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Licorice Root

General Information

Most licorice is grown in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. Licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin (or glycyrrhizic acid). Licorice has a long history of medicinal use in both Eastern and Western systems of medicine.

Common Name(s)

licorice root, licorice, liquorice, sweet root, gan zao (Chinese licorice)

Scientific Name(s)

Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Chinese licorice)

How is this product usually used?

Peeled licorice root is available in dried and powdered forms.

Licorice root is available as capsules, tablets, and liquid extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredients.

Licorice can be found with glycyrrhizin removed; the product is called DGL (for "deglycyrrhizinated licorice").

What is this product used for?

Licorice is used as a folk or traditional remedy for stomach ulcers and sore throat, as well as for infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis.

It can also be used as an expectorantexpectorantan agent that thins mucus (phlegm) so that it can be absorbed or coughed up to help relieve chest congestion, coughs, and bronchitis. Another use of licorice is to help relieve inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

An injectable form of licorice extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient – not available in the United States – has been shown to have beneficial effects against hepatitis C in clinical trials. There are no reliable data on oral forms of licorice for hepatitis C. More research is needed before reaching any conclusion.

There are not enough reliable data to determine whether licorice is effective for any condition.

In large amounts, licorice containing glycyrrhizin can cause high blood pressure, salt and water retention, and low potassium levels, which could lead to heart problems. DGL products are thought to cause fewer side effects. Avoid licorice if you have low potassium levels, high blood pressure, or a heart or kidney disorder or disease.

The safety of using licorice as a supplement for more than 4 to 6 weeks has not been thoroughly studied. Consult your physician if you plan on using licorice for longer.

Taking licorice together with diureticdiuretican agent that increases urine flows (water pills), corticosteroids, or other medicines that reduce the body's potassium levels could cause dangerously low potassium levels and should be avoided. You should also not use licorice if you are taking cardiaccardiacrelating to the heart glycosides (e.g., digoxin).

When taken in large amounts, licorice can affect the body's levels of a hormone called cortisol and related steroid drugs, such as prednisone.

Pregnant women should avoid using licorice as a supplement or consuming large amounts of licorice as food, as some research suggests it could increase the risk of preterm labor.

You should consult your physician if you have a liver disorder.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

  1. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). Herbs at a Glance. Licorice Root. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/licoriceroot/ Accessed September 12, 2014.
  2. Health Canada. Natural Health Product Ingredients Database. Monograph: Licorice. Available at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=127. Accessed September 12, 2014.

All material © 1996- MediResource Inc. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.