Say goodbye to GERD and more! DGL Licorice to the rescue!

April 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm 21 comments

by Sue Hughes, MSEd, HHP CNC

I LOVE licorice!  Problem is, the licorice that I’m talking about may very well not be the licorice that we all tend to think of when that word is mentioned!  There’s no doubt that I am a big fan of the long, chewy red or black “licorice” candy.  Mmm mmm.  Who can’t resist that?  But that’s not actually licorice.  The black version of that candy uses a very small amount of licorice extract but is mostly flavored with anise, while the red can have a variety of flavoring, like cherry or strawberry.  Unfortunately that kind of “licorice” doesn’t carry the health benefits of the real stuff – licorice root or Glycyrrhiza glabra meaning “sweet root.”

LicoriceOur knowledge of licorice root began way back in the days of King Tut.  Turns out that archeologists found bundles of this stuff inside his tomb.  Apparently, in the afterlife he intended to brew “mai sus” – a sweet licorice drink loved by Egyptians of his time, but I guess he never got around to it!

History goes on to tell us that, as early as the 3rd century B.C., Greek physicians were using licorice to treat asthma, coughs, or any disease of the lungs, for that matter.  This practice continued right up through modern times, and many other benefits of this amazing root have been discovered along the way (see below).

Perhaps the most amazing discovery was made a little over 50 years ago by a scientist named Revers.  He found that licorice paste actually reduced abdominal discomfort and led to the healing of stomach ulcers – it didn’t just relieve symptoms.  It HEALED! That was exciting news at the time, but unfortunately this treatment had shortcomings: many patients on this licorice paste developed edema, headache and other symptoms, possibly signs of overdose.  This, in turn, led to the development of  “Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice” or what’s commonly known as “DGL”, a form of licorice that has the compound responsible for these reactions,  “glycrrhizin”, removed.

DGL licorice stimulates the body to increase the number of mucus-secreting cells in the digestive tract, improves the quality of mucus, lengthens intestinal cell life and enhances microcirculation in the gastrointestinal lining.  That, in a nutshell, is how it ultimately helps prevent ulcers and literally cures you of heartburn or GERD!  Sure, there are plenty of antacids on the market today that will help you cope with your symptoms, but they do this by blocking stomach acid.  Unfortunately, this will ultimately make the problem worse, as you desperately need acid for proper digestion!  If you take pharmaceutical antacids for a long time, once you stop, your stomach will overcompensate for what you have lost, making even more acid.  No matter how much an antacid eases your discomfort, it certainly isn’t healing the problem like DGL will.  Interestingly, one study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken along with aspirin reduced the occurrence of aspirin-induced gastrointestinal bleeding.  Other studies have actually shown DGL to be as effective as the pharmaceuticals Tagamet and Zantac for the treatment of peptic ulcers.  Yes, it’s good stuff!

Aside from the remarkable powers of DGL licorice in healing digestive issues, it also will fight inflammation, kill viruses, bacteria and parasites, cleanse the colon and promote healthy functioning of the adrenal gland.  It will protect your tooth enamel, help with cough, chronic fatigue, depression, allergies, hypoglycemia, and upper respiratory infections. What may be even more amazing, like glutathione and bioflavonoids, licorice belongs to a class of substances known as “desmutagens”, which bind with toxic chemicals and cancer-causing agents, making them less effective in causing cell-altering damage.  So, as you can see, adding DGL to your health regimen can result in a wide variety of benefits, not just those of a digestive nature!

You’re probably wondering if there is anyone who shouldn’t take DGL or licorice root.  Well, regular licorice root still containing glycyrrhizin may increase blood pressure and cause water retention due to its tendency to deplete potassium.  This form is for short-term use only and it is not recommended for those with high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, heart disease, stroke or who are pregnant or nursing.  The DGL form, on the other hand, has no known side effects and is considered safe.  DGL licorice does not raise blood pressure and does not deplete potassium.  DGL is the form that can be taken regularly.

There are some drug-related interactions that can occur with licorice root.  If you are taking the drug Prednisone or other corticosteroids, test tube-based studies have found that licorice root extract does, in fact, decrease the elimination of these drugs.  This means that the effects of Prednisone may be prolonged and therefore may increase the potential for drug-related side-effects.  So, just to be on the safe side, avoid licorice root in any form while on these steroids.  Also, avoid licorice root while taking Digoxin or loop diuretics because again, it may enhance their side effects.

Something that I didn’t realize until a friend inquired about it – licorice root contains phytoestrogens.  Phytoestrogens are estrogens (hormones) that come from plants, such as those found in soy.  They are used by many women to balance hormones during perimenopause and menopause or to ease symptoms of PMS.  Licorice root has an estrogen-like effect, as it binds strongly to estrogen receptors throughout the body.  The literature isn’t clear on how this affects women on hormone therapy, although generally speaking, whole herb phytoestrogens seem to have a helpful “balancing” effect on hormones.

