Health Benefits of Licorice Root

The root of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra or Glycyrrhiza uralensis) has a long history of use in Eastern and Western medicine. The licorice plant is a perennial legume native to the Middle East and parts of Asia and India.

Traditional practitioners believe that licorice root can treat a number of health conditions, including bronchitis, constipation, heartburn, gastric ulcer, eczema, and menstrual cramps. Although licorice is generally safe to use, the overconsumption can lead to severe side effects and even poisoning.1

In traditional Chinese medicine, licorice root is referred to as gan zao. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is called either mulethi or its Sanskrit name yashtimadhu. 

Health Benefits 

Although the research is limited, studies suggest that licorice may offer certain health benefits, primarily related to the digestive tract.2

Canker Sores 

According to past studies, licorice root accelerated the healing of recurrent aphthous ulcers.3

 4 Natural Remedies for Canker Sores

Chronic Bronchitis 

There is some evidence that licorice root may slow the progression of chronic bronchitis associated in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).4

According to test tube studies conducted at Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan, the glycyrrhizic, asiatic, and oleanolic acids found in licorice root have an antioxidant effect that is protective of the cells in the bronchi in the lungs.5

This suggests that licorice may help slow (rather than stop or reverse) the progression of COPD when used with standard medical treatments. Further human research would be needed to support these results.

 Herbal and Alternative Remedies for COPD

Colorectal Cancer 

Some scientists believe that the antioxidative properties of licorice may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, most predominately colorectal cancer. While the bulk of research has been limited to the animal or test tube studies, some of it has been promising.6

Functional Dyspepsia 

When used in combination with other herbs, licorice root may help ease the pain of functional dyspepsia (FD), a chronic disorder marked by upper abdominal discomfort.2

Menopause and Menstrual Symptoms 

Licorice root is a mainstay home remedy for women with menstrual cramps and is also believed to help alleviate many of the adverse symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes.

Licorice contains phytoestrogens, plant-based compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Despite evidence of their benefits, it is still unclear how well the phytoestrogens in licorice root work, if at all.7

2012 study involving 120 women with hot flashes reported that a daily, 330-milligram dose of licorice root provided only modest relief in the frequency and severity of hot flashes compared to the placebo group.

Once the treatment was stopped, both groups experienced a rebound of menopausal symptoms.

 10 Simple Ways to Curb Hot Flashes

Peptic Ulcers 

Licorice’s role in treating peptic ulcer disease has gained increasing interest in the scientific community, specifically in regards to its effect on a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). H. pylori is the primary cause of peptic ulcers and one of the most notoriously difficult infections to eradicate.8

2016 study in the Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases reported that licorice root added to standard triple antibiotic therapy increased H. pylori eradication rates from 62.5 percent in the placebo group to 83.3 percent in the licorice group.

Licorice root also appears to exert antimicrobial properties that may also treat certain fungal infections (like Candida albicans) and other hard-to-treat bacterial infections (like Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Enterococcus faecalis).9

Possible Side Effects 

When taken as a supplement or tea, licorice root is considered safe and well tolerated in adults.

Licorice root supplements are only intended for short-term use. Consuming licorice daily for several weeks or longer can cause severe and potentially life-threatening side effects.

However, some side effects can occur if licorice root is taken in large quantities, and is likely the result of the excessive accumulation of glycyrrhizinic acid, which triggers an abnormal increase in the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to a severe imbalance in the body’s fluids and electrolytes, manifesting with an array of possible symptoms, including:10

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fluid retention and swelling (edema)
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness or cramping

Extreme cases can lead to licorice poisoning and the development of kidney failure, paralysis, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary edema.11

Research shows that licorice root consumption during pregnancy or breastfeeding leads to adverse neurological effects in children later in life. As such, it should not be consumed by children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.12 Licorice should also be avoided in people with kidney or liver dysfunction.

Drug Interactions 

Licorice can interact with a number of medications, either by reducing their efficacy (and making them less potent) or increasing their efficacy (and worsening their side effects). These include:10

  • Anti-arrhythmia drugs like Lanoxin (digoxin)
  • Antihypertensive drugs like Cozaar (losartan)
  • Anticoagulants (“blood thinners”) like Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Estrogen-based contraceptives13
  • Celebrex (celecoxib), and Voltaren (diclofenac)
  • Anticholesterol drugs like Lescol (fluvastatin)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil (ibuprofen)
  • Diuretics (“water pills”) like Lasix (furosemide)10

To avoid interactions, advise your doctor if you are taking licorice root or any other natural or herbal supplement.

