Usually, the word licorice makes people think of licorice candy. But this time, we mean the herb, licorice root. And that can have some powerful health benefits for your dog.
What Is Licorice Root?
Licorice, or Glycyrrhiza gabra, is a legume that’s a member of the pea family … and the licorice plant looks like a sweet pea plant. The root is usually harvested in the fall. Licorice root has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a versatile medicinal plant. It’s used by herbalists worldwide for digestive issues, inflammatory conditions, and respiratory problems. The herb has long traditions in Ancient Egypt and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Licorice root is a safe herb for dogs, with some cautions. It’s best to use it for short periods of time unless you get help from your holistic vet or herbalist. You shouldn’t give it to pregnant females. Licorice root can also interact with drugs like blood thinners or corticosteroids, so use caution if your dog is taking those medications.
But there’s a way to make licorice root safer ... and that’s to use deglycyrrhizinated licorice.
What Is Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice?
Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) licorice has the glycyrrhizin stripped from it. It has all of the benefits without the side effects of whole licorice root. Licorice contains a glycoside called glycyrrhizin that gives licorice its sweet taste. Glycyrrhizin has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Its chemical structure is similar to naturally occurring corticosteroids. It makes licorice an excellent anti-inflammatory for dogs. It stimulates the body’s own natural anti-inflammatory processes, without seriously compromising the immune system as pharmaceutical corticosteroids do.
The glycyrrhizin in licorice makes it a useful adjunct to hydrocortisone therapy, often allowing lower drug dosages. Licorice can even be used to wean dogs off steroids safely.
The Problem With Glycyrrhizin In Licorice
Despite these health benefits, long-term use of licorice glycyrrhizin can cause sodium retention and potassium loss that can lead to problems like …
- Fluid retention (edema)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Low potassium levels (hypokalemia)
So in some cases, it’s better to use DGL instead of whole licorice root. Digestive issues are an example (read on for more about that).
What Are The Benefits Of Licorice Root For Dogs?
Here are some ways licorice can help your dog …
Licorice For Leaky Gut And Digestive Problems
Licorice’s anti-inflammatory and soothing effects can also help protect the gut’s mucous lining and heal leaky gut. Leaky gut happens when your dog’s intestinal lining gets damaged. This allows toxins and undigested food particles to leak into his blood stream. Leaky gut causes chronic inflammation and can lead to problems like arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies and liver problems. Licorice reduces the inflammation of leaky gut and supports mucus production to protect the gut lining.
Licorice root can also relieve digestive problems like acid reflux, upset stomach, or indigestion.
Because of glycyrrhizin’s side effects, for leaky gut and digestive issues it’s best to use DGL. You can dose DGL tincture giving 12 to 20 drops per lb of body weight twice daily.
RELATED: Learn more about leaky gut in dogs …
Topical Licorice For Skin And Bruises
Licorice’s anti-inflammatory benefits can relieve itchy skin problems. In humans, studies show licorice can ease conditions like eczema and acne.
For your dog, you can use licorice topically as a tea, salve or oil, to soothe the itching of conditions like contact dermatitis and flea allergies. It’ll help keep him comfortable while you work to heal skin problems with internal remedies.
Topical licorice can also help with hot spots, bruises or lameness after a bump or fall.
Licorice Infusion For Topical Use
To make a licorice infusion, place chopped dried licorice root in a glass jar. Fill with olive oil to generously cover the root. Place the lid on the jar, and store it in a warm place (but not in sunlight) for 30 days. Strain through cheesecloth and save in a clean jar in the fridge. Use it on your dog’s skin as needed.
Licorice For Arthritis And Joint Pain
Licorice’s anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent herb to relieve your dog’s joint and arthritis pain. Several compounds in licorice, including glycyrrhizin, help reduce pain and inflammation. It can also protect against cartilage degeneration.
Since licorice shouldn’t be used long term without professional guidance, talk to your holistic vet or herbalist if you’d like to use it for a chronic condition like arthritis. For occasional joint pain it’s safe to use in the dosing provided below.
You can also use it topically to rub into your dog’s joints for pain relief.
Licorice For Respiratory Problems
Licorice can work well as a natural cough reliever. It can help loosen mucus to help your dog expel it from his lungs. It’s also soothing and anti-inflammatory so can ease a sore throat.
Licorice For Liver Health
In Chinese and Japanese medicine, licorice is used to treat hepatitis and as a liver detoxifier. Herbalist Gregory Tilford says this means it can be a good choice to protect your dog’s liver as an alternative to milk thistle.
Licorice For Addison’s Disease
The steroid-like actions of licorice mean it may help treat Addison’s disease. With Addison’s, your dog has inadequate production of hormones by the adrenal glands. Herbalist Joyce Belcher says licorice can be especially effective combined with other herbs like panax ginseng, ashwagandha and mushrooms. You’ll want to ask your holistic vet or herbalist about licorice use and dosage if your dog has Addison’s.
How To Use Licorice
Make an oil infusion as described above and apply to your dog’s skin as needed to relieve itching and discomfort. Dogs like the sweet flavor, so he may lick it off, but that amount won’t be harmful.
For internal purposes, it’s best to use a tincture or tea. The dosing guidelines below are general, so if you want to use licorice for a specific purpose, ask your holistic vet or herbalist about dosing.
Buy an organic tincture and give 12-20 drops per 20 lbs of body weight, twice daily.
To make licorice tea, steep 1 tsp of licorice root in 1 cup of hot water. Give 30-60 drops per 20 pounds of body weight, twice a day
Cautions With Licorice
Licorice root is a very useful herb but requires some caution when you use it. As mentioned earlier, it can lead to potential side effects like water retention, sodium retention, high blood pressure and potassium loss.
- Don’t give it for more than 2 weeks without your vet or herbalist’s advice. Be sure to ask about combining it with other herbs that can help minimize the side effects. Dandelion leaf, for example, has diuretic properties that would help prevent water retention as well as supply potassium .
- Don’t use licorice with corticosteroids or blood thinners without your vet’s advice on adjusting dosages of these medications.
- Don’t use licorice in pregnant or nursing females or dogs with Cushing’s disease.
- Ask your vet before using it in dogs with diabetes, heart conditions or liver disease.
So … What About Licorice Candy For Dogs?
Don’t share red or black licorice candy with your dog. All candy is high in unhealthy sugar. In the US, most licorice is flavored with similar tasting products like anise oil. Red licorice is mostly sugar, and can have various other flavors.
In other countries, black licorice candy may be flavored with licorice extract. There’s evidence that people who eat too much licorice can get some of the same side effects as taking licorice root medicinally.
Licorice root can be a very useful herb but you need to be careful how you use it. If in doubt, use deglycyrrhizinated licorice.
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