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Complementary and Alternative Medicine - Cam

Search Health Information    Licorice

Licorice

Uses

Common names:
Gan Cao
Botanical names:
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Parts Used & Where Grown

Originally from central Europe, licorice now grows all across Europe and Asia. The root is used medicinally.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
3 Stars
Peptic Ulcer
250 to 500 mg chewable DGL before meals and bedtime
Licorice root has a long history of use for soothing inflamed and injured mucous membranes in the digestive tract. Flavonoids in licorice may also inhibit growth of H. pylori.

Licorice root has a long history of use for soothing inflamed and injured mucous membranes in the digestive tract. Licorice may protect the stomach and duodenum by increasing production of mucin, a substance that protects the lining of these organs against stomach acid and other harmful substances.1 According to laboratory research, flavonoids in licorice may also inhibit growth of H. pylori.2

Chamomile has a soothing effect on inflamed and irritated mucous membranes. It is also high in the flavonoid apigenin—another flavonoid that has inhibited growth of H. pylori in test tubes.3 Many doctors recommend drinking two to three cups of strong chamomile tea each day. The tea can be made by combining 3 to 5 ml of chamomile tincture with hot water or by steeping 2 to 3 tsp of chamomile flowers in the water, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Chamomile is also available in capsules; two may be taken three times per day.

2 Stars
Canker Sores
Mix 200 mg DGL in 200 ml in warm water and swish in mouth several minutes, four times per day
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and warm water applied to the inside of the mouth may speed the healing of canker sores. Chewable DGL tablets may have the same effect.

Licorice that has had the glycyrrhizic acid removed is called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). Glycyrrhizic acid is the portion of licorice root that can increase blood pressure and cause water retention in some people. The wound-healing and soothing components of the root remain in DGL.

A mixture of DGL and warm water applied to the inside of the mouth may shorten the healing time for canker sores, according to a double-blind trial.4 This DGL mixture is made by combining 200 mg of powdered DGL and 200 ml of warm water. It can then be swished in the mouth for two to three minutes, then spit out. This procedure may be repeated each morning and evening for one week. Chewable DGL tablets may be an acceptable substitute.

2 Stars
Colic (Chamomile, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Vervain)
1/2 cup (118 ml) of tea up to three times daily
A soothing tea made from chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm has been shown to relieve colic more effectively than placebo.

Carminatives are a class of herbs commonly used for infants with colic. These herbs tend to relax intestinal spasms.

Chamomile is a carminative with long history of use as a calming herb and may be used to ease intestinal cramping in colicky infants. A soothing tea made from chamomile, vervain , licorice , fennel , and lemon balm has been shown to relieve colic more effectively than placebo.5 In this study, approximately 1/2 cup (150 ml) of tea was given during each colic episode up to a maximum of three times per day.

2 Stars
Common Cold and Sore Throat (Elm Bark, Marshmallow)
5 to 8 ounces of tea, four to six times per day, for two to seven days
In one study, Throat Coat tea was effective in providing rapid, temporary relief of sore throat pain in people with acute pharyngitis.

In a double-blind study, a proprietary product containing marshmallow root , licorice root , and elm bark (Throat Coat) was effective in providing rapid, temporary relief of sore throat pain in people with acute pharyngitis.6 Throat Coat was taken as a tea in the amount of 5 to 8 ounces, 4 to 6 times per day, for two to seven days.

2 Stars
Epilepsy (Asian Ginseng, Bupleurum, Cassia Bark, Chinese Scullcap, Ginger, Jujube, Peony, Pinellia)
2.5 grams a day of sho-saiko-to or saiko-keishi-to in tea or capsules
The Chinese herb bupleurum is included in two herbal formulas, sho-saiko-to and saiko-keishi-to. Both have been shown to be helpful for epilepsy.