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage and Preparation 

Licorice root products (including chewable tablets, capsules, extracts, teas, lozenges, tinctures, and powders) are available in most health food stores. While there are no universal guidelines directing the appropriate use of licorice root, doses of up to 5 to 15 grams a day are considered safe for short-term use.14

Look for formulations that contain no more than 10% glycyrrhizin. As a general rule, you should never exceed the recommended dosage on the product label or take a licorice supplement for longer than three to six weeks

In addition to dietary supplements, dried licorice root can be purchased online or through a traditional Chinese medicine distributor. Whole licorice root is difficult to use given that you are less able to control the dose. Shaved root, by contrast, can easily be made into tea by steeping a tablespoon of the shavings in a cup of boiling water.

Licorice teabags can be also found at most groceries store, some of which are mixed with black, green, or rooibos tea.

For best results, speak with your doctor before using any licorice root product, especially if you have a health condition.

What to Look For 

Licorice root is classified as a dietary supplement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, it is not required to undergo the rigorous testing that pharmaceutical drugs do and can vary in quality from one brand to the next.

To ensure the utmost quality and safety, only purchased brands certified by an independent body such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International.15

Moreover, only purchase supplements that specify the amount of glycyrrhizin on the product. If buying dried licorice root, choose those that have been certified organic whenever possible.

Other Quesions 

Can you get sick eating licorice candy?

Binging on licorice candy occasionally will likely cause you nothing more than an upset stomach and heartburn. The same may not be true if you consume licorice habitually.16

In 2017, the FDA issued an advisement, warning consumers that adults over 40 who eat 2 ounces of natural black licorice per day for at least two weeks could end up in the hospital with cardiac arrhythmia and other serious symptoms.

As a rule, keep your consumption of licorice candy to a minimum. If you eat large amounts and start to feel your heart beating wildly or your muscles going weak, call your doctor immediately.

With that being said, not all licorice candy is made with licorice. Many modern brands are “licorice-flavored” and are made with anise-based flavorings that do not contain any glycyrrhizin.

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What are the benefits of licorice root?

Licorice is a herb that people have used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments. Although licorice does have medicinal effects, scientific research only supports some of its uses, and it may not be safe for everyone.

Due to its sweet flavor, licorice is also popular as a sweetener in candies, and manufacturers sometimes use it to mask the flavor of medications. Some licorice candy does not contain any part of the licorice plant but uses anise oil as a flavoring instead because it tastes and smells similar to licorice.

Licorice is available in many forms, including herbal teas, candies, capsules of dried herb, and liquid extract.

Benefits of licorice

There are more than 300 different compounds in licorice, some of which have antiviral and antimicrobial properties.

Some clinical studies investigating the potential benefits of licorice have had promising results, particularly in the following areas:

Skin inflammation and infection

Licorice root chopped up in a bowl with powdered liquorice on topShare on PinterestLicorice root may help treat eczema.

Eczema is the term for a group of skin conditions that, according to the National Eczema Association, affect over 30 million people in the United States.

Eczema can cause itching, redness, scaling, and inflammation.

Glycyrrhiza glabra extract, or licorice root extract, may be effective against bacteria that can infect the skin, according to a study in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical ResearchTrusted Source.

The study showed antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause skin infections, such as impetigocellulitis, and folliculitis. In this study, the researchers used extracts from the leaves and roots of the plant.

Stomach discomfort and ulcers

A double-blind studyTrusted Source found that an extract containing glabridin and glabrene, which are flavonoids present in licorice root, was effective in relieving stomach discomfort. The extract reduced nausea, stomach pain, and heartburn.

Infection with bacteria called Helicobacter pylori can cause peptic ulcers in some people. Research suggestsTrusted Source that a licorice extract may help kill H. Pylori bacteria. A clinical trial of 120 people found that the addition of licorice extract to the standard treatment significantly improved H. Pylori eradication.

Hepatitis C

Glycyrrhizin may help treat hepatitis C, a virus that infects the liver. Without treatment, hepatitis C can cause inflammation and long-term liver damage. ResearchersTrusted Source have reported that glycyrrhizin demonstrates antimicrobial activity against hepatitis C in cell samples and may hold promise as a future treatment for this virus.

Doctors in Japan use an injectable form of glycyrrhizin to treat people who have chronic hepatitis C that does not respond to other treatments. The results of laboratory studies in Japan suggest that it may be helpful for this.

