Scientifically Proven Benefits of Licorice (Root, Tea, Powder, DGL)

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Scientifically Proven Benefits of Licorice (Root, Tea, Powder, DGL)

Licorice (or liquorice) is the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. Licorice is a sweet-tasting root and is packed with many health benefits. Licorice root is good for you because it contains beneficial compounds that have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activity. You can consume licorice root to prevent tooth decay, keep your heart healthy, treat a sore throat, and boost your immune system.


Licorice comes in many forms. You can use dried licorice root to create a healthy licorice tea. Licorice powder can be made into a paste an applied to your skin or taken as a health supplement. You can also buy licorice with the compound glycyrrhizin removed (deglycyrrhizinated licorice – DGL) if you need to take licorice pills on a long-term basis.

In this article, you will learn what the benefits of licorice are, and why you should only consume licorice products with pure licorice root extract rather than some types of commercially-produced licorice candy.

What is Licorice?

Licorice is actually the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant that grows in Asia and southern Europe. Researchers say that licorice root is 50 times sweeter than sugar and is often used as a flavoring agent. Real licorice has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). (1)

Licorice extracts are used to flavor candies, gums, toothpastes, mixed with sugar to create licorice candy (also called black licorice), and you can also chew raw licorice roots.

Licorice root also contains many complex compounds that have therapeutic properties. Researchers have found that licorice contains over 20 chemicals (triterpenoids) and 300 flavonoids (antioxidants) that have antiviral, antibacterial, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory properties. (2)

TCM says that licorice is good for relieving coughing, getting rid of phlegm, and has analgesic properties. (2)

Research has shown that licorice is sweet thanks to the compound glycyrrhizin. Some people say that the sweet taste of licorice has an intense tart, bitter taste that lingers in the mouth. Real licorice has a taste similar to anise, however, licorice and anise are not related.

Nutritional Value of Licorice

What is it about licorice that makes it so good for your health?

Most of the nutritional benefits of licorice root come from over 300 flavonoids (plant-based antioxidants) that have an amazing potential for keeping you healthy.

The journal Nutrition Research and Practice reports that phenyl flavonoids in licorice root have a protective effect against many chronic diseases. Some extracts of licorice can help to treat malaria, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, and skin diseases. (3)

The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effect of some licorice extracts can help to kill off bacteria and have a protective effect on the liver. (3)

It’s also important to differentiate between pure licorice root and licorice candy (black licorice). Many types of licorice candy do contain licorice extracts and have a sweet taste. However, many licorice confectionery products are no more than just sugar, starch, coloring, and anise flavoring.

For example, red or black licorice candy products have nothing to do with pure licorice or licorice extracts. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that a 32-gram piece of licorice candy contains 90 calories. This piece of licorice contains 16 grams of sugar and 23 grams of carbs. (4)

Even though pure licorice has many health benefits, consuming too much licorice root can be bad for you. Studies have shown that a compound in licorice named glycyrrhizin can cause high blood pressure and low potassium levels when consumed in large quantities. (3)

What is DGL Licorice (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice)?

DGL licorice is licorice extract where the compound glycyrrhizin has been removed.

Glycyrrhizin is the chemical in licorice that gives licorice its sweet flavor. Although glycyrrhizin has some health benefits, consuming a lot of licorice containing glycyrrhizin can have health implications.

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For example, scientists have found that glycyrrhizin has anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit your liver and protect your cells from damage. However, glycyrrhizin can also prevent salt from being excreted from your body and results in swelling, low potassium levels, and hypertension. (5)

Because of this, you can buy deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL licorice.

What Are the Benefits of DGL Licorice?

Let’s briefly look at some of the health benefits of taking deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).

DGL licorice can protect your stomach lining

Researchers from Scandinavia found that DGL can help to protect your stomach lining against the effects of long-term aspirin use. (6)

DGL licorice is good for preventing the buildup of dental plaque

Another benefit of DGL licorice is to keep your teeth and gums free of disease. The journal Anaerobe reported that deglycyrrhizinated licorice root extract kills off bacteria that lead to a plaque buildup and gum disease. (7)

Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) vs. Regular Licorice

Many manufacturers produce licorice extracts with glycyrrhizin removed. DGL licorice is available in the form of capsules, liquid, and lozenges. This allows you to get all the benefits of regular licorice without the side effects of glycyrrhizin. (8)

Scientists have found that regular licorice is good for conditions such as treating a sore throat, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), weight loss, and improved liver function.