The Chinese herb bupleurum is included in two similar Chinese herbal formulae known as sho-saiko-to and saiko-keishi-to; these combinations contain the same herbs but in different proportions. The other ingredients are peony root, pinellia root, cassia bark, ginger root, jujube fruit, Asian ginseng root, Asian scullcap root, and licorice root. Both formulas have been shown in preliminary trials to be helpful for people with epilepsy.7 , 8 , 9 No negative interactions with a variety of anticonvulsant drugs were noted in these trials. The usual amount taken of these formulas is 2.5 grams three times per day as capsules or tea. People with epilepsy should not use either formula without first consulting with a healthcare professional.

2 Stars
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Chew 250 to 500 mg DGL daily before meals and bedtime
Chewing deglycyrrhizinated licorice may help mucous membranes heal.

Licorice , particularly as chewable deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), has been shown to be an effective treatment for the healing of stomach and duodenal ulcers ;10 , 11 , 12 in an uncontrolled trial, licorice was effective as a treatment for aphthous ulcers ( canker sores ).13 A synthetic drug similar to an ingredient of licorice has been used as part of an effective therapy for GERD in both uncontrolled14 and double-blind15 , 16 trials. In a comparison trial, this combination proved to be as effective as cimetidine (Tagamet), a common drug used to treat GERD.17 However, licorice itself remains unexamined as a treatment for GERD.

2 Stars
Hepatitis
Take under medical supervision: 2.5 grams licorice three times per day providing 750 mg glycyrrhizin
One of the active constituents in licorice, glycyrrhizin, has been used to some benefit in Japan as an injected therapy for hepatitis B and C.

One of the active constituents in licorice , glycyrrhizin, is sometimes used in Japan as an injected therapy for hepatitis B and C.18 , 19 Glycyrrhizin also blocks hepatitis A virus from replicating in test tubes.20 One preliminary trial found that use of 2.5 grams licorice three times per day providing 750 mg glycyrrhizin was superior to the drug inosine polyIC in helping people with acute and chronic viral hepatitis.21 Because glycyrrhizin can cause high blood pressure and other problems, it should only be taken on the advice of a healthcare practitioner.

2 Stars
Hepatitis (Asian Ginseng, Bupleurum, Cassia Bark, Chinese Scullcap, Ginger, Jujube, Peony, Pinellia)
Take 2.5 grams of sho-saiko-to three times per day
Trials have shown that the bupleurum-containing formula sho-saiko-to can help reduce symptoms and blood liver enzyme levels in people with chronic active viral hepatitis.

Preliminary trials have shown that the bupleurum -containing formula sho-saiko-to can help reduce symptoms and blood liver enzyme levels in children and adults with chronic active viral hepatitis.22 , 23 , 24 , 25 Most of theses trials were in people with hepatitis B infection, though one preliminary trial has also shown a benefit in people with hepatitis C.26 Sho-saiko-to was also found, in a large preliminary trial to decrease the risk of people with chronic viral hepatitis developing liver cancer. However, people who had a sign of recent hepatitis B infection were not as strongly protected in this trial.27 The usual amount of sho-saiko-to used is 2.5 grams three times daily. Sho-saiko-to should not be used together with interferon drug therapy as it may increase risk of pneumonitis - a potentially dangerous inflammation in the lungs.28

2 Stars
HIV and AIDS Support
Refer to label instructions
Licorice inhibits HIV reproduction in test tubes, supplementing with it may be safe and effective for long-term treatment of HIV infection.

Licorice has shown the ability to inhibit reproduction of HIV in test tubes.29 Clinical trials have shown that injections of glycyrrhizin (isolated from licorice) may have a beneficial effect on AIDS.30 There is preliminary evidence that orally administered licorice also may be safe and effective for long-term treatment of HIV infection.31 Amounts of licorice or glycyrrhizin used for treating HIV-positive people warrant monitoring by a physician, because long-term use of these substances can cause high blood pressure , potassium depletion, or other problems. Approximately 2 grams of licorice root should be taken per day in capsules or as tea. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) will not inhibit HIV.

2 Stars
Liver Cirrhosis (Asian Ginseng, Bupleurum, Cassia Bark, Chinese Scullcap, Ginger, Jujube, Peony, Pinellia)
2.5 grams of the Chinese herbal formula sho-saiko-to three times daily
The Chinese herb bupleurum is a component of the formula sho-saiko-to, which was shown in one preliminary trial to liver cancer risk in people with liver cirrhosis.

