Licorice: Health Benefits and Risks

Licorice: Health Benefits and Risks

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Licorice, derived from the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, has been used for thousands of years in various cultures for its distinct flavor and medicinal properties. This article explores the health benefits and potential risks associated with licorice, backed by scientific research.

1: Licorice – A Botanical and Historical Perspective

Licorice is a herbaceous perennial, native to parts of Europe and Asia. In addition to its use in confectionery, it has a long history in traditional medicine, particularly in Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Greek medicinal practices.

2: Therapeutic Benefits of Licorice

  • Licorice has been traditionally used to treat various ailments, ranging from gastrointestinal issues to respiratory infections.
  • One of its most potent compounds, glycyrrhizin, has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. A study in "Phytotherapy Research" highlights glycyrrhizin's effectiveness in reducing inflammation and fighting viruses【1】.

3: Licorice and Digestive Health

  • The root has been shown to be effective in treating peptic ulcers and heartburn. A study in "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine" found that deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) can provide relief from chronic indigestion and acid reflux【2】.
  • Licorice may also aid in soothing stomach discomfort and inflammation due to its antispasmodic properties.

4: Respiratory System Support

  • Licorice has expectorant properties, making it beneficial in treating respiratory conditions like bronchitis and asthma. It helps in loosening and expelling mucus, as noted in "The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology"【3】.

5: Skin Health and Topical Uses

  • Due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, licorice is used in various skin care products. Research in the "Journal of Dermatological Treatment" suggests that it may help in treating eczema, psoriasis, and acne【4】.

6: Hormonal Effects and Potential Risks

  • While licorice offers many health benefits, it also poses potential risks, particularly due to its effect on hormone levels. Prolonged use of licorice can lead to increased cortisol levels and a decrease in testosterone, as discussed in the "Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology"【5】.
  • It's important to be cautious with licorice consumption, especially for those with hypertension, as it can lead to elevated blood pressure and lower potassium levels.


Licorice is a versatile herb with a range of health benefits. However, its consumption should be balanced with an awareness of its potential risks, particularly when consumed in large quantities or over extended periods.


  1. Fiore C., Eisenhut M., Krausse R., et al. (2008). "Antiviral effects of Glycyrrhiza species." Phytotherapy Research.
  2. Raveendra K.R., Jayachandra, Srinivasa V., et al. (2012). "An extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) alleviates symptoms of functional dyspepsia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
  3. Saeedi M., Morteza-Semnani K., Ghoreishi M.R. (2003). "The treatment of atopic dermatitis with licorice gel." Journal of Dermatological Treatment.
  4. Omar H.R., Komarova I., El-Ghonemi M., et al. (2012). "Licorice abuse: time to send a warning message." Therapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism.
  5. Armanini D., Fiore C., Mattarello M.J., Bielenberg J., Palermo M. (2002). "History of the endocrine effects of licorice." Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


Is it OK to eat licorice every day?

Consuming licorice in small amounts daily is generally safe for most people. However, excessive consumption, particularly of licorice root containing glycyrrhizin, can lead to adverse effects such as high blood pressure, low potassium levels, and imbalances in fluid and hormone levels. The FDA suggests that individuals avoid consuming large amounts of licorice (containing glycyrrhizin) at one time (FDA, 2017).

What are the negatives of licorice?

The primary negative effects of licorice stem from glycyrrhizin, a compound that can cause mineralocorticoid excess, leading to hypertension, hypokalemia, and fluid retention. Long-term or excessive consumption can result in a condition known as pseudoaldosteronism, which mimics the effects of excess aldosterone hormone (Penninkilampi, R., et al., 2018).

Is licorice full of sugar?

Licorice candy is often high in sugar, contributing to its sweet taste. However, the licorice root itself is not "full of sugar" and can be consumed in various forms, such as teas or extracts, which do not inherently contain high levels of sugar unless added.

Who should not take Liquorice?

People with hypertension, kidney disease, or those who are pregnant should avoid liquorice due to its glycyrrhizin content, which can cause potassium depletion, increased blood pressure, and water retention (Isbrucker, R.A., & Burdock, G.A., 2006).

Does licorice help you sleep?

There is limited direct scientific evidence suggesting that licorice helps with sleep. However, because it has adaptogenic properties, it may indirectly support sleep by helping to manage stress, a common cause of sleep disturbances (Sarwat, M., et al., 2008).

Which is better red or black licorice?

The difference between red and black licorice is significant; black licorice contains licorice extract, while red licorice usually doesn't contain any actual licorice root but rather artificial flavors and colors. From a health perspective, "better" depends on individual health goals and sensitivities, as black licorice has potential health benefits and risks due to glycyrrhizin, whereas red licorice is essentially a sugary snack without the health impacts associated with licorice root.

How much licorice is safe per day?

For adults, consuming up to 100 mg of glycyrrhizin (equivalent to about 50 grams of licorice root) daily is considered safe for most people. However, individuals with hypertension, kidney disease, or pregnant women should consume less or avoid it altogether due to potential adverse effects (Sigurjonsdottir, H.A., et al., 2001).

Is licorice good for your hair?

There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that licorice may be beneficial for hair health, potentially aiding in conditions like dandruff and hair loss due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. However, direct scientific studies specifically examining the effects of licorice on hair health are limited.


  • FDA. (2017). "Black Licorice: Trick or Treat?" U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Penninkilampi, R., et al. (2018). "The Association Between the Use of Licorice and Hypertension in Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis." Frontiers in Pharmacology.
  • Sarwat, M., et al. (2008). "The role of adaptogens in stress management." Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism.
  • Sigurjonsdottir, H.A., et al. (2001). "Subjects with essential hypertension are more sensitive to the inhibition of 11 beta-HSD by liquorice." Journal of Human Hypertension.

For personalized advice, especially concerning specific health conditions or dietary restrictions, consulting healthcare professionals is recommended.




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