However, if you take licorice on a long-term basis, DGL licorice is better for you than regular licorice. For example, taking DGL licorice for treating peptic ulcers will not cause any adverse effects like high blood pressure. (8)

Doctors also reported on a case of a woman who suffered from hypertension, sweating, and headaches. She revealed that she consumed 6 cups of licorice tea a day instead of caffeinated drinks. Her blood pressure returned to normal within 2 weeks of stopping consuming licorice tea. (9)

It’s good to remember that regular consumption of licorice in moderate amounts can be beneficial for you. If you want to take larger quantities of licorice for its medicinal benefits like improving digestion, then look for DGL licorice.

At the end of this article, you will find out what the safe recommended dose of regular licorice is.

What is Licorice Root Tea?

Licorice root tea is a delicious and tasty beverage with a number of health benefits.

You can make licorice tea by steeping 2 or 3 grams of chopped pure licorice root in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes.

You can also buy licorice root powder or licorice root tea bags to make licorice tea at home.

What Licorice is Good For: Health Benefits of Licorice (Root and Tea)

Let’s look in more detail at how consuming moderate amounts of licorice root or licorice tea can be good for your health.

Licorice Is Good for Preventing Tooth Decay

Your mouth is home to various types of bacteria. Although some of these bacteria may be helpful in limited quantities, these bacteria are also responsible for the majority of your tooth decay and gum disease.

Bacteria called streptococcus mutans live on sugar. These bacteria metabolize the sugars in your mouth and produce malic acid as a waste product. Malic acid is responsible for the plaque that builds up on your teeth, and this ultimately leads to tooth decay, gum disease, and cavities.

Bacteria protect themselves from harm by producing a type of biofilm that forms a protective layer around the bacteria. One of the ways to eliminate the bacteria is to eliminate this protective layer.

Licorice contains two active ingredients called licoricidin and licorisoflavan. These active ingredients are believed to help eliminate the enzyme that allows bacteria to create these protective layers.

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Research on Licorice and Tooth Decay

In a study conducted by the University of Edinburgh, researchers discovered that bacteria use an enzyme called Sortase A to produce their protective biofilm layer. The researchers were able to identify how the active ingredients in licorice may prevent this enzyme from functioning properly, therefore effectively interrupting the biofilm formation process.

Without their protective layer, the bacteria are not able to attach to the teeth and they are left vulnerable, thus helping to decrease the amount of tooth decay and plaque.

Research has also shown that the active ingredients in licorice may prevent the growth of the bacteria that are responsible for periodontitis. Periodontitis can have a devastating effect on oral health by destroying the bone, gums, and tissue in the mouth.

How to Use Licorice for Tooth Decay

A soft layer of bark covers the licorice root. If you do have access to fresh licorice root, then select a suitable sized piece of root. You will need to clean the root properly and then chew on one end until the root fibers will come loose and resemble bristles. Otherwise use a licorice tea.

Licorice Can Relieve Heartburn and Indigestion

Licorice root extract is a good way to treat digestive problems like indigestion and acid reflux.

Scientific studies have shown that extracts from licorice can help to relieve symptoms of heartburn. Using DGL licorice helps to treat reflux symptoms without any side effects. Scientists have found that compounds in licorice help to relieve gastric inflammation and treat indigestion. (10)

One randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study involving 50 people found that an herbal supplement containing licorice root relieves indigestion. Patients received 75 mg of the herbal supplement 2 times a day. There was a significant decrease in indigestion symptoms after 2 weeks of treatment. (11)

Find out other what natural remedies you can use if you have heartburn.

Licorice Extracts Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Taking licorice extract can help reduce inflammation in your body and may prevent the onset of chronic disease.

Although short-term inflammation is beneficial to fight infection, long-term inflammation can cause chronic conditions like heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. (12)

A review of more than 93 studies found that licorice root contains flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties. These antioxidant compounds decrease the number of enzymes and compounds that cause inflammation. (13)

Learn about other foods that have anti-inflammatory properties and can help to relieve symptoms of arthritis.

DGL Licorice Promotes Good Heart Health

Taking licorice supplements in the appropriate dose can help to prevent cardiovascular diseases and protect the health of your heart.

The journal Food & Nutrition Research reported that licorice extract can lower levels of LDL cholesterol. This is the type of cholesterol that can lead to heart disease. To prevent complications of excessive licorice consumption, DGL licorice was used in the clinical trial. (14)

The patients received licorice pills/capsules with 0.2 g of DGL licorice extract twice a day. At the end of the 1-year trial, scientists found that licorice root extract helped to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and helped prevent the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. (14)

Other studies have shown that licorice helps to boost cardiac health and can help the heart tissue recover better after a heart attack. (15)

If you want to improve your cardiac health, find out what to eat for a healthy heart.