The Chinese herb bupleurum is an important component of the formula known as sho-saiko-to. Sho-saiko-to was shown in one preliminary trial to reduce the risk of liver cancer in people with liver cirrhosis.32 The amount of this formula used was 2.5 grams three times daily.

1 Star
Asthma
Refer to label instructions
Licorice, which has a soothing effect on bronchioles, has traditionally been used for asthma.

Traditionally, herbs that have a soothing action on bronchioles are also used for asthma. These include marshmallow , mullein , hyssop , and licorice . Elecampane has been used traditionally to treat coughs associated with asthma.33

1 Star
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Refer to label instructions
A case report described a man with CFS whose symptoms improved after taking 2.5 grams of licorice root daily.

One case report described a man with CFS whose symptoms improved after taking 2.5 grams of licorice root daily.34 While there have been no controlled trials to test licorice in patients with CFS, it may be worth a trial of six to eight weeks using 2 to 3 grams of licorice root daily.

1 Star
Cold Sores
Refer to label instructions
Licorice in the form of a cream or gel may be applied directly to cold sores in order to speed healing and reduce pain.

Licorice in the form of a cream or gel may be applied directly to herpes sores three to four times per day. Licorice extracts containing glycyrrhizin or glycyrrhetinic acid should be used, as these are the constituents in licorice most likely to provide activity against the herpes simplex virus. There are no controlled trials demonstrating the effectiveness of this treatment, but a cream containing a synthetic version of glycyrrhetinic acid (carbenoxolone) was reported to speed healing time and reduce pain in people with herpes simplex.35

1 Star
Cough
Refer to label instructions
Licorice has a long history of use for relieving coughs.

The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include bloodroot , catnip , comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound , elecampane , mullein , lobelia , hyssop , licorice , mallow , (Malvia sylvestris), red clover , ivy leaf , pennyroyal  (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium), onion , (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.36

1 Star
Crohn’s Disease
Refer to label instructions
Licorice is an anti-inflammatory herb historically recommended by doctors for people with Crohn’s disease.

A variety of anti-inflammatory herbs historically have been recommended by doctors for people with Crohn’s disease. These include yarrow , chamomile , licorice , and aloe juice. Cathartic preparations of aloe should be avoided. No research has been conducted to validate the use of these herbs for Crohn’s disease.

1 Star
Eczema
Refer to label instructions
Licorice may help eczema through its anti-inflammatory effects and its ability to affect the immune system.

Zemaphyte, a traditional Chinese herbal preparation that includes licorice as well as nine other herbs, has been successful in treating childhood and adult eczema in double-blind trials.37 , 38 , 39 One or two packets of the combination is mixed in hot water and taken once per day. Because one study included the same amount of licorice in both the placebo and the active medicine, it is unlikely that licorice is the main active component of Zemaphyte.40

Several Chinese herbal creams for eczema have been found to be adulterated with steroids. The authors of one study found that 8 of 11 Chinese herbal creams purchased without prescription in England contained a powerful steroid drug used to treat inflammatory skin conditions.41

1 Star
Gastritis
Refer to label instructions
Licorice root has been traditionally used to soothe stomach inflammation and injury. Its flavonoid constituents have been found to stall the growth of H. pylori in test tube studies.

Many of the same herbs that are helpful for peptic ulcers may also aid people with gastritis. Licorice root, for example, has been traditionally used to soothe inflammation and injury in the stomach. Its flavonoid constituents have been found to stall the growth of H. pylori in test tube studies.42 However, there have been no clinical trials using licorice to treat gastritis. To avoid potential side effects, such as increasing blood pressure and water weight gain, many physicians recommend deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). This form of licorice retains its healing qualities by removing the glycyrrhizin that causes problems in some people.

1 Star
Genital Herpes
Refer to label instructions
Licorice root contains antiviral substances, and ointments containing related substances are effective in treating herpes infections.

