Liquorice may be more than just a sweet treat. It has been found to reduce hot flushes in menopausal women by up to 80pc and could be an alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
The women who took a compound based on the plant root for a year were also far less likely to have their sleep disturbed by night sweats.
There is a possibility too that the plant root may even slow down the bone loss caused by the menopause which can lead to osteoporosis.
Research suggests that chemicals in liquorice mimic the effect of the female hormone, oestrogen, that is lost in older women.
The root could prove a cheap and safe natural alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Dr Marsha Baker from the University of Southern California said the initial results of a study are “promising”
Dr Baker and Dr Donna Shoupe from the University presented a paper on their study to the annual conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Florida.
“There was a pretty significant reduction in hot flushes on the study” said Dr Shoupe.
HRT is the standard treatment for menopausal symtoms as it replaces the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, but some doctors are reluctant to prescribe it after a contentious study claimed it increases risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Women over 60 are thought in particular to be at higher risk.
In an attempt to see if a natural alternative could help alleviate symptoms, researchers recruited 51 women with an average age of 50.8 who had moderate symptoms, experiencing about 10 hot flushes every day.
They were either given 50mg or 100mg of a liquorice root extract called licogen in a daily tablet, or a dummy pill, and followed for a year.
The results showed an effect after eight months, with hot flushes falling by up to 80 per cent, including in some cases down to just one at night from four.
In addition analysis suggests the liquorice extract had reduced levels of bone turnover, by between a third to half, which Dr Shoupe said she was “pretty thrilled about”.