Licorice: Properties and Benefits


Licorice has been used on the Asian continent for over 5.000 years. Its therapeutic properties and its health benefits were already known to the ancient Egyptians

The licorice, botanical name Glycyrrhiza glabra, is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Papilionaceae family.

Licorice: Properties and Benefits
Licorice: Properties and Benefits

The licorice is known for over 35 centuries, the translation of his name from the greek means sweet root. It was used for medicinal purposes by ancient Chinese physicians and was mentioned by Hippocrates as a substance with properties healing cough.

The oldest news about licorice and its properties dates back to about 6.000 years ago. Traces are even found in the tombs of some Egyptian pharaohs.


Its healing properties, as we have seen, were already known to Greco Roman, Egyptian medicine and Indian. Today, thanks to a study by Rutgers Univerity of New Jerseylicorice could also prove to be an excellent weapon against certain types of cancer.

Chemical Composition

Chemical composition for 100 g of root of licorice
Water g 6,80
Protein g 9,15
Carbohydrates g 47,11
Fat g 0,53
Fibers g 24,48
Ashes g 7,70
Calcium mg 1720
Iron mg 1224
Phosphorus mg 78
Potassium mg 7276
Copper mg 11,01
Zinc mg 17,08
Sodium mg 18580
Vitamin C mg 1,20

Source: Rjpbcs

The active ingredients consist of glabric acid, glycyrrhizin, triterpenes, saponins, tannins, malic acid, mannite, coumarins, styrenes, about 30 of flavonoids and isoflavonoids, carotenoids, flavonols, choline, betaine, and other bitter substances.

Amino acids: aspartic acid, glutamic acid, threonine, serine, proline, glycine, alanine, valine, isoleucine, leucine, tyrosine, phenylalanine, histidine, lysine and arginine.


100 grams of root have a caloric yield of  350 kcal

Licorice: Properties and Benefits

Licorice roots


Since the beginning of the 80’s the benefits of some active principles of licorice have been demonstrated against different types of viral infections. The most positive news, however, comes from America where some researchers from New Jersey have tested a molecule from licorice, BHP, on tissues taken from prostate and breast cancer.

The properties of this molecule have been shown to inhibit the development of the aforementioned cancer cells. And it is thanks to these studies that hopes have increased for the implementation of new and more effective therapies.

It is interesting to underline the fact that BHP belongs to the class of polyphenols, which as we already know, exert an effective anticancer action. ( 1 )

A Korean study suggests that licorice extract may have beneficial effects on breast cancer. ( 2 )

Research published in Cancer Science states that a flavonoid present in the root, isoliquiritigenin, is a promising chemopreventive agent for colon cancer. ( 3 )

Liver Cancer

A study done at Nankai University, China, revealed that licorice could prove to be an excellent ally in the treatment of liver cancer. Indeed, it appears that glycyrrhizic acid may come used as a transporter to bring anticancer drugs to the target. The results of this research were published in the journal Chemistry & Industry.

It Protects the Liver

The anti-inflammatory properties of licorice bring benefits to the liver in cases of hepatitis. The root  counteracts the virus responsible for hepatitis and provides antioxidant compounds necessary for the health of this vital organ.

The scientific research has achieved resulting promising regarding the protective effect on the liver of licorice. A Korean study on mice suggests that glycyrrhizin is effective in treating liver disorders. Its intake reduces toxicity and normalizes liver function. ( 4 )

Another study has shown that isoliquiritigenin has antioxidant properties that help protect liver cells from oxidative stress. ( 5 )

Cold and Flu

The licorice is found in many medicines for sore throats because it brings benefits to the inflamed mucous and strengthens the immune system. For the same reason it proves useful in case of colds and flu.

It Protects the Stomach

A 2015 study found that glycyrrhizic acid can kill Helicobacter pylori bacteria by preventing them from spreading to the intestine. There are also other studies that suggest that taking the root brings benefits in case of peptic ulcer and gastritis. ( 6 )

In popular culture it is known to bring benefits to stomach ulcers. Indeed it owns properties soothing and healing on the stomach and the whole digestive tract.

A 2012 study showed that Glycyrrhiza glabra extract is effective against heartburn, nausea and acid reflux. ( 7 )

Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to research conducted in China, licorice extracts have anti-inflammatory properties that have proven effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. According to research, this vegetable can reduce both the pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis. ( 8 )

Menstrual Cycle

The root proves very useful for women. Drinking two cups of licorice herbal tea  in the weeks before the cycle helps relieve premenstrual cramps every day. It also calms the desire for sweets linked to this period and counteracts the swelling due to water retention. In a couple of months the herbal tea is even able to regularize an irregular cycle.