Licorice root  (Glycyrrhiza glabra) contains antiviral substances43 and ointments containing related substances are effective in treating herpes infections.44 , 45 While the use of topical licorice preparations to prevent or treat genital herpes has not been studied, some alternative healthcare practitioners recommend applying creams or gels containing licorice three to four times a day.

1 Star
Hay Fever (Asiasarum Root, Cassia Bark, Ginger, Ma Huang, Peony, Pinellia, Schisandra)
Refer to label instructions
The Japanese herbal formula known as sho-seiryu-to has been shown to reduce symptoms, such as sneezing, for people with hay fever.

The Japanese herbal formula known as sho-seiryu-to has been shown to reduce symptom, such as sneezing, for people with hay fever.46 Sho-seiryu-to contains licorice , cassia bark, schisandra , ma huang, ginger , peony root , pinellia, and asiasarum root.

1 Star
Hepatitis
200 mg of crude extracts or 40 mg purified proteins three times per day
One of the active constituents in licorice, glycyrrhizin, may be helpful for people with acute and chronic viral hepatitis.
One of the active constituents in licorice, glycyrrhizin, is sometimes used in Japan as an injected therapy for hepatitis B and C.47 , 48 Glycyrrhizin also blocks hepatitis A virus from replication gin text tubes.49 One preliminary trial found that us of 2.5 grams licorice three times per day providing 750 mg glycyrrhizin was superior to the drug inosine polyIC in helping people with acute and chronic viral hepatitis.50 Because glycyrrhizin can cause high blood pressure and other problems, it should be only taken on the advice of a healthcare practitioner.
1 Star
HIV and AIDS Support (Asian Ginseng, Bupleurum, Cassia Bark, Chinese Scullcap, Ginger, Jujube, Peony, Pinellia)
Refer to label instructions
The herbal formula sho-saiko-to has been shown to have beneficial immune effects on white blood cells in people infected with HIV.

The Chinese herb bupleurum , as part of the herbal formula sho-saiko-to, has been shown to have beneficial immune effects on white blood cells taken from people infected with HIV.51 Sho-saiko-to has also been shown to improve the efficacy of the anti-HIV drug lamivudine in the test tube.52 One preliminary study found that 7 of 13 people with HIV given sho-saiko-to had improvements in immune function.53 Double-blind trials are needed to determine whether bupleurum or sho-saiko-to might benefit people with HIV infection or AIDS. Other herbs in sho-saiko-to have also been shown to have anti-HIV activity in the test tube, most notably Asian scullcap .54 Therefore studies on sho-saiko-to cannot be taken to mean that bupleurum is the only active herb involved. The other ingredients are peony root, pinellia root, cassia bark, ginger root, jujube fruit, Asian ginseng root, Asian scullcap root, and licorice root.

1 Star
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
Refer to label instructions
Licorice protects the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract by increasing the production of mucin, a compound that protects against the adverse effects of stomach acid and various harmful substances.

Demulcents herbs may be used to treat indigestion and heartburn. These herbs seem to work by decreasing inflammation and forming a physical barrier against stomach acid or other abdominal irritants. Examples of demulcent herbs include ginger , licorice , and slippery elm .

Licorice protects the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract by increasing the production of mucin, a compound that protects against the adverse effects of stomach acid and various harmful substances.55 The extract of licorice root that is most often used by people with indigestion is known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). Glycyrrhizin, which occurs naturally in licorice root, has cortisone-like effects and can cause high blood pressure , water retention , and other problems in some people. When the glycyrrhizin is removed to form DGL, the licorice root retains its beneficial effects against indigestion, while the risk of side effects is greatly reduced. The usual suggested amount of DGL is one or two chewable tablets (250–500 mg per tablet), chewed and swallowed 15 minutes before meals and one to two hours before bedtime.56 Although many research trials show that DGL is helpful for people with peptic ulcers , the use of DGL for heartburn and indigestion is based primarily on anecdotal information.

1 Star
Menopause
Refer to label instructions
Licorice is an herb with weak estrogen-like actions similar to soy. In one trial, a formula containing licorice, burdock, dong quai, wild yam, and motherwort reduced menopause symptoms.

