For many of us, the thought of licorice conjures up images of twisted chewy ropes or playing Candy Land with the family. However, licorice is more than a sweet in your local candy aisle—the herb has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal qualities. In both Eastern and Western medicine, licorice root has long been used to treat everything from the common cold to skin ailments. Here are a few of the natural benefits of licorice root for younger, healthier skin:

1. Eliminates and Treats Dark Spots and Discoloration

Licorice root has long been used in many parts of the world to treat hyperpigmentation, or the darkening of the skin due to increased levels of melanin. Licorice extract inhibits discoloration by blocking melanin production and by absorbing the sun’s harmful UV rays that lend to dark spots. The extract has also shown to be effective in treating melasma, a disorder often associated with pregnancy or the use of oral contraception that causes patchy brown facial discoloration. A study published in the Journal of Dermatology in 2000 found that people suffering from melasma who used a cream containing licorice root extract daily for one month experienced a 70-percent improvement in their skin condition.

2. Brightens Skin

Related to its ability to reduce discoloration, licorice contains chemical compounds that disperse and enhance more even distribution of melanin to naturally brighten the skin. Research has even shown that it has similar skin lightening effects as prescription treatments that contain hydroquinone (which is a harmful ingredient) . Enzymes in licorice extract may also help to stimulate cell renewal following damage from UV rays for healthier, luminous skin.

3. Fights Acne

With anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and antibacterial properties, licorice root is also a multipurpose acne fighter. For one, enzymes in licorice root help to eliminate bacteria that may cause acne, while regulating sebum production. Though normal amounts of sebum are integral to healthy skin, an excess of oils is commonly associated with acne. These potent anti-inflammatory properties also help to sooth swelling caused by pimples, and relieve redness triggered during breakouts. To treat common skin conditions, reduce redness, and fade dark spots, look for licorice root or licorice root extract in skin care products, such as Zax's Original Darkspot Cream.

Carly Harrill, Natural Health Care Expert, Zax Health. Follow her on Twitter at @carlyharrill or visit her blog