Licorice root has been used as a natural kidney, lung, liver, and circulatory disease remedy for hundreds of years. But are the benefits fo’ real? Here’s what you need to know.
Licorice fast facts
Here’s a quick list of ways licorice root might be good for you:
- quiet that cough
- clear up your skin
- balance hormones
- slow cancer growth
- soothe tummy aches
- have healthier teeth and gums
When we talk about licorice, we’re really talking about glycyrrhiza root (aka Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, or Glycyrrhiza inflata). This is the source of licorice’s unique flavor flave. In addition to tasting great, peeps take licorice root for its various health benefits.
Modern licorice love
- topical gel
- mouth rinse
If you’re one of those folks who loves black jelly beans and other licorice treats… surprise! A lot of candy is flavored with anise oil, not licorice root. They taste pretty similar.
A closer look at what’s in licorice
Here are six ways licorice can benefit your health.
The skin-ny on licorice for your dermis
(Don’t) feel the burn
Heartburn and indigestion can be a total bummer, but licorice might help tame the fire.
According to a study of 50 people, 30 days of treatment with a licorice extract improved indigestion symptoms. In another study, treatment that included glycyrrhetinic acid (derived from licorice root) reduced symptoms of heartburn, chest pain, and abdominal swelling.
Soothe stomach ulcers
A 2016 study showed that the addition of licorice to antibiotic treatment for Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria that causes most stomach ulcers) was more effective than antibiotics alone. Another study on mice found licorice extract was effective against ulcers.
TBH, more research on humans is needed to prove licorice’s benefits on ulcers 10/10.
An anti-cancer candy too?
Several smaller studies indicate licorice may have positive effects for fighting cancer. According to a test tube study, licorice can slow the growth of melanoma cells.
In a 2020 study, scientists used an antioxidant compound in licorice to prevent the growth of breast cancer cells in the lab. And in another study, the same licorice-derived compound inhibited the growth of colon cancer in mice.
Licorice may also help ease the effects of cancer treatments. Folks who receive radiation or chemotherapy often develop mouth sores called oral mucositis. Research suggests that a certain form of oral licorice treatments can help.
Licorice might help you breathe easier
Herbal teas marketed for coughs and colds often have licorice. According to 2019 research, licorice herbal tea inhibits the growth of the bacteria that causes strep throat (Streptococcus pyogenes). Another study on mice showed licorice may reduce throat inflammation due to asthma.
Make your mouth sparkle
There’s evidence that licorice compounds could support oral health. Research on mice shows that some specialized forms of licorice may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can help with:
- gum disease
- mouth ulcers
FYI: It’s important to note that more research on humans is needed to confirm these benefits.
A study of preschool kids showed that licorice lollipops reduced cavity-causing bacteria.
Wait, there’s more!
Here are some other health benefits of licorice.
- Manage hormones. Licorice can reduce testosterone production, making it a potential treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Reduce menopause symptoms. Licorice root might help with hot flashes.
- Lower weight. A 2017 review showed that licorice can lower body weight, but it also causes high blood pressure.
- Support liver health. Glycyrrhizic acid, a compound found in licorice, has potential to help people with liver diseases like hepatitis.
Licorice root is generally considered fine as a food ingredient — but that doesn’t mean all supplements are safe. So, stick to supplements that have a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stamp of approval.
Too much of a tasty thing
You should def watch your licorice portions since large doses can cause negative side effects. Too much glycyrrhizin can cause:
- low potassium
- high blood pressure
- congestive heart failure
- irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia
There’s no research to show licorice is safe for pregnant peeps. So you should avoid it if your eggo is preggo or if you’re breastfeeding.
Not a good combo
Licorice root is known to interact with some medications. Avoid it if you take:
- blood thinners
- blood pressure medication
- estrogen-based contraceptives
- cholesterol-lowering meds and statins
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
There’s no standard recommended dose for licorice root or its derivatives. But, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends you limit your glycyrrhizin intake to 100 milligrams a day or less.
If you can’t get enough licorice flavor, you should look for deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) products. It has the same taste without the potential risks.
PSA: Def talk to your doctor before changing up your supplement regiment.
Shop for licorice root products online
Licorice root isn’t just a tasty treat. It’s also known for its various health benefits. You can get it as a a supplement, tea, candy, or topical product. Just keep in mind, it can do more harm than good if you take too much of it.