A variety of herbs with weak estrogen-like actions similar to the effects of soy have traditionally been used for women with menopausal symptoms.57 These herbs include licorice , alfalfa , and red clover . In a double-blind trial, a formula containing tinctures of licorice, burdock , dong quai , wild yam , and motherwort (30 drops three times daily) was found to reduce symptoms of menopause.58 No effects on hormone levels were detected in this study. In a separate double-blind trial, supplementation with dong quai (4.5 grams three times daily in capsules) had no effect on menopausal symptoms or hormone levels.59 A double-blind trial using a standardized extract of subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum), a relative of red clover , containing 40 mg isoflavones per tablet did not impact symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, though it did improve function of the arteries.60 An extract of red clover, providing 82 mg of isoflavones per day, also was ineffective in a 12-week double-blind study.61 In another double-blind study, however, administration of 80 mg of isoflavones per day from red clover reduced the frequency of hot flashes in postmenopausal women. The benefit was noticeable after 4 weeks of treatment and became more pronounced after a total of 12 weeks.62

1 Star
Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia
Refer to label instructions
Licorice has been used as a topical treatment for shingles and postherpetic neuralgia.

Licorice has been used by doctors as a topical agent for shingles and postherpetic neuralgia; however, no clinical trials support its use for this purpose. Glycyrrhizin, one of the active components of licorice, has been shown to block the replication of Varicella zoster.63 Licorice gel is usually applied three or more times per day. Licorice gel is not widely available but may be obtained through a doctor who practices herbal medicine.

1 Star
Ulcerative Colitis
Refer to label instructions
Licorice is an anti-inflammatory and soothing herb that may be effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis.

Aloe vera juice has anti-inflammatory activity and been used by some doctors for people with UC. In a double-blind study of people with mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis, supplementation with aloe resulted in a complete remission or an improvement in symptoms in 47% of cases, compared with 14% of those given a placebo (a statistically significant difference).64 No significant side effects were seen. The amount of aloe used was 100 ml (approximately 3.5 ounces) twice a day for four weeks. Other traditional anti-inflammatory and soothing herbs, including calendula , flaxseed , licorice , marshmallow , myrrh , and yarrow . Many of these herbs are most effective, according to clinical experience, if taken internally as well as in enema form.65 Enemas should be avoided during acute flare-ups but are useful for mild and chronic inflammation. It is best to consult with a doctor experienced with botanical medicine to learn more about herbal enemas before using them. More research needs to be done to determine the effectiveness of these herbs.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Licorice has a long and highly varied record of uses. It was and remains one of the most important herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Among its most consistent and important uses are as a demulcent (soothing, coating agent) in the digestive and urinary tracts, to help with coughs , to soothe sore throats , and as a flavoring. It has also been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat conditions ranging from diabetes to tuberculosis.

How It Works

Common names:
Gan Cao
Botanical names:
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis

How It Works

The two major constituents of licorice are glycyrrhizin and flavonoids . According to test tube studies, glycyrrhizin has anti-inflammatory actions and may inhibit the breakdown of the cortisol produced by the body.66 , 67 Licorice may also have antiviral properties, although this has not been proven in human pharmacological studies. Licorice flavonoids, as well as the closely related chalcones, help heal digestive tract cells. They are also potent antioxidants and work to protect liver cells. In test tubes, the flavonoids have been shown to kill Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes most ulcers and stomach inflammation.68 However, it is unclear whether this action applies to the use of oral licorice for the treatment of ulcers in humans.

An extract of licorice, called liquiritin, has been used as a treatment for melasma, a pigmentation disorder of the skin. In a preliminary trial,69 topical application of liquiritin cream twice daily for four weeks led to a 70% improvement, compared to only 20% improvement in the placebo group.