Nutrients contained in licorice root:  Calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, zinc, Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C.

Dosage: For adults, two 380 mg tablets chewed slowly before or between meals.  Children under 12 can take half of the adult dose.  Keep in mind that, in order to be most effective, DGL must mix with saliva prior to swallowing.  It is available in capsule form, however this may not produce the immediate results experienced with the chewable form.  Also, some people don’t like the licorice flavor, especially that of the chewable tablet.  There is a German Chocolate-flavored variety available that actually is very good!

References:

Foster, Steven and Johnson, Rebecca.  National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs. (2009)  Washington DC:  National Geographic.

Balch, Phyllis and Balch, James.  Prescription for Nutritional Healing. (2000) New York:  Avery.

Gaby, Alan R.  A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. (2006)  New York:  Three Rivers Press.

Tillotson, Alan.  The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook.  (2001)  New York:  Kensington Publishing.

http://www. DrWeil.com

Entry filed under: Chronic Conditions, DGL, Digestion, GERD, Heartburn, Licorice. Tags: , , , , .

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21 Comments

  • 1. Jason Brooks  |  August 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    I started takeing this product DGL and it start working on the first day that i took it, this really works, so if you suffer with acid reflux try this and it may work for you too.
    Best Reguards,
    Jason Brooks

  • 2. joy  |  January 1, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    I’ve been taking DGL for years and do NOT have acid reflux issues, nor heartburn, etc….30 some yrs ago I had an ulcer from a pharma anti inflammatory, so DGL is saving me as I do take other pain meds since I deal with OA and Fibro…

  • 3. Terri  |  March 4, 2014 at 1:08 am

    I have taken this at two different times when I developed an ulcer along with mastic gum and it has definitely helped me heal from the painful symptoms of a peptic ulcer, heartburn and indigestion. Only thing is that I wasn’t sure that I should take a long term maintenance dose and I developed another ulcer two years later.

    • 4. susanhughes  |  March 17, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      Hi Terri, thanks for visiting my blog! So glad you benefited from dgl. I have clients who have been on dgl (1 or 2 prior to each meal) for several years. Out should be no problem for use in maintaining digestive health over time.

  • 5. Karen  |  March 20, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I have used DGL before for a bleeding ulcer and acid reflux issues about a year ago and it worked. About a year later my acid reflux came back (but no ulcer this time) and have started using DGL again, this time I will stay on it forever if you think it is safe to do so.?

    • 6. susanhughes  |  March 20, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Karen, first thanks for visiting my blog. That’s great to hear re: the healing if your ulcer! It’s difficult to say whether your acid reflux will stick around for the long term. So many things can be possible causative factors – obviously digestive issues such as food allergies, hormone imbalance, medications, etc. The one thing to keep in mind and possibly do some research on is that reflux is thought to be caused by too little stomach acid rather than too much. A supplement called Betaine HCl can replenish some of the hydrochloric acid if we aren’t producing enough. We tend to produce less with age and there are other variables that play a role like stress. This has been effective for several of my clients with chronic acid reflux. Digestive enzymes and probiotics may also help to balance this area. I hope I’ve helped a bit. Good luck and let me know if I can be of further help!
      -Sue

    • 7. susanhughes  |  March 20, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Karen I just realized I didn’t really answer your question in my first response! I haven’t seen any studies showing any issues with long term DGL use.

  • 8. Dave  |  April 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    First time I tried DGL within 5 minutes felt noticeable relief. Good bye zantac, prilosec, and tums. I am done. This isnt the first time holistic approach hasn’t save my you know what. For example oregano oil for tooth ache. Feels good to think for ourselves, do research and heal yourself instead of getting a 1200 dolor bill from the doctor with a generic paper saying don’t drink, smoke, reduce stress, etc. because we don’t know whats wrong. It can be cheaper, safer, and we know what is actually going into our bodies.

    • 9. susanhughes  |  April 11, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      That is so cool Dave. Knowledge is power, for sure. Good for you and thanks for sharing! (And thanks for visiting my blog!)

  • 10. Cheryl  |  April 18, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    DGL also helped me immensely. I had tried Zantac, etc., eventually ended up on a PPI (per advice from my doc), but not for long. I continued to do research and discovered the information on DGL and mastic gum. I stopped the PPI, which I had taken for about 2 months with no real results, and the DGL worked much better than the PPI ever did. Now I just take the DGL for maintenance, maybe one or two a day depending and the mastic gum if I feel “acidy” from something I have eaten to neutralize the acid. DGL was and is a Godsend for me! I hope it works for whomever reads this blog! Give it a try!

