A genus of 20 species of perennials with sticky pinnate leaves, found in a variety of habitats in the Mediterranean, tropical Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Glycyrrhiza glabra was recorded in ancient Assyrian and Classical times, and was cultivated and processed into licorice extract in Germany by the 11th century. Cultivation was well-established in Italy in the 13th century, and in 1305 Edward I of England taxed licorice imports to pay for the repair of London Bridge. Large-scale cultivation began in the late 1550s, notably in Pontefract, Yorkshire, to which it was introduced by Domincan friars, and which became famous for Pontefract cakes, or pomfrets (licorice lozenges). Several different species and variants of licorice are used medicinally, including G. glabra var. typica (Spanish or Italian Licorice), var. violacea (Persian or Turkish), and var. glandulifera (Russian). The main ingredient of G. glabra is glycyrrhizin, a substance 50 times sweeter than sucrose, with cortisone-like effects. Glycyrrhiza echinata (wild licorice), from southern Europe and Asia, is the main source of German and Russian licorice. Glycyrrhiza lepidota (American licorice) was used by native N Americans and by early settlers for problems with childbirth and menstruation. Glycyrrhiza uralensis is a key herb in traditional Chinese medicine as gan cao (which means "sweet herb"). Research into Kampo (Sino-Japanese) herbal medicines has shown that licorice reduces levels of immune complexes in auto-immune diseases, such as arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Licorice root has a number of medicinal properties, most of which stem from its active ingredient glycyrrhizin, which appears to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antiallergic, and estrogenic activities. Licorice is used to soothe sore throats, reduce arthritis pain and stiffness, lessen the pain of ulcers, ease menopausal symptoms, and treat hepatitis B. It may even slow the growth of certain kinds of cancer.

Variable perennial with stoloniferous roots, downy stems, and pinnate leaves, 5-20cm (2-8in) long, which have 9-17 often sticky leaflets. Pale blue to violet pea flowers are borne in loose spikes, 5-8cm (2-3in) long, followed by oblong pods up to 3cm (1¼in) long containing 2-4 kidney-shaped seeds.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Chinese Licorice, Licorice Root, Liquorice, Spanish Licorice, Sweet Licorice, Sweet Root, Sweet Wood
Botanical Name:
Glycyrrhiza glabra
Native Location:
Mediterranean, SW Asia
Deep, rich, sandy soil in sun. Slightly alkaline, moisture-retentive conditions give the best results. Remove flower heads to encourage stronger roots and stolons, unless seed is required. Difficult to eradicate when well established.
By seed sown in spring; by division in autumn or spring; by stolon cuttings in spring. Seeds should be scarified or soaked overnight to speed germination. Seedlings are slow growing.
Roots and stolons are lifted in early autumn, 3-4 years after planting, and dried for decoctions, liquid extracts, lozenges, and powder, or crushed and boiled to produce juice which is evaporated and rolled into sticks or cakes.
Is a hardy slow growing clone
Height: 1m (3ft)

Is vigorous and free-flowering, with a high sugar content.
Height: 1.2m (4ft)
1.5m (5ft)
1m (3ft)
Licorice is one of the most commonly used herbs in both Western and Eastern herbal medicine—and in China it is called "the grandfather of Chinese herbs". Some of the most famous of the ancient Greek and Roman herbalists, physicians, and scholars—among them, Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Theophrastus, and Pliny—all mention licorice as a tonic, a thirst-quencher, and a treatment for sore throats, and licorice is one of the major herbs listed in ancient China's first herbal pharmacopoeia. In the Middle East, where it is a favored treatment for stomach ailments, licorice has been used for over 3,000 years and appears in the ancient herbal records of both the Assyrians and Egyptians. Licorice's botanical name is most likely from the Latin glykys, for "sweet" and rhiza, for "root", though some scholars believe the ancient Greek physician Dioscorides named it from the Greek glukos and riza—which also means "sweet root". The herb's common name, licorice, is a corruption of glycyrrhiza.
