The People's Perspective on Medicine

Licorice Oil Calms the Heat of Fire Ant Stings

Licorice oil applied to cold sores, stings, burns and bites helps ease the pain and speed healing.
Raw liquorice roots isolated at white background

What do you do for fire ant stings? As fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) push further north, many more people will have occasion to treat the pain of their stings. Some readers are enthusiastic about vinegar, while others tout the benefits of meat tenderizer.  But one reader offers a completely different treatment: licorice oil.

Licorice Oil for Cold Sores and Stings:

Q. Licorice oil helps heal various bites, burns and even cold sores. It takes down fire ant stings fast!

I make my own licorice oil using one licorice tea bag to one cup of olive oil. I leave that mixture in a covered jar on the counter, though it could be refrigerated. The potency builds up over a day or two while the tea infuses the oil.

Apply the oil at the first sign of a cold sore and keep using it every 20 minutes until the area responds. Best cheap little remedy in your arsenal for all manner of owies!

Some Science on Licorice Oil:

A. Thanks for the tip. Dermatologists report that topical licorice compounds can help protect against UV-B related sun damage (Afnan et al, Experimental Dermatology, June 2016).  They may also ease eczema (Saeedi et al, Journal of Dermatological Treatment, Sep. 2003).

Licorice has some antiviral and antimicrobial activity, which might explain your success (Wang et al, Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica. B, July 2015). Licorice extract seems to be able to protect the skin (Castangia et al, Carbohydrate Polymers, Dec. 10, 2015). The active component in licorice, glycyrrhizin, has anti-inflammatory activity (Dastagir & Rizvi, Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sep. 2016). That might explain why some trials have found it helpful as an addition to psoriasis treatments (Yu et al, Current Medical Research & Opinion, Feb. 2017).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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