Family • Leguminosae - Glycyrrhiza glabra L. - LIQUORICE - Yan gan cao

Scientific names

Glycyrrhiza glabra L.
Glycyrrhiza echinata Lepech.
Glycyrrhiza hirsuta L.
Glycyrrhiza officinalis Lepech.
Glycyrrhiza pallida Boiss. & Bie
Glycyrrhiza violacea Boiss. & Bie
Liquiritia officinarum Medik.
Liquiritia officinalis Moench.

Common names

Anis (Tag.)
Common licorice (Engl.)
Sweet wood (Engl.)
Licorice root (Engl.)
Liquorice (Engl.)
Orozuz (Span.)
Yan gan cao (Chin.)

Other vernacular names

ARABIC: ‘arq al sous. ITALIAN: Liquirizia, Regolizia. SINHALESE: Atimaduram.
BENGALI: Jashtimodhu. JAPANESE: Gurukiruriza gurabura, You kanzou,You kanzou. SLOVAKIAN: Sladké drievko
BURMESE: Noekiyu. KANNADA: Atimadhura, Yasthimadhu. SLOVENIAN : Sladki koren.
CHINESE: Yang can cao, Guang guo gan cao. KOREAN: Mingamtscho. SPANISH: Orozuz, Ragaliz.
CROATIAN: Sladki korijen. LAOTIAN: Saem. SWAHILI: Susu.
DANISH: Lakrids. MALAYALAM: Yashtimadhukam. SWEDISH: Lakrits, Lakritsrot.
DUTCH: Zoethout. MARATHI: Jesthamadha. TAMIL: Atimaduram, Ciimaiyatimaturam, Atimaduram, Athimaduram, Atimaturam.
FINNISH: Lakritsijuuri, Lakritsi. NORWEGIAN: Lakrisrot. TELUGU: Atimadhuramu.
FRENCH: Bois doux, Réglisse, Réglisse glabre. PERSIAN: Shirin bayan. THAI: Cha em thet.
GERMAN: Bärendreck, Echtes Süßholz, Lakritze, Lakritzeholz , Lakritzenwurzel , Lakritzpflanze, Spanisches Süßholz, Süßholz, Süßholzwurzel. PORTUGUESE: Alcaçuz. TURKISH: Meyan kökü
GREEK: Glykoriza (Glikoriza). PUNJABI: Malathi, Muleti. URDU: Mulhati.
GUJARATI: Jethimadh. RUSSIAN: Koren solodki, Lakrichnik, Solodka gladkaia, Solodka golaia. VIETNAMESE: Cam thảo.
HINDI: Jethimadh, Mulethi, Mulhatti, Mulhathi. SANSKRIT: Madhuuka, Yashtimadhu, Yoshtimadhu.

Gen info
• Licorice is a plant of ancient origin, steeped in history, and has been medicinally used for more than 4000 years. It is a component of many traditional medical systems. Hippocrates in 400 BC mentioned it as a remedy for ulcers. Locally, referred to as “anis” because of its similarity in taste with haras (fennel).
• Glycyrrhiza is Greek-derived, meaning “sweet root” and Glycyrrhiza glabra means sweet root with hairless seed pods.
• The dried, peeled or unpeeled underground stems and roots constitute the drug known as Licorice.


Licorice is a perennial plant, growing about 1.5 meter high. The wrinkled and woody rootstock is brown outside and yellow inside; sweet-tasting. Leaves are unequally branched, in 4-7 pairs. Flowers are pale blue, violet, yellowish-white or purplish in color, arising from the axils of the leaves in racemes or spikes, followed by pods. Pods are smooth and small, resembling a partly-grown peapod, compressed with many seeds.

– Cultivated.
– Nowhere spontaneous.
– Native of southeast Europe and southwest Asia.

– Study yielded Major bio-active constituent of rhizomes is glycyrrhizin (a triterpenoid saponin), glycyrrhizinic acid, glabin A and B, glycyrrhetol, glabrolie, isoglabrolide, isoflavones coumarins, triterpene sterols, etc.
– Study yielded a new chacone derivative, neoligban lipid esters and phenolic compounds (formononetin, glabridin, hemileiocarpin, hispaglabridin B, isoliquirtigenin, 4′-O-methylglabridin and paratocarpin B.