Parts Used:
Roots, stolons.
A very sweet, moist soothing herb that is anti-inflammatory and expectorant, controls coughing, and has hormonal and laxative effects. It detoxifies and protects the liver.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for Addison's disease, asthma, bronchitis, coughs, peptic ulcer, arthritis, allergic complaints, and following steriod therapy. Not given to pregnant women or patients with anemia, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or taking digoxin-based medication. Excess causes water retention and high blood pressure. Externally for shingles, eczema, and herpes. For use by qualified practitioners only.
To treat stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, dry cough, arthritis, bacterial and viral infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, and constipation.
Licorice has appetite-stimulating, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and tonic properties. It aids digestion, detoxifies the blood, raises energy, regulates blood sugar levels, relieves fatigue, and strengthens the kidneys and spleen. Licorice is taken internally for Addison's disease (a disease of the adrenal cortex characterized by exhaustion, low blood pressure and weight loss), anorexia, asthma, bladder ailments, bronchitis, congestion, constipation, coughs, debilitation, exhaustion, high blood cholesterol, liver disease, rheumatism, stomach ailments, ulcers, and weight loss. It is applied externally, often in powdered form, to treat eczema, herpes, shingles, and other skin ailments. Licorice is also widely used as a flavoring in candies, cough drops, cough syrups, and other medications, and in culinary dishes.
Licorice is available as dried rootstock and in capsules, teas, and syrups. To make a decoction, boil 1 teaspoon of dried rootstock in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 2 cups a day.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of licorice may range from 1 to 4 gm of powdered root, taken three times daily.
Using licorice may cause jitteriness. Do not use licorice medicinally if you are pregnant. Do not use licorice if you have edema (water retention), glaucoma, high blood pressure, or kidney disease, or if you are taking asthma medications, digitalis, or digoxin-based drugs. Overconsumption of licorice may also cause edema and high blood pressure. Licorice shoul be used moderately, only as needed, and preferably under the direction of a qualified medical practitioner.
Possible Side Effects:
Licorice's side effects include elevated blood pressure, retention of sodium and water, low levels of potassium in the blood, lethargy, and headache. Those with hypertension should avoid it. Licorice is also unsafe for those who have cirrhosis, kidney disease, or heart disease as well as women who are pregnant. For all others, licorice should be used for no longer than 6 weeks, to minimize the risk of adverse effects.
Drug Interactions:
Taking licorice with these drugs may interfere wih the effectiveness of the drug:
Acebutolol, (Novo-Acebutolol, Sectral)
Adenosine, (Adenocard, Adenoscan)
Amiodarone, (Cordarone, Pacerone)
Bretylium, (Bretylium)
Cyclosporine, (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Dexamethasone, (Decadron, Dexasone)
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Disopyramide, (Norpace, Rhythmodan)
Dofetilide, (Tikosyn)
Esmolol, (Brevibloc)
Flecainide, (Tambocor)
Ibutilide, (Corvert)
Lidocaine, (Lidoderm, Xylocaine)
Mexiletine, (Mexitil, Novo-Mexiletine)
Moricizine, (Ethmozine)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Procainamide, (Procanbid, Pronestyl-SR)
Propafenone, (GenPropafenone, Rhythmol)
Propanolol, (Inderal, InnoPran XL)
Quinidine, (Novo-Quinidin, Quinaglute Dura-Tabs)
Sotalol, (Betapace, Sorine)
Testosterone, (Andoderm, Testoderm)
Tocainide, (Tonocard)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Taking licorice with these drugs may increase the risk of hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood):
Acetazolamide, (Apo-Acetazolamide, Diamox Sequels)
Azosemide, (Diat)
