Licorice

What other names is Licorice known by?

Acide Glycyrrhizique, Acide Glycyrrhizinique, Alcacuz, Alcazuz, Bois Doux, Bois Sucré, Can Cao, Chinese Licorice, Deglycyrrhized Licorice, Gan Cao, Gan Zao, Glabra, Glycyrrhiza, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza glabra typica, Glycyrrhiza glabra violacea, Glycyrrhiza glabra glandulifera, Glycyrrhiza Radix, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Glycyrrhizae, Glycyrrhizic Acid, Glycyrrhizinic Acid, Isoflavone, Jethi-Madh, Kanzo, Lakritze, Licorice Root, Liquiritiae Radix, Liquirizia, Mulathi, Mulethi, Orozuz, Phytoestrogen, Phyto-œstrogène, Racine de Réglisse, Racine Douce, Radix Glycyrrhizae, Régalissse, Regaliz, Reglisse, Réglisse, Réglisse Déglycyrrhisée, Réglisse Espagnole, Réglisse Russe, Regliz, Russian Licorice, Spanish Licorice, Subholz, Sussholz, Sweet Root, Yashtimadhu, Yashti-Madhu, Yashti-Madhuka, Zhi Gan Cao.

What is Licorice?

Licorice is a plant. You are probably most familiar with it as a flavoring in foods, beverages, and tobacco. The root is used to make medicine.

Licorice is used for various digestive system complaints including stomach ulcers, heartburn, colic, and ongoing inflammation of the lining of the stomach (chronic gastritis).

Some people use licorice for sore throat, bronchitis, cough, and infections caused by bacteria or viruses.

Licorice is also used for osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), liver disorders, malaria, tuberculosis, food poisoning, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Licorice is sometimes used along with the herbs Panax ginseng and Bupleurum falcatum to improve the function of the adrenal glands, especially in people who have taken steroid drugs long-term. Steroids tend to suppress the activity of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce important hormones that regulate the body's response to stress.

Licorice is also used in an herbal form called Shakuyaku-kanzo-to to increase fertility in women with a hormonal disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome. In combination with other herbs, licorice is also used to treat prostate cancer and the skin disorder known as eczema.

Some people use licorice as a shampoo to reduce oiliness in their hair.

Many "licorice" products manufactured in the U.S. actually don't contain any licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which has the characteristic smell and taste of "black licorice."

Licorice interacts with many prescription medicines. Talk to your healthcare provider if you plan to start using licorice.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Itchy and inflamed skin (eczema). There is some evidence that applying licorice to the skin can improve symptoms of eczema. Applying a gel containing licorice three times daily for 2 weeks seems to reduce redness, swelling, and itching.
  • Heartburn (dyspepsia). Research suggests that taking a specific product containing licorice plus peppermint leaf, German chamomile, caraway, lemon balm, clown's mustard plant, celandine, angelica, and milk thistle (Iberogast, Medical Futures, Inc) three times daily for 4 weeks can improve symptoms of heartburn.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Bleeding. Early research suggests that applying a specific product containing alpinia, licorice, thyme, stinging nettle, and common grape vine to the skin reduces bleeding during surgery, but does not reduce time in surgery. Another early study suggests that applying the same product after dental surgery reduces bleeding.
  • Canker sores. Research suggests that applying a patch containing licorice to the inside of the mouth for 16 hours daily for 8 days reduces the size of canker sores but does not speed up healing time. Other research suggests that applying licorice patches and gargling with warm water containing licorice reduces pain in patients with canker sores.
  • Dental plaque. Early research suggests that using a toothpaste containing licorice twice dally does not reduce plaque, gingivitis, or bleeding when compared to toothpaste without licorice. Using mouthwash containing glycyrrhizin also does not seem to reduce plaque.
  • Recurrent fevers (Familial Mediterranean fever). Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing andrographis, Siberian ginseng, schisandra, and licorice (ImmunoGuard, Inspired Nutritionals) reduces the duration, frequency, and severity of attacks of familial Mediterranean fever in children.
  • Hepatitis. There is some evidence that certain components in licorice might be effective in treating hepatitis B and hepatitis C when given intravenously (by IV). However, the studies involved too few patients to draw firm conclusions.
  • High cholesterol. Early research suggests that taking licorice root extract daily for 1 month reduces total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with high cholesterol.
  • High potassium levels. Some research suggests that certain components in licorice decrease potassium levels in people with diabetes or kidney problems.
  • Abnormal levels of a hormone prolactin. Early evidence suggests that taking 45 grams of a specific product containing peony and licorice (Peony-Glycyrrhiza Decoction, PGD) daily for 4 weeks reduces levels of a hormone called prolactin in women with high levels of prolactin, without affecting other hormone levels or mental symptoms. Other early research suggests that a product containing licorice and peony (shakutaku-kanzo-to) reduces prolactin levels in men in the short-term, but not in the long-term.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research suggests that a product containing slippery elm bark, lactulose, oat bran, and licorice root can improve bowel movements in people with constipation-related to IBS. Stomach pain and bloating might also be reduced.
  • Mouth sores (lichen planus). Early evidence suggests that administering a certain licorice component intravenously (by IV) improves symptoms of mouth sores in people with hepatitis C.
  • Skin discoloration (melasma). Early research suggests that applying a cream containing licorice, emblica, and belides (Clariderm Clear) twice daily for 60 days is effective for lightening skin in people with skin discolorations.
  • Muscle cramps. Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing licorice and peony (Shakuyaku-kanzo-to) might reduce muscle cramps in people with liver disease (hepatic cirrhosis) or in people undergoing treatment for kidney failure (hemodialysis).
  • Liver disease not associated with alcohol use (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). Early research suggests that taking 2 grams of licorice root extract daily for 2 months reduces test markers of liver injury in patients with liver disease not caused by drinking alcohol.
  • Pain. Early research suggests that taking a combination of licorice root and peony root with Taiwanese tonic vegetable soup containing lily bulb, lotus seed, and jujube fruit reduces pain in cancer patients.
  • Stomach ulcers. There is some evidence that specially prepared licorice will speed up the healing of stomach ulcers. However, other evidence suggests that similar licorice preparations do not improve stomach ulcer symptoms.
  • Recovery after surgery. There is early evidence that gargling with a solution containing licorice for 30 seconds five minutes before receiving anesthesia and having a tube placed into the windpipe decreases cough and sore throat after surgery.
  • Psoriasis. Early evidence suggests that applying a cream containing licorice and milk to the skin for 4 weeks does not reduce the amount of standard therapy needed, but does seem to improve skin peeling in patients with psoriasis.
  • Weight loss. There is conflicting information about the use of licorice for weight loss. Licorice seems to reduce body fat. However, it causes water retention that can offset any change in body weight.
  • Arthritis.
  • Lupus.
  • Infections.
  • Infertility.
  • Cough.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Prostate cancer.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of licorice for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


Therapeutic Research Faculty copyright

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


Health Solutions From Our Sponsors