Licorice is Good for Weight Loss

Consuming licorice tea can help you lose excess weight and maintain healthy body weight.

One trial involving obese adults found that taking licorice powder daily had an anti-obesity effect. Patients took licorice pills containing 500 mg licorice extract 3 times a day before meals. Researchers reported that the licorice pills had a similar effect to using a low-calorie diet for weight loss. (16)

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Other studies involving mice have found that flavonoids in licorice helped to suppress body weight gain on a high-fat diet. The scientists suggested that licorice extracts may help to reduce abdominal fat and also lower blood glucose levels. (17)

Did you know that ginger is another tasty root that you can use to lose belly fat?

Licorice Helps Your Brain to Function Better

The anti-inflammatory effect of licorice extracts also has a positive effect on the health of your brain.

One lab trial found that extracts from various licorice varieties reduced inflammation that resulted in cognitive impairment. Suppressing neuro-inflammation could help protect against age-related cognitive dysfunction like Alzheimer’s disease. (18)

Other studies on rodents have found that licorice extracts help to protect against degenerative brain diseases. (19)

One trial showed that antioxidants in licorice extract can also protect against brain injury after an epileptic seizure. (20)

As well as taking DGL regularly for good brain function, learn about other foods and herbs that can boost cognitive health.

Licorice Tea Can Help Cure a Sore Throat

Licorice tea can help to soothe irritation in your throat if you have a respiratory infection or a cough.

A randomized double-blind trial found that gargling with licorice water reduced sore throat after general anesthesia. Post-operative sore throats are common after operations. Patients who regularly gargled with licorice extracts experienced fewer instances of a sore throat than those who gargled with sugar water. (21)

You can easily make licorice tea with pure licorice root to gargle for a sore throat. Just remember to let the tea cool before gargling.

Licorice Tea Is Good to Drink if You Have a Cough

The relaxant properties of licorice mean that consuming licorice tea is a good way to stop coughing so much.

Scientists have discovered that licorice contains 2 compounds (liquiritin and liquiritin apioside) that have an anti-cough effect. The research suggested that licorice extracts can also help to loosen mucus and thin out phlegm to make it easier to cough up. (22)

Licorice Root Tea Has Compounds that Boost Your Immune System

Consuming licorice root tea is good to help strengthen your immunity and help your body ward off infections.

The journal Food Chemistry reported that licorice has powerful antioxidants that have an immuno-stimulant effect. (23)

The hundreds of bioactive compounds in licorice root also have antiviral properties that can help to destroy viral infections such as herpes simplex, hepatitis C, and could even help treat HIV. (2)

Other studies have pointed to the fact that certain licorice root extracts can help kill off bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus. Licorice extracts were also effective against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. (24)

Learn about more herbs and supplements you can take as well as DGL to keep your immune system strong.

Licorice Root Can Help Treat Peptic Ulcers (Helicobacter pylori Infections)

Taking licorice pills can help to improve your gastrointestinal health if you suffer from gastric or duodenal ulcers.

One double-blind study involving humans found that taking 500 mg of licorice extract capsules a day helped reduce the abdominal pain, bloating, and heartburn caused by H. pylori. After one month of taking licorice extracts, the researchers noted that licorice pills were just as effective as antibiotics in healing gastrointestinal ulcers. (25)

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Did you know that there are many natural remedies you can try to treat H. pylori?

Licorice Can Help Manage Diabetes Symptoms

DGL licorice could be an effective way to help reduce some of the symptoms associated with diabetes.

One study involving rats showed that licorice can alleviate diabetes symptoms like nephropathy (kidney damage). The licorice extract helped to protect liver health, lower blood glucose levels, and prevent obesity in diabetic animals. (26)

Another symptom of diabetes is problems with cognitive health. In animal models, the licorice extract glabridin helped to improve memory and learning in rats with diabetes. (27)

Do you know how to spot the signs that you could be at risk of diabetes? Help prevent diabetes from developing by adding these foods to your diet.

Licorice Extracts Can Help You Sleep Better

If you suffer from insomnia, disrupted sleep patterns, or have trouble getting to sleep, a cup of licorice tea could help you sleep better.

Researchers have found that water extracts of licorice work like sedatives. The study found that licorice could be a natural treatment for insomnia. (28)

Find out about other foods and herbs that can help you get better sleep.

Licorice Can Help Combat Fatigue

One of the benefits of drinking licorice tea is that it can make you feel more energized.

Scientists found that, in lab trials, licorice extract containing glabridin helps to inhibit fatigue. In animal subjects, licorice supplementation helped to increase the exercise time without tiring. Mice who received licorice extract were able to swim longer than mice who didn’t receive the licorice supplement. (29)

Learn about scientifically-proven reasons why you could feel tired all the time.

