According to a new study presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting, licorice supplementation for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms may interact with medications, which can pose a significant health risk. 

The use of licorice supplements has been increasing in popularity as a natural treatment for menopausal symptoms due to “concerns about the risk of stroke and breast cancer associated with conventional hormone therapy,” said lead author Richard B. van Breemen, PhD.

In this study, three types of standard licorice extracts were examined (Glycyrrhiza uralensis, G. inflata, and G. glabra) to get a better understanding of how they affect liver enzymes. The researchers found that consumption of all three licorice types inhibited several liver enzymes, while G. uralensis and G. inflata induced them. Using these supplements concomitantly with other medications can interfere with drug metabolism or transportation, which could lead to significant side effects.

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Most supplements, while listing licorice as an ingredient, may not specifically state the species on the labels. Using the information from this study, the researchers hope to develop a G. glabra-based supplement that is both safe and effective for menopausal symptoms; clinical trials are expected to start some time next year.

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