A preliminary trial found that while the acid-blocking drug cimetidine (Tagamet®) led to quicker symptom relief, chewable deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) tablets were just as effective at healing and maintaining the healing of stomach ulcers.70 Chewable DGL may also be helpful in treating ulcers of the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine.71 Capsules of DGL may not work for ulcers, however, as DGL must mix with saliva to be activated.72 One preliminary human trial has found DGL used as a mouthwash was effective in quickening the healing of canker sores .73

How to Use It

There are two types of licorice, “standard” licorice and “de-glycyrrhizinated” licorice (DGL). Each type is suitable for different conditions. The standard licorice containing glycyrrhizin should be used for respiratory infections, chronic fatigue syndrome or herpes (topical). Licorice root in capsules, 5–6 grams per day, can be used. Concentrated extracts, 250–500 mg three times per day, are another option. Alternatively, a tea can be made by boiling 1/2 ounce (14 grams) of root in 1 pint (500 ml) of water for fifteen minutes, then drinking two to three cups (500–750 ml) per day. Long-term internal use (more than two to three weeks) of high amounts (over 10 grams per day) of glycyrrhizin-containing products should be attempted only under the supervision of a doctor. Licorice creams or gels can be applied directly to herpes sores three to four times per day.

DGL is prepared without the glycyrrhizin in order to circumvent potential safety problems (see below), and is used for conditions of the digestive tract, such as ulcers . For best results, one 200–300 mg tablet is chewed three times per day before meals and before bed.74 For canker sores , 200 mg of DGL powder can be mixed with 200 ml warm water, swished in the mouth for three minutes, and then expelled. This may be repeated three or four times per day.

Interactions

Common names:
Gan Cao
Botanical names:
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • none

Reduce Side Effects

  • Etodolac

    The flavonoids found in the extract of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) are helpful for avoiding the irritating actions NSAIDs have on the stomach and intestines. One study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken together with each dose of aspirin reduced gastrointestinal bleeding caused by the aspirin.98 DGL has been shown in controlled human research to be as effective as drug therapy ( cimetidine ) in healing stomach ulcers .99

  • Ibuprofen

    The flavonoids found in the extract of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) are helpful for avoiding the irritating actions NSAIDs have on the stomach and intestines. One study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken together with each dose of aspirin reduced gastrointestinal bleeding caused by the aspirin.110 DGL has been shown in controlled human research to be as effective as drug therapy ( cimetidine ) in healing stomach ulcers.111

  • Nabumetone

    The flavonoids found in the extract of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) are helpful for avoiding the irritating actions NSAIDs have on the stomach and intestines. One study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken together with each dose of aspirin reduced gastrointestinal bleeding caused by the aspirin.116 DGL has been shown in controlled human research to be as effective as drug therapy ( cimetidine ) in healing stomach ulcers.117

  • Naproxen

    The flavonoids found in the extract of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) are helpful for avoiding the irritating actions NSAIDs have on the stomach and intestines. One study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken together with each dose of aspirin reduced gastrointestinal bleeding caused by the aspirin.118 DGL has been shown in controlled human research to be as effective as drug therapy ( cimetidine ) in healing stomach ulcers.119

  • Oxaprozin

    The flavonoids found in the extract of licorice known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) are helpful for avoiding the irritating actions NSAIDs have on the stomach and intestines. One study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken together with each dose of aspirin reduced gastrointestinal bleeding caused by the aspirin.120 DGL has been shown in controlled human research to be as effective as drug therapy ( cimetidine ) in healing stomach ulcers.121

Support Medicine

  • Alclometasone

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.75 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.76

  • Amcinonide

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.77 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.78

  • Aspirin

    The flavonoids found in the extract of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) are helpful for avoiding the irritating actions aspirin has on the stomach and intestines. One study found that 350 mg of chewable DGL taken together with each dose of aspirin reduced gastrointestinal bleeding caused by the aspirin.79 DGL has been shown in controlled human research to be as effective as drug therapy ( cimetidine ) in healing stomach ulcers .80 One animal study also showed that DGL and the acid-blocking drug Tagamet® (cimetidine) work together more effectively than either alone for preventing negative actions of aspirin.81

  • Betamethasone

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.82 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.83

  • Betamethasone Valerate

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.84 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.85

  • Betamethasone, Augmented

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.86 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.87

  • Clobetasol

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.88 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.89

  • Clocortolone

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.90 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.91