The root has estrogenic effects on women, its use is therefore indicated for both menstrual symptoms and menopause. Regarding the treatment of menopause, the intake of licorice has been indicated as better than the hormone replacement therapy to reduce hot flashes color. This root property is supported by a 2014 study published in Health Care for Women International. ( 9 )

Pulmonary tuberculosis

Recent studies have shown that licorice  has useful properties in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. It is also effective in reducing the duration of the healing process. ( 10 )

Virus HIV

According to recent studies, licorice is effective in the treatment of HIV-related diseases. In Glycyrrhizin experiments helped inhibit the proliferation of infected cells. It also prevents the destruction of white blood cells and boosts the immune system. ( 11 )

Increases Female Fertility

The tea licorice can help solve problems related to female fertility caused by hormonal irregularities. Its intake helps restore regular ovulation and promotes conception. According to the research it also helps to reduce serum testosterone in women. ( 12 )

Lowers Cholesterol

Numerous substances extracted from the roots, first of all a flavonoid called  glabridin, have been shown to bring great benefits  in reducing cholesterol levels.

This  property has proven useful in the prevention of pathologies such as arteriosclerosis. This flavonoid with antioxidant properties has proven effective in preventing the stress of the circulatory system in diabetic people. In the presence of sugars it provides protection to the blood vessels and prevents the formation of plaques in the arteries.


The Licorice has properties expectorant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and stimulating the immune system.


A study published in the Journal of Molecular Sciences supports the effectiveness of licorice in fighting depression. The plant contains essential minerals and beta carotene which, together with flavonoids, fight depression. ( 13 )

Stress Management

A study published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology supports the anti-stress properties of this root. It seems that its intake is able to regulate cortisol more effectively. The latter is the stress hormone, its good functioning would allow the adrenal glands to work less intensively. ( 14 )

In practice it has been discovered that licorice is one of the best adaptogenic plants for regulating cortisol.

Immune System

The role it plays in strengthening the immune system is becoming increasingly popular. Yes it is studying its use for the prevention and treatment of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C. A 2013 study confirms that the content of triterpenoids has antiviral activity. This characteristic makes licorice a valid ally of the immune system. ( 15 )


Its consumption can have a beneficial effect on both abdominal and muscle cramps. This is what emerges from a 2013 study published in the US National Library. In particular, according to another study, licorice can provide relief if you eczema or other diseases of the skin. ( 1617 )

Pure licorice

Licorice Herbal Tea

Herbal tea has digestive and slightly laxative properties. For its preparation, 60 g of roots are needed, which must be left to infuse for about an hour in a liter of boiling water. It sweetens with honey.

Contraindications and Side Effects

A study conducted at the University of Helsinki has shown the harmfulness of excessive consumption in pregnant women. The study suggests the risk of brain damage to babies who carry it on their lap.

This is because, one of its components, glycyrrhizin, is able to damage the placenta. Doing so would allow the abnormal passage of certain types of hormones.

It can cause hypokalaemia, a decrease in the percentage of potassium in the blood. It can also cause high blood pressure.

Not recommended for consumption in the presence of renal or hepatic insufficiency, overweight, hypertension.

Its consumption can affect the testosterone level in males and reduce their sexual desire.

The licorice can interfere with the use of diuretics or with drugs cortisone. In this case it is always necessary to consult a doctor.


In French hospitals it was used together with grass and barley to prepare a herbal tea called bonne-à-tout.

It should not be consumed while homeopathic treatments are taking place, as is the case with mint.

Since ancient times the use of licorice has been to prepare thirst-quenching drinks. Most of the time in combination with other substances, such as coriander.

Mixed with honey it  brings benefits to the wounds.

The roots are collected in autumn from plants that are at least 4 years old. They are then peeled and dried in the sun.

The roots of licorice are a great palliative for people wishing to quit smoking. Even in gestures they somehow manage to replace the cigarette.

It seems that the roots are also effective for those who want to stop taking alcohol.

In a study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutica the properties of the leaves were tested against bacteria. It turned out that these could work in the treatment of staphylococcus and candida.

Flavonoids, besides being responsible for the yellow color of the root, are very important for the health of the arteries.

Licorice is one of the most widely used herbs worldwide. It is grown commercially in England, Spain, Russia, Asia, Germany and other countries.

Licorice: Properties and Benefits

Italian language version


This is not a medical publication, the information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is general in nature, they cannot in any way replace the prescriptions of a doctor or other health professionals authorized by law. The notions of posology, medical procedures and the description of the products on this site have an illustrative purpose and do not allow to acquire the necessary experience and manual skills for their practice or use. If you have been prescribed medical treatment, I invite you not to interrupt or modify it, because all the suggestions you find on  must always and in any case be compared with the opinion of your doctor.

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