Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)


Licorice Overview:

Licorice is a popular herb with a few unique characteristics. In Chinese medicine, licorice is one of the premier tonic herbs, and is found in a wide range of diverse herbal formulas for treating conditions ranging from depression and anxiety, to infection and inflammation.

Licorice is an adrenal tonic that works by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down cortisol. As a result cortisol levels can be increased, which is useful for restoring function to fatigued adrenals.

Licorice is also a popular herb for gastric and duodenal ulcers, to which there has been a good deal of research.

+ Indications:

  • Adrenal Insufficiency
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Arthritis
  • Canker Sores
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive tract inflammation
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastric ulcer
  • Herpes Virus
  • Human Immunodefficiency Virus HIV
  • metabolic syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Respiratory tract inflammation
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus SLE
  • Ulcers
  • Weaning off corticosteroid medications

+ Contraindications:

  • Hypertension

Main Herbal Actions:

  • Nootropic
  • Anodyne
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antinflammatory
  • Emolient
  • Estrogenic
  • Expectorant
  • Anti-ulcer

Main Uses:

Licorice is mainly used for treating ulcers, digestive and respiratory tract inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. The corticosteroid mimicking activity of licorice makes it useful for treating conditions involving adrenal insufficiency, and weaning off of corticosteroid medications.


Daily Dosage

Liquid Extract

Ratio: 1:1

2-6 mL

Weekly Dosage

Liquid Extract

Ratio: 1:1

15-40 mL

Part Used


Family Name



Europe (Mediteranean)

Throughout Southeast Asia

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Constituents of Interest

  • Glycyrrhizin
  • Licopyranocoumarins
  • Glycyrrhisoflavone
  • Liquiritin
  • Formonetin

Common Names

  • Licorice
  • Sweet root
  • Gan Cao (China)
  • Kanzo (Japan)
  • Kamcho (Korea)
  • Subholzwurzel (Germany)
  • Lakritzenwurzel (Germany)
  • Reglisse
  • Bois Doux (France)
  • Liquirizia (Italy)
  • Lakrids (Danish)
  • Yashimadhu (Sanskrit)

Botanical Info:

Licorice is a member of the Leguminoseae family of plants, which comprises 751 genera and 19,000 species, making it the third largest group of flowering plants only to Orchidaceae and Asteraceae.


Level Of Research:


Clinical Applications Of Licorice:

Licorice is one of the main adrenal tonics available in herbal medicine (the other is rehmannia). It is used alongside periods of adrenal fatigue to increase cortisol levels by inhibiting its breakdown.

Licorice is also especially useful for treating gastric and duodenal ulcers. In a similar effect, licorice is useful for soothing an inflammed gastrointestinal and repiratory tract.

The serotonin reuptake inhibition attribiuted to the plant give an explanation for the traditional antidepressant use of the herb. In clinical practice, this is a good addition to antidepressant formulas, but may not be potent enough to be used on its own.



Do not use licorice with hypertensive individuals. Cortisol increases with licorice use can lead to a further heightened blood pressure.


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For a list of references, visit the full licorice monograph.