Licorice root health benefits versus side effects

Licorice root health benefits

Do you have any doubts about licorice root health benefits?

Do you know anyone afraid to consume it because they have high blood pressure? 

Have you ever heard that it can control weight gain?

In our article, we talk about licorice and its exceptional benefits.

We will also discuss the reality of its negative effects on patients with hypertension and kidneys disease, so please stay tuned!



Where did licorice originate?

This plant comes from the dark-colored roots of the licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra), which grows in Asia and Europe.

The benefits of licorice have been known since ancient Chinese and Greek times, and it was widely used in folk medicine to treat multiple disease conditions.



Licorice nutritional benefits

It contains licorice extract known as Glycyrrhizin or Glycyrrhizic Acid.

Glycyrrhizin is the main reason for the sweet taste of licorice.

It is also responsible for the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial effects.

Each 100 gm of licorice root contains:

  • 375 calories.
  • 93.55 g of carbohydrates.
  • 0.05 g of fat.
  • 50 mg sodium.
  • 37 mg potassium.
  • 3 mg calcium.
  • 0.13 mg iron.



Licorice root health benefits

Licorice has been used since ancient times to relieve acidity, GERD, and to soothe stomach upsets, as well as for coughs and sore throats.

There have been numerous studies about licorice health benefits, some of which have proven effective in relieving infections in certain diseased cases, and some have not.

Among these benefits are the following:

Licorice benefits for skin-Eczema

Also known as atopic dermatitis, there has been evidence that applying 2% licorice extract to sensitive skin improves symptoms of eczema.

Also, adding an ointment containing licorice three times a day for two weeks contributes to relieving inflammation, swelling and itching.

Mouth ulcers

Studies have shown that adding licorice patches on mouth ulcers; reduces their size but does not speed up recovery.

While using a rinse or gargle containing licorice solution helped relieve pain and speed up the healing of sores.

Digestive problems

A 30-day study on 50 people with indigestion and GERD reported improvement in heartburn and reflux symptoms.

Another study, was also conducted to find licorice benefits for stomach ulcers and the Helicobacter Pylori that most often causes them.

Results showed it contributed to reducing the proportion of microbes and improving stomach ulcers when taken along with known medications for this condition.

Benefits of licorice for weight loss

In an Italian study; Researchers found that consuming 3.5 grams of black licorice candy daily reduced body fat by a maximum of 4%.

 Scientists conducted the study over two months on seven volunteers; aged 22-26 years.

They were asked to eat a licorice product that contains 7% glycyrrhizic acid.

The scientists followed up on weight, blood pressure, and fat percentage. 

They noticed a decrease in fat percentage to 1.2%, while the body’s water storage increased by 5%, without weight loss.

Scientists attributed this to the strong taste of licorice, which may cause loss of appetite, but there is no evidence to confirm these assumptions.



Black licorice root side effects

After discussing several licorice root health benefits, it is time to explore the truths behind some of the possible side effects.

Scientists showed that consuming 5 grams or more of licorice daily for more than four weeks is likely to cause more harm than benefit.

This damage is even more severe for those who eat high-salt diets, suffer from kidney or heart problems, or have high blood pressure.

Among those side effects, we mention the following:

  • Hypertension.
  • Low potassium levels.
  • Weakness or even paralysis.
  • Arrhythmia.
  • Heart attack.

There are glycyrrhizin-free products, so they are safe to use in high doses of up to 4.5g and for up to 4 months.



Contraindications of licorice root

Contraindications of licorice root

It is best not to consume licorice in the following conditions:

Pregnancy and lactation

Consuming licorice root when pregnant at a rate of 250g per week increases the risk of premature birth or a possible miscarriage.

Also, consuming large quantities that contain Glycyrrhizin may negatively affect the development of the fetus’s brain; and this appears after birth in later stages of development.

But there are insufficient details – so far – about the benefits of licorice and how safe it is to take it during breastfeeding.

Heart disease

Eating licorice may harm heart patients, especially those with congestive heart failure, but how does that happen?

Licorice helps store water in the body; since its main ingredient, Glycyrrhizin has properties similar to mineral corticosteroids, which lowers potassium levels in the blood and stimulates the storage of sodium ions.

That mechanism for storing sodium ions leads to increased water storage in the body.

Licorice and blood pressure

Caution is required when consuming licorice in patients with high blood pressure.

The body’s ability to store sodium ions with water; has a significant impact on blood pressure elevation.

It also weakens the effectiveness of anti-hypertensive medications.

Types of cancers

Licorice has an effect similar to estrogen, and an increase in the concentration of this hormone in a woman’s body poses a threat to these previous conditions.

Some types of cancer, such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids, necessitate caution when taking it.


Low blood potassium affects muscle strength, causing weakness and worsening the condition.

Kidney disease

Some may ask about the benefits of licorice for the kidneys, but scientists warn against taking it in the presence of kidney problems.

This is due to its ability to inhibit the renal hormones (Aldosterone) that regulate the body’s water and salt balance.

Male sexual problems

The components of licorice affect testosterone concentration in the blood, resulting in decreased sexual desire and erections.


Avoid licorice for two weeks before any surgery because it can make it difficult to control blood pressure during the procedure.



Drug interactions

Despite the numerous licorice root health benefits, it can also interfere with several medications, causing their effects to increase to dangerous levels, or partially or completely block their action.


A medicinal substance used to prevent blood clots from occurring, but it may threaten the patient’s life by taking licorice with it, so how is that?

The body begins to break down warfarin after a specified period and then eliminates it from the body.

But with the presence of Glycyrrhizin, Warfarin is broken down more quickly and excreted from the body, which reduces the drug’s effectiveness and increases the chance of clots forming.


The danger of taking this medicine increases when potassium levels in the blood are low, so it is necessary to maintain appropriate potassium concentrations to avoid the side effects of this medicine.

Therefore, caution is required when drinking licorice with patients using this medicine.


Licorice affects the level of hormones in the body, and it may also weaken the effectiveness of estrogen pills or its derivatives when taken to prevent pregnancy or for other reasons.

Estrogen derivatives include:

  • Conjugated Equine Estrogens.
  • Ethinyl estradiol.
  • Estradiol (Estradiol).


Diuretics work by a similar mechanism as licorice, both of which increase the excretion of potassium in the urine, which may result in a marked decrease in its concentration in the blood.

Antihypertensive medications

Large amounts of licorice compounds reduce the effectiveness of antihypertensive medications.

Those drugs include:

  • Captopril.
  • Losartan
  • Amlodipine.
  • Hydrochlorothiazide.
  • Furosemide


These medications lower the level of potassium in the blood, which can be dangerous when consumed with licorice in large quantities.



How much licorice is safe?

Licorice root can be used in the form of tea, extract, powder, dietary supplement, or skin lotion.

There is no specific dosage for licorice, but it is recommended not to exceed 100 mg of Glycyrrhizin per day.


In conclusion, We all know that medicinal plants are a rich source of vitamins and minerals and despite the numerous licorice root health benefits, excessive consumption may do more harm than good.


Read Also;

Milk Thistle Herb |Uses and benefits

Star anise |The Top 7 benefits!

Translated by
Dr. Basant Mohamed Atef

Translator. Dr. Basant Atef

I am a pharmacist with a Ph.D. in microbiology. Passionate about delivering medical sciences to others. I love explaining and researching medical information in both Arabic and English. It always bothered me that medical information in Arabic is so scarce, so I took it upon myself to help change that. So, I specialized in SEO medical content writing as well as medical translation. When I am not working on that, you’ll find me out exploring the world with my two wonderful boys.
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