Tooth decay

Some research suggests that licorice may help kill bacteria in the mouth that cause tooth decay.

However, although licorice has demonstrated antibacterial activity in the laboratory setting, human studies have not yet proven that it has any cavity-fighting power. Its ability to inhibit the growth of oral bacteria means that it does have potential as a future cavity treatment though.

Sore throat

Many people think of licorice as a sore throat remedy. A small study recruited people who were having a breathing tube inserted into their windpipe before surgery. Following its removal, the breathing tube can cause a postoperative sore throat, known as POST.

The researchers showed that gargling a licorice solution for 1–15 minutes before surgery was as effective as a ketamine gargle in reducing the incidence and severity of POST.

Another similar study found that solutions with a higher concentration of licorice were more effective than less concentrated solutions in improving POST.


Woman reading label of supplement bottle in pharmacyShare on PinterestTaking an unsuitable dosage of licorice supplements can cause side effects.

The dosage of licorice depends on the condition that needs treating. However, people should never consume excessive amounts of licorice in food or supplement form.

People who have high blood pressure or low potassium levels should avoid licorice candy and glycyrrhizin supplements altogether.

Licorice supplements are available without the glycyrrhizin, in the form of deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).

Consuming large quantities of glycyrrhizin can result in side effects, including:

Lower potassium levels

Consuming too much licorice can cause potassium levels to drop. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source, this can lead to:

  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • high blood pressure
  • swelling
  • lethargy
  • congestive heart failure


The World Health Organization (WHO) state that a limit of 100 milligrams per dayTrusted Source of glycyrrhizic acid would be “unlikely to cause adverse effects in the majority of adults.”

However, many candies and supplements do not list the exact amount of glycyrrhizic acid in the product. This lack of detailed information makes overdose a possibility, especially for children who eat lots of licorice candy over extended periods.

In one caseTrusted Source, a 10-year-old boy who ate large amounts of black licorice for 4 months developed high blood pressure and a syndrome that causes seizures.

Another case involved a woman who drank eight cups of herbal tea containing licorice daily. She went to the hospital with high blood pressure and low potassium, which both resolved when she stopped drinking the tea.

Pregnancy issues

Pregnant women should not consume large quantities of licorice or take licorice root as a supplement.

One study found that the glycyrrhiza in licorice could harm the developing brain of the fetus, leading to cognitive problems later in life. An older study found that heavy licorice consumption during pregnancy could lead to preterm birth.

DGL may be a safer option for those who wish to take licorice for more extended periods. Pregnant women should not take DGL or any other supplement without first discussing it with a doctor.

Potential drug interactions

Medications that interact with licorice include:

  • drugs that lower potassium
  • blood pressure medications
  • diuretics, also called water pills
  • heart rhythm medications
  • blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin)
  • estrogen, hormone therapy, and birth control pills
  • corticosteroids

Some people may be able to take DGL supplements to avoid these interactions, but they should ask a doctor first.


What Are Licorice Root’s Benefits and Downsides?

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Licorice root, which is considered one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies, comes from the root of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra) (1Trusted Source).

Native to Western Asia and Southern Europe, licorice has long been used to treat various ailments and flavor candies, drinks, and medicines (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source).

Despite this history, only some of its uses are backed by scientific research. Furthermore, licorice may carry several health risks.

This article examines the uses, forms, benefits, side effects, and recommended dosage of licorice root.

licorice root with licorice candies/lozengesShare on Pinterest

How is licorice root used?

Medicinal use of licorice dates back to ancient Egypt, where the root was made into a sweet drink for pharaohs (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source).

It has also been used in traditional Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Greek medicines to soothe an upset stomach, reduce inflammation, and treat upper respiratory problems (2Trusted Source3Trusted Source).

Contemporary uses

Today, many people utilize licorice root to treat ailments like heartburn, acid reflux, hot flashes, coughs, and bacterial and viral infections. It’s regularly available as a capsule or liquid supplement (2Trusted Source).

Additionally, licorice tea is said to soothe sore throats, while topical gels are claimed to treat skin conditions like acne or eczema (4Trusted Source).

What’s more, licorice is used to flavor some foods and beverages (5Trusted Source).

Surprisingly, many licorice candies are flavored not with licorice root but with anise oil — an essential oil from the anise plant (Pimpinella anisum) that has a similar taste.

