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Licorice- The Wonder Herb


Liquorice, Sweet wood, Mulethi, Aslussoos, Glycyrrhiza glabra is a legume which is extensively used in all alternative systems of medicine. The word ‘liquorice’/’licorice’ is derived  from Greek , meaning “sweet root”. The flavor of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole , an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and several other herbs. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound  30 to 50 times as sweet as table sugar, and which also has pharmaceutical effects (21). The root is used in different forms for medicinal purpose.

Active Principles:

  1. Glycyrrhizin or glycyrrhizic acid and related compounds

  2. Phytoestrogens (Isoflavones), mainly Glabridin

Traditional uses:

  1. Respiratory diseases : Bronchitis, Bronchial Asthma, Laryngitis, Pharyngitis, Pulmonary tuberculosis.

  2. Urinary tract infections, Dysmenorrhea.

  3. Gastrointestinal diseases: Belching, Dyspepsia, Flatulence, Oral and GI Ulcers.

  4. Spleen and Liver diseases.

  5. Neuralgias

  6. Skin diseases: Eczema, Psoriasis, Impetigo.

  7. De-addiction for tobacco users.

Method of use:

  1. Decoction of 5-7 gm of root twice daily.

  2. Concentrated extract 1gm.

  3. The roots can be chewed for oral ulcers and URTI.

Evidence based uses:

  1. Topical applications of 0.5% glabridin inhibits UVB-induced pigmentation and erythema in the skins . Anti-inflammatory effects of glabridin in vitro were also shown by its inhibition of superoxide anion productions and cyclooxygenase activities. Its anti melanogenesis effect is due to inhibition of tyrosinase activity.(3)

  2. Licorice flavonoid licoricidin decreases the antibiotic resistance and restored the effects of oxacillin, a β-lactam antibiotic against MRSA.(4)

  3. Glycyrrhetinic acid (GA) and its related compounds inhibit liver carcinogenesis and tumor growth.(5)

  4. Glabridin exhibited effective inhibition of cell metastasis in human non–small cell lung cancer A549 cells by inhibition of migration, invasion, and angiogenesis.(6) 

  5. Effective against breast cancer. (9), (12) 

  6. The anti carcinogenic effect is enhanced by roasting the root than of alcohol extract or aqueous extract. (13)

  7. Inhibits triglyceride synthesis by inhibiting diacylglycerol acyltransferase, thus helps in weight loss and dyslipidemia. (22)

  8. Anti viral, for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.  Intravenous licorice extract has been trailed for Hepatitis C. (14) (16)

  9. Other: Hair tonic on local application, antioxidant (19), anti inflamatory (23) .

  10. More research is needed to establish and standardize the methods and dosage for treatment of above conditions.


  1. Safe dose for flavonoids extracts were found to be upto 1200mg once daily. (7)

  2. 20gm or more of crude licorice is found to cause adverse effects in normal individual. For individuals having cardiac and renal disease 5 gm or more /day can cause adverse effects . (18) (20)

  3. Inform your physician if you are taking licorice in any form regularly.

Side effects:

  1.  Excess consumption of licorice produce symptoms resembling those caused by excess mineralocorticoid secretion. This is due to glycyrrhizic acid which inhibit 11beta-dehydrogenase activity in liver and kidney, thus increasing blood mineralocorticoid lavels. These symptoms include water and sodium retention, potassium depletion (hypokalemia) and hypertension. To decrease the chances of these serious side effects, deglycyrrhizinated liquorice (DGL) preparations are available.(1), (11)

  2. Consuming high doses of licorice in pregnancy inhibits placental 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity and  causes fetal exposure to higher level of glucocorticoids leading to low birth weight and risk of hypertension in adulthood.(2)

  3. Tobacco chewer’s hypokalaemia may occur with tobacco products having true licorice added as flavoring agent (8). Same effect is seen after prolong use of licorice flavoured chewing gum.(15)

Interactions: (17)

  1. ACE inhibitors

  2. Diuretics

  3. Digoxin 

  4. Corticosteroids

  5. Insulin and some OHAs 

  6. MAO inhibitors

  7. Oral contrceptives

  8. Warfarin

  9. Medications processed by the liver e.g celecoxib, diclofenac , glipizide , ibuprofen  phenytoin, piroxicam , phenobarbital, and secobarbitaletc

























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