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Cascara, (Cascara)
Chlorthiazide, (Diuril)
Chlorthalidone, (Apo-Chlorthalidone, Thalitone)
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Docusate, (Colace, Ex-Lax Stool Softener)
Docusate and Senna, (Peri-Colace, Senokot-S)
Dofetilide, (Tikosyn)
Enalapril, (Vasotec)
Ethacrynic Acide, (Edecrin)
Etozolin, (Elkapin)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydroflumethiazide, (Diucardin, Saluron)
Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
Lactulose, (Constulose, Enulose)
Magnesium Citrate, (CitroMag)
Magnesium Hydroxide, (Dulcolax Milk of Magnesia, Phillips' Milk of Magnesia)
Magnesium Hydroxide and Mineral Oil, (Phillips' M-O)
Magnesium Oxide, (MagOx 400, Uro-Mag)
Magnesium Sulfate, (Epsom Salts)
Mannitol, (Osmitrol, Resectisol)
Mefruside, (Baycaron)
Methazolamide, (Apo-Methazolamide, Neptazane)
Methyclothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide, (Benicar HCT)
Polyethylene Glycol-Elecrolyte Solution, (Colyte, MiraLax)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Psyllium, (Metamucil, Reguloid)
Sildenafil, (Viagra)
Sorbitol, (Sorbilax)
Torsemide, (Demadex)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Urea, (Amino-Cerv UltraMide)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Xipamide, (Diurexan, Lumitens)
Taking licorice with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Alteplase, (Activase, Cathflo Activase)
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Indomethacin, (Indocin, Novo-Methacin)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Meloxicam, (MOBIC, Mobicox)
Nadroparin, (Fraxiparine)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Reteplase, (Retavase)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
Streptokinase, (Streptase)
Tenecteplase, (TNKase)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Urokinase, (Abbokinase)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking licorice with these drugs may increase the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure):
Acebutolol, (Novo-Acebutolol, Sectral)
Amlopidine, (Norvasc)
Atenolol, (Apo-Atenol, Tenormin)
Benazepril, (Lotensin)
Betaxolol, (Betoptic S, Kerlone)
Bisoprolol, (Monocor, Zebeta)
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burined)
Candesartan, (Atacand)
Captopril, (Capoten, Novo-Captopril)
Carteolol, (Cartrol, Ocupress)
Carvedilol, (Coreg)
Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
Chlorothalidone, (Apo-Chlorothalidone, Thalitone)
Clonidine, (Catapres, Duraclon)
Diazoxide, (Hyperstat, Proglycem)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Doxazosin, (Alti-Doxazosin, Cardura)
Enalapril, (Vasotec)
Ephedrine, (Pretz-D)
Eplerenone, (Inspra)
Eprosartan, (Teveten)
Esmolol, (Brevibloc)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Drospirenone, (Yasmin)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Ethynodiol Diacetate, (Demulen, Zovia)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Levonorgestrel, (Alesse, Triphasil)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norethindrone, (Brevicon, Ortho-Novum)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestimate, (Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestrel, (Cryselle, Orval)
Felodipine, (Plendil, Renedil)
Fenoldopam, (Corlopam)
Fosinopril, (Monopril)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Guanabenz, (Wytensin)
Guanadrel, (Hylorel)
Guanfacine, (Tenex)
Hydralazine, (Apresoline, Novo-Hylazin)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
Irbesartan, (Avapro)
Isradipine, (DynaCirc)
Labetalol, (Normodyne, Trandate)
Levalbuterol, (Xopenex)
Lisinopril, (Prinivil, Zestril)
Losartan, (Cozaar)
Mecamylamine, (Inversine)
Mefruside, (Baycaron)
Mestranol and Norethindrone, (Necon 1/50, Ortho-Novum 1/50)
Methychlothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Methyldopa, (Apo-Methyldopa, Nu-Medopa)
Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Metoprolol, (Betaloc, Lopressor)
Minoxidil, (Loniten, Rogaine)
Moexipril, (Univasc)
Nadolol, (Apo-Nadol, Corgard)