Plant compounds

While it contains hundreds of plant compounds, licorice root’s primary active compound is glycyrrhizin (1Trusted Source3Trusted Source).

Glycyrrhizin is responsible for the root’s sweet taste, as well as its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties (1Trusted Source3Trusted Source6Trusted Source).

However, glycyrrhizin is also linked to many of the adverse effects of licorice root. As a result, some products use deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), which has had the glycyrrhizin removed (1Trusted Source).


Licorice root is used both as a flavoring agent and medicinal treatment. It comes in many forms, including teas, capsules, liquids, and even topical gels.

Potential benefits 

Current research shows promise for several of licorice root’s medicinal uses.

May aid skin conditions

Licorice root contains over 300 compounds, some of which demonstrate potent anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral effects (3Trusted Source7Trusted Source8Trusted Source).

In particular, animal and test-tube studies link glycyrrhizin to anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits (1Trusted Source3Trusted Source5Trusted Source).

As a result, licorice root extract is used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne and eczema.

In a 2-week study in 60 adults, applying a topical gel containing licorice root extract significantly improved eczema (4Trusted Source).

Though topical licorice gels have also been used to treat acne, research on its effectiveness is mixed and quite limited (9Trusted Source).

May reduce acid reflux and indigestion

Licorice root extract is often used to relieve symptoms of indigestion, such as acid reflux, upset stomach, and heartburn.

In a 30-day study in 50 adults with indigestion, taking a 75-mg licorice capsule twice daily resulted in significant improvements in symptoms, compared with a placebo (10Trusted Source).

Licorice root extract may also alleviate symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), including acid reflux and heartburn.

In an 8-week study in 58 adults with GERD, a low dose of glycyrrhetinic acid in combination with standard treatment resulted in significant improvements in symptoms (11Trusted Source).

Another study in 58 adults with GERD noted that the daily use of licorice root was more effective at reducing symptoms over a 2-year period than commonly used antacids (12).

While these results are promising, larger human studies are necessary.

May help treat peptic ulcers

Peptic ulcers are painful sores that develop in your stomach, lower esophagus, or small intestine. They’re commonly caused by inflammation resulting from H. pylori bacteria (13Trusted Source).

Licorice root extract and its glycyrrhizin may help treat peptic ulcers.

One study in mice found that licorice extract doses of 91 mg per pound (200 mg per kg) of body weight protected against these ulcers better than omeprazole, a common peptic ulcer medication (14Trusted Source).

While more research is needed in humans, a 2-week study in 120 adults showed that consuming licorice extract in addition to a standard treatment significantly reduced the presence of H. pylori (15Trusted Source).

May have anticancer properties

Due to its content of numerous plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, licorice root extract has been studied for its protective effects against certain types of cancer (16Trusted Source).

In particular, licorice extract and its compounds have been linked to slowing or preventing cell growth in skin, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers (16Trusted Source17Trusted Source18Trusted Source19Trusted Source).

As research is limited to test tubes and animals, its effects on human cancers are unknown.

Yet, licorice root extract may help treat oral mucositis — very painful mouth sores that people with cancer sometimes experience as a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation (20Trusted Source21Trusted Source).

A 2-week study in 60 adults with head and neck cancer revealed that a topical licorice film was just as effective as the standard treatment for oral mucositis (20Trusted Source).

May ease upper respiratory conditions

Due to their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, both licorice root extract and tea may aid upper respiratory conditions.

In particular, animal studies conclude that glycyrrhizin extract from licorice root helps relieve asthma, especially when added to modern asthma treatments (22Trusted Source23Trusted Source24Trusted Source).

While limited human research shows similar results, more rigorous, long-term studies are needed (25Trusted Source).

Additionally, limited test-tube and human studies suggest that licorice root tea and extract may protect against strep throat and prevent sore throat after surgery (26Trusted Source27).

Still, further research is needed.

May protect against cavities

Licorice root may help protect against bacteria that can lead to cavities.

A 3-week study gave 66 preschool-aged kids sugar-free lollipops containing 15 mg of licorice root twice per day during the school week. Consuming the lollipops significantly reduced the number of Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which are the main cause of cavities (28Trusted Source).

Test-tube studies also show licorice root extract to be effective at protecting against bacteria commonly linked to cavities and tooth decay (29Trusted Source30Trusted Source).

However, more research is needed on the optimal dose and form of licorice root.