    • 11. susanhughes  |  April 18, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Hey Cheryl! Thanks so much for sharing. I love to hear success stories! DGL is pretty amazing. If only more people knew, so pass the word! Take care and thanks for visiting my blog.
      – Sue

  • 12. Lisa  |  May 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Do you know if there is any issue with taking DGL if I am on Flonase (which is listed as a corticosteroid)?

    • 13. susanhughes  |  May 20, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Hi Lisa- sorry for the delayed response. I am not seeing any documentation on interactions between DGL and Flonase in any of my books or online resources. I suggest that you check with your pharmacist if you have any concerns though. Thanks for reaching out!
      -Sue

  • 14. Ced Dolder  |  May 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I had to take Prilosec after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Two years later I can’t get off of it! I would like to try DGL, but am a little worried about it conflicting with Tamoxifen. My breast cancer was estrogen positive and I avoid phytoestrogens like soy. Should I be concerned? Are there any studies on this subject?

    • 15. susanhughes  |  May 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      Hello Ced! What I do know: DGL does have some estrogenic properties. Whether it would conflict with Tamoxifen I do not know. That would be a question for your physician. There are many different ways, other than DGL, to support digestion to help eliminate or quell reflux and I would be glad to help you but I’d need to get more info. Consider checking out my website to see what I do and scheduling a phone consultation. http://www.healthybynaturehwc.com Thanks for checking out my blog!
      -Sue

  • 16. Chris Dardaman Gainesville, GA 30506  |  June 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I have Gerd acid- reflux and I am considering trying DGL licorice.. You have identified the dosage as two 380 mg. before every meal.

    What brand of product do you recommend? Thanks so much!
    Chris Dardaman, Gainesville, GA dardaman1@yahoo.com

    • 17. susanhughes  |  June 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      Hi Chris,
      We (my family) absolutely love Enzymatic Therapy brand DGL Ultra, fructose-free, German chocolate flavored. My son isn’t a big fan of black-licorice flavor, which is what the “original” DGL flavor is. I like both. The “Ultra” are 400 mg each and the recommendation on the bottle is to take 1 tablet 20 minutes prior to each meal, with a maximum of 3 per day. So that’s what I would start with. Now if you are particularly uncomfortable after a specific meal, like dinner for instance, double up on the dose prior to that meal. Be sure to let me know how it goes for you. It’s definitely a “healing” supplement, backed by a ton of research. That said, if you continue to have issues after a few months (yes, patience is a virtue!), let me know and consider scheduling a consultation. Every “body” is different and there are lots of variables!

      Thanks for visiting,
      Sue

  • 18. Sue Lee  |  June 9, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Hello Sue, I am taking Prescription Prilosec and Zantac for gerd. Do I still take them even with the DCL? My Doc said I can try to stop the Meds but I am afraid of the terrible reflux pain if I stop. Or should I just try to wean myself of them and take the DCL along with it. If i do that how do I know when I can stop the acid reflux meds? Thanks, Sue L.

    • 19. susanhughes  |  June 10, 2014 at 5:56 am

      Hi Sue! I’ve had several clients with your same concern .. afraid of the ramifications of going off the meds but nonetheless desperately wanting to. Most have been successful slowly weaning off while taking DGL simultaneously. That is fine to do it that way, just eliminate one dose of one of the meds at a time. One of my clients felt she had to continue with a single dose of one of her gerd meds only at dinnertime or she had discomfort. We are now working on additional nutritional support for her gerd since the dgl was not quite enough. Take it slowly and realize it dues take time but if this happens don’t become frustrated as there are many variables that can be addressed. Best of luck to you!
      ~Sue

  • 20. Steph  |  June 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I have painful GERD which has caused sore throat, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing. I am currently on Prilosec, and would like to switch to DGL. My main concern is that I am a type 1 diabetic. What are your thoughts?

    • 21. susanhughes  |  June 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      Hi Steph! It appears that DGL is not only safe for diabetics (both Type 1 and 2), but research in 2012 concluded that licorice root (including the DGL form) contains certain compounds that support healthy blood sugar levels and therefore help diabetics. Here’s a link to an article describing that study: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/licorice-root-treat-diabetes-study-article-1.1064818 That said, please be sure to check with your doctor prior to adding this or any other herb or nutrient to your regimen, as my blog provides general information only, not taking into consideration individual differences in conditions and/or prescribed medications that may interact with herbs/nutrients. If you need more personalized help, don’t hesitate to contact me! Hope this helps!
      ~ Sue

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