Nicardipine, (Cardene)
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)
Nisoldipine, (Sular)
Nitroglycerin, (Minitran, Nitro-Dur)
Nitroprusside, (Nipride, Nitropress)
Olmesartan, (Benicar)
Oxprenolol, (Slow-Trasicor, Trasicor)
Perindopril Erbumine, (Aceon, Coversyl)
Phenoxybenzamine, (Dibenzyline)
Phentolamine, (Regitine, Rogitine)
Pindolol, (Apo-Pindol, Novo-Pindol)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Prazosin, (Minipress, Nu-Prazo)
Propranolol, (Inderal, InnoPran XL)
Quinapril, (Accupril)
Ramipril, (Altace)
Reserpine, (Reserpine)
Telmisartan, (Micardis)
Terazosin, (Alti-Terazosin, Hytrin)
Timolol, (Betimol, Timoptic)
Torsemide, (Demadex)
Trandolapril, (Mavik)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Valsartan, (Diovan)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Taking licorice with these drugs may increase the risk of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar):
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetohexamide, (Acetohexamide)
Chlorpropamide, (Diabinese, Novo-Propamide)
Gliclazide, (Diamicron, Novo-Gliclazide)
Glimepiride, (Amaryl)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glipizide and Metformin, (Metaglip)
Gliquidone, (Beglynor, Glurenorm)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Glyburide and Metformin, (Glucovance)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Nateglinide, (Starlix)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Rosiglitazone and Metformin, (Avandamet)
Tolazamide, (Tolinase)
Tolbutamide, (Apo-Tolbutamide, Tol-Tab)
Taking licorice with these drugs may increase the therapeutic and/or adverse effects of the drug:
Beclomethasone, (Beconase, Vanceril)
Betamethasone, (Celestone, Diprolene)
Budesonide, (Entocort, Rhinocort)
Budesonide and Formoterol, (Symbicort)
Cortisone, (Cortone)
Deflazacort, (Calcort, Dezacor)
Dexamethasone, (Decadron, Dexasone)
Flunisolide, (AeroBid, Nasarel)
Fluorometholone, (Eflone, Flarex)
Fluticasone, (Cutivate, Flonase)
Hydrocortisone, (Anusol-HC, Locoid)
Methylprednisolone, (DepoMedrol, Medrol)
Prednisolone, (Inflamase Forte, Pred Forte)
Prednisone, (Apo-Prednisone, Deltasone)
Triamcinolone, (Aristocort, Trinasal)
Taking licorice with these drugs may increase the risk of drug toxicity:
Iproniazid, (Marsilid)
Moclobemide, (Alti-Moclobemide, Nu-Moclobemide)
Phenelzine, (Nardil)
Selegiline, (Eldepryl)
Tranylcypromine, (Parnate)
Taking licorice with these drugs may be harmful:
Choline Magnesium Trysalicylate, (Trilisate)—May increase drug levels.
Loratadine, (Alavert, Claritin)—May increase risk of arrhythmias and other heart problems.
Lab Test Alterations:
  • May increase anion gap.
  • May decrease potassium levels.
  • May decrease serum prolactin levels.
  • May decrease serum or urine sodium levels.
  • Possible positive test for serum urine myoglobin levels.
  • May increase serum 17-hydroxyprogesterone levels.
  • May increase blood pressure levels.
  • May decrease serum testosterone levels.
Disease Effects:
  • May hamper attempts to control blood sugar in diabetes.
  • May worsen congestive heart failure by encouraging the body to retain fluid.
  • This herb may have estrogen-like effects and should not be used by women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive conditions.
  • May worsen hypertension by elevating blood pressure.
  • May trigger low levels of potassium.
  • May worsen existing cases of kidney or liver disease.
Food Interactions:
Grapefruit juice may increase the mineralocorticoid activities of licorice. (See, Grapefruit).
Supplement Interactions:
Culinary Uses:
Roots ("licorice sticks") are chewed as candy.
Economic Uses:
Licorice extract and powder are used in candy and to flavor tobacco, beer, soft drinks, and pharmaceutical products (notably laxatives); also as an ingredient in herb teas, a foaming agent in beers and fire extinguishers, and colorant in stout.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pps. 226-227
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.307-312
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 76-77