodium and reduction of potassium levels.2

Because of low aldosterone, people with low adrenal function would typically have have low sodium and high potassium.8

Even an article from the Nation Institute of Health is about Adrenal Insufficiency mentions salt craving as a symptom8.

So licorice should correct low sodium and high potassium for those with adrenal fatigue.

For normal, or healthy people excessive consumption of licorice can lead to high blood pressure 9. This is due to excessive retention of sodium, which leads to fluid retention.

However, for those with adrenal insufficiency, low blood pressure is common8. In a survey of visitors to this site, 49.5% noted that they have low blood pressure.

If you have adrenal insufficiency, you probably need to increase your sodium levels. Keep a close eye on your blood pressure to make sure it doesn't get too high.

Adrenal Fatigue Forum Posts

The following are a few posts from the adrenal fatigue forum at curezone.

  I took licorice and ashwagha for a while and found it helpful in getting up the hill of recovery.6
  In my case (severe AFS) the capsules of licorice root powder was too strong. I took like 2 grams of root power capsules... got 'wired' and could not sleep. Took 500mg and also a bit strong.

Best method: Get regular (non-deglycerized) Licorice Tea in a teabag, add it to 175 ml of boiling water7

Now .... there are some people that have found licorice stimulating, even though it is not supposed to. One of the most annoying things is that supplements don't always do what they are supposed to for those with adrenal fatigue.

  So this is was my second go around with licorice root. Each time I took it for 3 months.

The outcome and results were the same. I felt better initially for like 2 weeks and then I started to feel worse, much worse. I developed melasma, and then slowly the anxiety intensified to the point of feeling panicky especially after any physical exertion.

I can only guess that licorice stimulated my ACTH hence the melasma and according to blood tests both my testosterone and potassium dropped which is one of the noted side effects of LR and probably contributed to anxiety. 4

Possibly the above person took too much licorice. It is difficult to know for sure. But it does look like even a person with adrenal fatigue can lower their potassium with licorice.

So don't go over-board, take breaks, and pay close attention to how you feel. And possibly eat some foods with potassium to .

My Experience

I took licorice for 6 months in 2008. It definitely helped with fluid retention. It helped with dehydration and therefore heat intolerance. I was actually able to sweat and cool myself down.

But this was early in my learning curve. I was still exercising too much. I had not yet started to meditate regularly. So there was really only so much that licorice could do.

By the way, meditation is probably one of the most important things you can do for adrenal fatigue. It is super important to calm down your nervous system. Please see the article: Meditation for AF for more information.

Summary

Licorice is not the cure for adrenal fatigue. It can provide some relief of symptoms by increasing cortisol and similating an increase in Aldosterone.

Some people have noted that it gave them some support to kick-start their recovery. Make sure you take breaks from it. Start slow. Watch your blood pressure.


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References

1. Licorice raises urinary cortisol in man
2. Licorice abuse: time to send a warning message
3. Grapefruit juice and licorice increase cortisol availability in patients with Addison's disease
4. Curezone: Has anyone ever been helped by adaptogens
5. Wilson, James L. (2001-01-01). Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome
6. Curezone: User Sherpa
7. Curezone: User Sherpa
8. Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison's Disease
9. Liquorice-induced rise in blood pressure: a linear dose-response relationship

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