Licorice Extracts Can Help to Treat Cold Sores

Licorice is one of the herbal plants that has antiviral properties and can help treat viral infections such as HSV-1.

HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus) is the viral infection that causes cold sores and fever blisters on your lips and around your mouth.

In one study, scientists mixed 4 grams of licorice root powder in 100 ml of distilled water. The licorice mixture was incubated and then filtered. The licorice extract was applied to cells containing the HSV-1 virus. The scientists found that the licorice mixture helped kill off the virus and showed potential to be used as an antiviral medication. (30)

There are also additional natural remedies you can apply to treat fever blisters.

Licorice Capsules Can Be Good for Women During the Menopause

Taking licorice supplements can help to alleviate many of the uncomfortable symptoms of the menopause.

In one clinical trial involving 90 menopausal women, taking licorice extract supplements helped to decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The women took 330 mg licorice extract 3 times a day. After a few weeks, women experienced fewer hot flashes, and the effect of the licorice extract lasted for 2 weeks after stopping the treatment. (31)

Taking licorice pills during the menopause may also reduce the need to receive hormone-replacement therapy. Licorice extracts have an estrogen-like effect and increase levels of estrogen. Scientists found that licorice supplementation after the menopause can help prevent cardiovascular disease. (32)

If you are experiencing the menopause, learn about the best supplements you can take for relieving your symptoms.

Licorice Extracts May Help Prevent Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

One of the licorice root benefits for some women is that licorice can help to boost the efficiency of medication for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

One study involving women receiving treatment for PCOS found that taking 3.5 grams of licorice daily improved the efficacy of spironolactone. Spironolactone is a drug used to treat PCOS symptoms like unwanted hair growth and acne. (33)

In addition to taking medication for polycystic ovary syndrome, you can also try some natural ingredients to help regulate this condition.

Licorice Root is Good for Your Skin

Extracts from licorice root also benefit your skin if you suffer from inflammatory skin conditions.

Researchers found that gel containing 2% licorice extract was good for treating eczema. Over a two-week period, applying licorice gel to the skin helped to reduce itching, redness, and swelling. (34)

Find out about other natural ingredients you can use to treat eczema.

Licorice Root Extracts Have Compounds with Anticancer Potential

Many of the medicinal compounds in licorice have shown the ability to kill off cancerous cells and help stop tumors spreading.

The journal Current Medicinal Chemistry reported that glycyrrhetinic acid extracted from licorice has anticancer properties. (35)

The licorice antioxidant licochalcone has shown potential in helping to treat and cure skin cancer. (36)

Other studies have shown that licochalcone helps to block the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors – a process called angiogenesis. (37) The National Cancer Institute reports that angiogenesis inhibitors are important in helping to inhibit the growth of tumors. (38)

Is Licorice Bad for You? Side Effects of Licorice

When consumed in moderate amounts, licorice is a tasty sweet treat that can be enjoyed by most people.

Too much licorice over a long period of time can be bad for you because it can raise blood pressure and cause potassium levels to drop. Other possible side effects are weakness, paralysis, and even brain damage. (40)

A meta-analysis of 18 studies on the effects of licorice found that long-term licorice consumption, even in modest doses, can result in hypertension. (39)

WebMD website also says that high consumption of licorice during pregnancy seems to increase the risk of miscarriage and early delivery. It also mentions that it’s possibly unsafe when taken by mouth in large amounts for more than 4 weeks or in smaller amounts for long-term. (4o)

If you suffer from kidney disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure then you should consult your physician before including medicinal licorice in your general health regimen.

What is the safe dose of licorice?

If you want to enjoy pure licorice root, how much is safe to take?

The researchers in the European Union advise that you should limit the consumption of licorice that contains glycyrrhizin to 60-70 g per day. This is the equivalent of 100 mg of glycyrrhizin. (8)

If you want to take licorice root as a health supplement, you should look for deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).

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2 Responses to Scientifically Proven Benefits of Licorice (Root, Tea, Powder, DGL)

  1. Erin says:

    I have cavities and my teeth are turning yellow see through and brownish. Should I take DGL licorice tincture or regular?or should I chew on the root sticks?

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      Licorice may help prevent tooth decay, but if you already have cavities, then you need to see your dentist. Once the cavities are fixed, and to help prevent buildup of dental plaque you can use Licorice. If you plan to use it in moderate amounts then you can use licorice tea or root sticks (the regular licorice). If you plan to use larger amounts for prolonged time, then DGL is your best option.

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