Other potential benefits

Licorice root extract is tied to several other potential benefits. It may:

  • Aid diabetes. In a 60-day study in rats, daily intake of licorice root extract resulted in significant improvements in blood sugar levels and kidney health. This effect has not been confirmed in humans (31Trusted Source).
  • Reduce menopause symptoms. Licorice root extract has been proposed as a treatment for hot flashes during menopause. However, the evidence on its effectiveness for this purpose is limited (32Trusted Source33Trusted Source).
  • Boost weight loss. Some studies indicate that licorice root extract lowers body mass index (BMI) and supports weight loss. Yet, other studies have not found any effects on weight (34Trusted Source35Trusted Source).
  • Help treat hepatitis C. One test-tube study noted that adding glycyrrhizin to a standard hepatitis C treatment significantly reduced the virus’s spread. While promising, these results have not been confirmed in humans (36Trusted Source37Trusted Source).


Licorice root may have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects. Early research suggests that, as a result, it may ease upper respiratory infections, treat ulcers, and aid digestion, among other benefits.

Potential side effects and precautions

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed licorice root to be generally recognized as safe for use in foods (2Trusted Source).

However, the FDA does not currently evaluate or verify supplements for purity, effectiveness, or accuracy of ingredient labeling.

Additionally, the short-term use of licorice root supplements and teas is widely considered safe. However, large doses may produce adverse effects, and individuals with certain health conditions may wish to avoid it.

Licorice root overdose

Both chronic use and large doses of licorice root products may lead to glycyrrhizin accumulation in your body.

Elevated levels of glycyrrhizin have been shown to cause an abnormal increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which may cause imbalances in your fluid and electrolyte levels (38Trusted Source).

As a result, chronic and large doses of licorice root products may trigger several dangerous symptoms, including (2Trusted Source38Trusted Source39Trusted Source):

  • low potassium levels
  • high blood pressure
  • muscle weakness
  • abnormal heart rhythms

While rare, licorice poisoning can occur. It may result in kidney failure, congestive heart failure, or excess fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema) (2Trusted Source).

Thus, individuals with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or low potassium levels are encouraged to avoid glycyrrhizin-containing licorice products altogether.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Consuming lots of licorice — and glycyrrhizin in particular — during pregnancy may negatively affect your baby’s brain development.

In one study, children born to mothers who ate large amounts of glycyrrhizin-containing licorice products during pregnancy were more likely to have brain impairments later in life (40).

Therefore, pregnant women should avoid licorice supplements and limit their intake of licorice in foods and beverages.

Due to a lack of research, children and breastfeeding women should also avoid licorice products.

Drug interactions

Licorice root has been shown to interact with several medications, including (2Trusted Source):

  • blood pressure medications
  • blood thinners
  • cholesterol lowering medications, including statins
  • diuretics
  • estrogen-based contraceptives
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

People taking any of these medications should avoid licorice root products unless their healthcare provider instructs otherwise.


Chronic use and large doses of licorice root can cause severe fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those with kidney disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure should avoid licorice products.

Dosage and forms of licorice root

As a supplement, licorice root extract comes in several forms, including capsules, powders, tinctures, topical gels, and teas. The root itself can also be purchased either fresh or dried.

There’s currently no standard dosage recommendation. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Scientific Committee of Food (SCF) both recommend limiting glycyrrhizin intake to no more than 100 mg per day (41Trusted Source).

Notably, those who eat large amounts of licorice products may be getting more than this amount.

Furthermore, as products don’t always indicate the amount of glycyrrhizin, it can be difficult to identify a safe amount. As a result, it’s important to discuss a safe and effective dose with your healthcare provider.

Another option is to look for deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) powders or capsules.

These supplements are free of glycyrrhizin, which is responsible for most of licorice’s side effects. Still, as this compound also contributes numerous benefits, it’s unclear whether DGL products have the same positive health effects.


You can consume licorice root as a tea, tincture, powder, or supplement. It can also be applied topically as a gel. While there’s no standard dosage for licorice root, you should limit your total glycyrrhizin intake no more than 100 grams per day.

Shop for licorice root products online

The bottom line

Licorice root has been used for thousands of years to help treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory conditions and digestive distress.

Its plant compounds demonstrate potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects. Though it may relieve acid reflux, eczema, peptic ulcers, and other health issues, more comprehensive human studies are needed.

Still, licorice has adverse effects if it’s overconsumed or eaten frequently. Consult your healthcare provider before trying licorice root supplements or teas.