  • Desonide

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.92 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.93

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Desoximetasone

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.94 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.95

  • Diflorasone

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.96 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.97

  • Fluocinonide

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.100 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.101

  • Flurandrenolide

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.102 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.103

  • Halcinonide

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.104 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.105

  • Halobetasol

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.106 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.107

  • Hydrocortisone

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.108 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.109

  • Isoniazid

    The potent anti-inflammatory substance known as glycyrrhizin from licorice has been combined with isoniazid for treatment of tuberculosis. An older study found a benefit from combining the two compared to using isoniazid alone.112 Glycyrrhizin was given by injection, so it is not certain if licorice extracts containing glycyrrhizin would be as effective given by mouth. The treatment required at least three months of administration.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Lamivudine

    Test tube studies show that the herbal combination sho-saiko-to enhances the antiviral activity of lamivudine.113 Sho-saiko-to contains extracts of seven herbs, including Bupleuri radix, Pinelliae tuber, Scutellariae radix, Zizyphi fructus, ginseng (Ginseng radix), licorice  (Glycyrrhizae radix), and ginger  (Zingibers rhizoma). Controlled studies are needed to determine whether taking sho-saiko-to might enhance the beneficial effects of lamivudine.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Mometasone

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.114 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.115

  • Prednicarbate

    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.122 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.123

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

  • Bendroflumethiazide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.124 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Chlorothiazide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.125 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Chlorthalidone

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.126 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Digoxin

    Potassium deficiency increases the risk of digoxin toxicity. Excessive use of licorice plant or licorice plant products may cause the body to lose potassium.127 Artificial licorice flavoring does not cause potassium loss. People taking digoxin should read product labels carefully for licorice plant ingredients.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Hydrochlorothiazide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.128 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Hydroflumethiazide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.129 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Indapamide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.130 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Methyclothiazide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.131 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Metolazone

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.132 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Polythiazide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.133 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

  • Trichlormethiazide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may increase the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including thiazide diuretics.134 Thiazide diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. At the time of this writing, no evidence was found of interactions between deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and any diuretic was found in the medical literature.

Explanation Required

  • Betamethasone Dipropionate
    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice [Glycyrrhiza glabra]) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.135 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.136
  • Budesonide
    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice [Glycyrrhiza glabra]) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.137 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.138
  • Bumetanide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may enhance the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including loop diuretics.139 Loop diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) may be used safely with all diuretics.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Clotrimazole-Betamethasone
    When applied to the skin, glycyrrhetinic acid (a chemical found in licorice [Glycyrrhiza glabra]) increases the activity of hydrocortisone.140 This effect might allow for less hydrocortisone to be used when combined with glycyrrhetinic acid, but further study is needed to test this possibility.141
  • Cortisone

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract was shown to decrease the elimination of prednisone in test tube studies.142 If this action happens in people, it might prolong prednisone activity and possibly increase prednisone-related side effects. A small, controlled study found that intravenous (iv) glycyrrhizin (an active constituent in licorice) given with iv prednisolone prolonged prednisolone action in healthy men.143 Whether this effect would occur with oral corticosteroids and licorice supplements is unknown.

    An animal study has shown that glycyrrhizin prevents the immune-suppressing actions of cortisone—the natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body.144 More research is necessary to determine if this action is significant in humans taking oral corticosteroids. Until more is known, people should not take licorice with corticosteroids without first consulting a doctor.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Dexamethasone

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract was shown to decrease the elimination of prednisone in test tube studies.145 If this action happens in people, it might prolong prednisone activity and possibly increase prednisone-related side effects. A small, controlled study found that intravenous (iv) glycyrrhizin (an active constituent in licorice) given with iv prednisolone prolonged prednisolone action in healthy men.146 Whether this effect would occur with oral corticosteroids and licorice supplements is unknown.

    An animal study has shown that glycyrrhizin prevents the immune-suppressing actions of cortisone—the natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body.147 More research is necessary to determine if this action is significant in humans taking oral corticosteroids. Until more is known, people should not take licorice with corticosteroids without first consulting a doctor.

