Licorice is the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant with the term Glycyrrhiza literally meaning “sweet root” and is native to southern Europe and India. Typically used as a flavouring agent and mainly as a natural sweetener, it has tremendous commercial importance; its use pre-dating the Babylonian and Egyptian empires. Licorice is also known for its medicinal properties and is used in both the eastern and western cultures. (1)
Health benefits of licorice
Over the years, several health benefits of licorice have been noted.
Licorice for menopausal hot flashes
Hot flashes have noted to be highly prevalent in menopausal women. Licorice has been reported to be extremely effective in the reduction of hot flashes and even stopping them completely in some cases. This helps in improving the quality of life of menopausal women (2)
Licorice for liver
Several animal studies have reported licorice to have hepatoprotective properties. The protective effect of this plant seen against both alcohol-induced liver injury and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may be attributed to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activities. (3, 4)
Licorice for heart
A few studies have reported the benefits of the consumption of licorice-root extract by hypercholesterolemic patients against cardiovascular disease. (5) However, several other studies have reported its adverse effects on heart function, thus, making its use in the treatment of such cases contradictory. (6)
Adverse effects of licorice
The overuse of licorice has reported to be related to several health complications. Prolonged consumption of this natural sweetener and thirst quencher has been related to hypertension, hypokalemia, and quadriparesis. (7)
- Karaaslan İ, Dalgıç AC. Spray drying of liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract. Journal of food science and technology. 2014; 51: 3014-3025.
- Nahidi F, Zare E, Mojab F, Majd HA. The effect of Licorice root extract on hot flashes in menopause. Pajoohandeh Journal. 2011; 16: 11-17.
- Jung J-C, Lee Y-H, Kim SH, et al. Hepatoprotective effect of licorice, the root of Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fischer, in alcohol-induced fatty liver disease. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015; 16: 19.
- Hajiaghamohammadi AA, Ziaee A, Samimi R. The Efficacy of Licorice Root Extract in Decreasing Transaminase Activities in Non‐alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2012; 26: 1381-1384.
- Fuhrman B, Volkova N, Kaplan M, et al. Antiatherosclerotic effects of licorice extract supplementation on hypercholesterolemic patients: increased resistance of LDL to atherogenic modifications, reduced plasma lipid levels, and decreased systolic blood pressure. Nutrition. 2002; 18: 268-273.
- Harada T, Ohtaki E, Misu K, et al. Congestive heart failure caused by digitalis toxicity in an elderly man taking a licorice-containing Chinese herbal laxative. Cardiology. 2003; 98: 218.
- Omar HR, Komorova I, El-Ghonemi M, et al. Licorice abuse: time to send a warning message. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2012; 3: 125-138.