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Licorice Prevents Sore Throats after Operations

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: licorice, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Imagine a tube is stuck down your throat and left there for up to a couple of hours. It would be no surprise that you'd end up with a raw feeling throat. That's just what happens to countless people who undergo surgery under general anesthesia. The endotracheal tube, also referred to as a breathing tube, that's used to keep airways open during an operation can result in an excruciatingly sore throat post-surgery -- a condition known as postoperative sore throat (POST).

When throat lozenges aren't enough to alleviate symptoms, some doctors prescribe heavy duty, side effect loaded pain relievers. Incredibly, one of the drugs sometimes used is ketamine, the same powerful, mind-altering medication known as the "date rape" drug. But a new study just published in Anesthesia and Analgesia, the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS), shows there's a safer, natural alternative -- gargling with a licorice solution.

The study, conducted by Dr. Anil Agarwal and colleagues at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow, India, included 40 patients who were undergoing spinal surgery. Five minutes before they were given general anesthesia with a breathing tube, the patients simply gargled with either a diluted licorice solution or plain water.

After their operations, the patients who received the licorice gargle had a lower rate of postoperative sore throat, including pain on swallowing. Two hours after surgery, 75 percent of the study participants who gargled with only water suffered from POST while only about a fourth of the research subjects who used the licorice gargle had a sore throat at all. The ones in the licorice group who did have sore throats had less severe symptoms than the patients who only gargled with water, too.

There was even more good news for those who used the licorice gargle: they were far less likely to develop a postoperative cough than the surgery patients who only gargled with water. This is important because coughing after surgery can lead to potentially serious complications.

In a statement to the media, the researchers noted the diluted licorice solution used in the study is easy to make and only costs a few pennies per patient. There were no side effects reported from the licorice gargle, either. Bottom line: for many patients undergoing surgery, licorice gargle appears to be a sweet, simple, inexpensive and effective way to prevent a common and uncomfortable medical problem.

"Licorice, derived from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, has been used for many millennia as an alternative medicine for treatment of inflammation, allergies, and gastric and duodenal ulcers," Dr. Agarwal and co-authors stated in their Anesthesia and Analgesia report.

In fact, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), licorice root has anti-inflammatory effects and has been used to treat stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throats, and infections caused by viruses. The NCCAM web site points out that several clinical trials found that a component of licorice, glycyrrhizin, also might reduce complications from hepatitis C in some patients.

Naturally sweet, licorice is commonly used as a sugar substitute in foods and to make candy. It's also used as flavoring agent in some medicines. In the recent study, the licorice gargle's sweet taste made it quickly acceptable to patients.

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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