Throughout history, people have used licorice root for its possible health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and soothing digestive problems. In some cases though, more research into the benefits is necessary.

While people have been using licorice root as a natural remedy for centuries, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support many of its reported health benefits.

However, licorice root is still a popular medicinal ingredient and is available in many forms, including herbal teas, candies, capsules of dried herb, and liquid extract.

In this article, we discuss the potential health benefits of licorice root, the science behind these claims, and the potential side effects of use.

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There are more than 300 different compounds in licorice, some of which have anti-inflammatory, 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

Many compounds in licorice root may help to reduce inflammation of the skin and other parts of the body.

These compounds can help to treat several skin conditions. For example, one animal study showed that glycyrrhizin extract from licorice root may relieve symptoms associated with eczema.

Learn more about natural treatments for eczema here.

Stomach discomfort and ulcers

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

Other reviews have found further links between forms of licorice extract and anti-ulcer activity.

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a form of processed licorice extract that contains less glycyrrhizin. Small studies show that DGL supplements can reduce symptoms of general gastric and intestinal irritation.

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.

Researchers have reported that glycyrrhizin demonstrates antimicrobial activity against hepatitis C in cell samples and may hold promise as a future treatment for this virus.

Tooth decay

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

A 2020 review found that licorice root extract can help reduce the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth. This, in turn, lessens environmental acidity around the teeth and helps to prevent dental cavities from forming.

Sore throat

Different forms of licorice may help treat sore throats and other upper respiratory disorders. Many people claim that drinking licorice root tea helps to reduce minor irritation and soothe sore throats. However, the majority of these claims are anecdotal.

Research has also shown various licorice preparations to have a positive impact in clinical settings.

A literature review concluded that topical application of licorice before surgery reduces the incidence and severity of postoperative sore throat (POST).

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

Herbal remedies containing licorice root may also help to reduce symptoms of asthma. However, only animal studies have directly assessed the effect of licorice on asthma symptoms, and human research is necessary to confirm or disprove its efficacy.

Licorice is available in the form of chewable tablets, a liquid extract, capsules, a powder, and a loose herb.

People can use licorice in a variety of ways for medicinal purposes, such as:

  • mixing the herb with a skin-friendly gel, such as aloe vera gel, to help eczema
  • steeping loose herbs in hot water to make tea for a sore throat
  • adding liquid licorice extract to a beverage or taking it under the tongue as a treatment for ulcers
  • taking licorice capsules and chewable tablets

People should not consume licorice candies, teas, or supplements for extended periods without speaking with a doctor first. It is best to use DGL supplements rather than licorice if high blood pressure or low potassium levels are a concern.

Licorice root products are typically safe to consume. However, overconsumption can carry a risk of complications. This is typically due to chronic or excessive consumption of glycyrrhizin causing levels of the stress hormone cortisol to rise.

In severe cases, these conditions can cause hypertension, arrhythmia, and potentially cardiac arrest.

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), this can lead to:

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


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 case, 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 people should not consume large quantities of licorice or take licorice root as a supplement.

Heavy consumption of licorice during pregnancy can increase the risk of premature birth. High levels of glycyrrhizic consumption when pregnant can also affect fetal development.

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.

Medications that interact with licorice include:

  • drugs that lower potassium
  • blood pressure medications
  • diuretics, also known as 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 speak with a doctor first.

Licorice is an ancient remedy that has demonstrated some potential health benefits in clinical studies and laboratory tests.

While it may be beneficial for certain health conditions, people should always check with a healthcare professional that it will not interfere with any medications or cause adverse side effects.