  • Furosemide

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may worsen the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including loop diuretics.148 Loop diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) may be used safely with all diuretics.

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Methylprednisolone

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract was shown to decrease the elimination of prednisone in test tube studies.149 If this action happens in people, it might prolong prednisone activity and possibly increase prednisone-related side effects. A small, controlled study found that intravenous (iv) glycyrrhizin (an active constituent in licorice) given with iv prednisolone prolonged prednisolone action in healthy men.150 Whether this effect would occur with oral corticosteroids and licorice supplements is unknown.

    An animal study has shown that glycyrrhizin prevents the immune-suppressing actions of cortisone—the natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body.151 More research is necessary to determine if this action is significant in humans taking oral corticosteroids. Until more is known, people should not take licorice with corticosteroids without first consulting a doctor.

  • Prednisolone

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract was shown to decrease the elimination of prednisone in test tube studies.152 If this action happens in people, it might prolong prednisone activity and possibly increase prednisone-related side effects. A small, controlled study found that intravenous (iv) glycyrrhizin (an active constituent in liquorice) given with iv prednisolone prolonged prednisolone action in healthy men.153 Whether this effect would occur with oral corticosteroids and liquorice supplements is unknown.

    An animal study has shown that glycyrrhizin prevents the immune-suppressing actions of cortisone—the natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body.154 More research is necessary to determine if this action is significant in humans taking oral corticosteroids. Until more is known, people should not take liquorice with corticosteroids without first consulting a doctor.

  • Prednisone

    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract was shown to decrease the elimination of prednisone in test tube studies.155 If this action happens in people, it might prolong prednisone activity and possibly increase prednisone-related side effects. A small, controlled study found that intravenous (iv) glycyrrhizin (an active constituent in licorice) given with iv prednisolone prolonged prednisolone action in healthy men.156 Whether this effect would occur with oral corticosteroids and licorice supplements is unknown.

    An animal study has shown that glycyrrhizin prevents the immune-suppressing actions of cortisone—the natural corticosteroid hormone produced by the body.157 More research is necessary to determine if this action is significant in humans taking oral corticosteroids. Until more is known, people should not take licorice with corticosteroids without first consulting a doctor.

  • Risperidone

    An Oriental herb formula containing Glycyrrhiza radix (licorice root) and Paeoniae radix (white peony root) successfully restored menses in a 28-year-old woman who had developed amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) while taking risperidone.158 Discontinuation of these herbs while the woman continued taking risperidone again led to disruption of her menses. In another study, treatment with this same formula restored menses in 6 of 18 women who had developed amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea (infrequent menstruation) from taking risperidone.159 Controlled research is needed to determine whether supplementation with licorice and peony might help prevent amenorrhea in women taking risperidone.

  • Torsemide
    Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may worsen the side effects of potassium-depleting diuretics, including loop diuretics.160 Loop diuretics and licorice should be used together only under careful medical supervision. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) may be used safely with all diuretics.
    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Common names:
Gan Cao
Botanical names:
Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Side Effects

Licorice products that include glycyrrhizin may increase blood pressure and cause water retention  and potassium deficiency.161 Some people are more sensitive to this effect than others. Long-term intake (more than two to three weeks) of products containing more than 1 gram of glycyrrhizin (the amount in approximately 10 grams of root) daily is the usual amount required to cause these effects. Consumption of 7 grams licorice (containing 500 mg glycyrrhizin) per day for seven days has been shown to decrease serum testosterone levels in healthy men by blocking the enzymes needed to synthesize testosterone.162 However, in another study, a similar amount of licorice had only a small and statistically insignificant effect on testosterone levels.163 As a result of these possible side effects, long-term intake of high levels of glycyrrhizin is discouraged and should only be undertaken if prescribed by a qualified healthcare professional. Consumption of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to increase potassium intake is recommended to help decrease the chance of potassium deficiency. According to the German Commission E monograph, licorice is inadvisable for pregnant women as well as for people with liver and kidney disorders.164

De-glycyrrhizinated licorice extracts usually do not cause these side effects since 97% of the glycyrrhizin has been removed.

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