– Sweet root is said to contain a glycyrrhizin, a saponin glycoside, that is roughly 50 times sweeter than cane sugar.
– Demulcent, emollient, expectorant, antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, alterative, diuretic and laxative.
– Considered antibacterial, anti-hepatotoxic, estrogenic, antifungal, antihemorrhoidal, antihyperglycemic, antimalarial, antioxidant, antiulcer.

Parts used 
Roots, leaves, and rhizomes

– Infusion of the rootstock used for cough, colds, bronchitis, asthma, hoarseness and dysuria.
– Powdered roots used as expectorant.
– Strong decoction is laxative.
– Decoction: 20 gms for 1 liter of water, 4 ti 5 cups daily.
– In China, it is an ingredient in many remedies and used for spasmodic cough.
In ancient Greece, China and Egypt, used for gastritis and UGI tract ailments.
– The fruit, seeds and young leaves are used for flavoring. (Once used to flavor licorice candies, but most licorice candy is now flavored with anise oil.)
– Valued for its sweetness – glycyrrhizin, a component of licorice, is 50 times sweeter than table sugar.

Ritual: Ancient Egyptians used a licorice drink to honor the spirits of the Pharaohs.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Antimicrobial potential of Glycyrrhiza glabra roots / Vivek K. Guptaa, Atiya Fatimaa, Uzma Faridia et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Volume 116, Issue 2, 5 March 2008, Pages 377–380

(2) Anti-oxidant constituents of the roots and stolons of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). / Chin YW, Jung HA, Liu Y, Su BN, Castoro JA, Keller WJ, Pereira MA, Kinghorn AD. / J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jun 13;55(12):4691-7. Epub 2007 May 22.

(3) In vitro and in vivo antiallergic effects of Glycyrrhiza glabra and its components / Shin YW, Bae EA, Lee B, Lee SH, Kim JA, Kim YS, Kim DH. / Planta Med. 2007 Mar;73(3):257-61. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

(4) Protective activity of Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn. on carbon tetrachloride-induced peroxidative damage / MG Rajesh, MS Latha / Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 2004,Vol 36, No.: 5, Pp: 284-287


(6) Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) and DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) / Medline Plus

(7) The effect of Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceus and Glycyrrhiza glabra on CD25 expression in humans: a pilot study / Heather Swickey, Julie Bush et al / Phytotherapy Research • Vol 21 Issue 11, pg 1109-1112 / 10.1002/ptr.2207 About DOI

(8) Antiandrogenic activities of Glycyrrhiza glabra in male rats / Zamansoltani, F et al / International Journal of Andrology, Volume 32, Number 4, August 2009 , pp. 417-422(6) / DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2008.00944.x

(9) HPLC-MS STUDY OF PHYTOESTROGENS FROM GLYCYRRHIZA GLABRA / Ibrahim Khalaf, Laurian Vlase et al / FARMACIA, 2010, Vol. 58, 1

(10) ANTICONVULSANT ACTIVITY OF ROOTS AND RHIZOMES OF GLYCYRRHIZA GLABRA / Shirish D Ambawade, Veena Kasture, Sanjay Kasture / Indian Journal of Pharmacology 2002; 34: 251-255

(11) Glabridin as a major active isoflavan from Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) reverses learning and memory deficits in diabetic rats. / Hasanein P / Acta Physiol Hung. 2011 Jun;98(2):221-30.

(12) Risk and safety assessment on the consumption of Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza sp.), its extract and powder as a food ingredient, with emphasis on the pharmacology and toxicology of glycyrrhizin. / Isbrucker RA, Burdock GA. / Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006 Dec;46(3):167-92. Epub 2006 Aug 1.

(13) Studies of Antibacterial Activities of Glycyrrhiza glabra Root Extract / Manoj M. Nitalikar, Kailas C. Munde, Balaji V. Dhore, Sajid N. Shikalgar / International Journal of PharmTech ResearchI, Vol.2, No.1, pp 899-901, Jan-Mar 2010

(14) Study on Herb-herb Interaction Potential of Glycyrrhiza glabra with Solanum xanthocarpum and Adhatoda vasica on Mast Cell Stabilizing Activity / Ravi A. Manek, Navin R. Sheth, Jitendra D. Vaghasiya, Shailesh V. Malaviya, Nurudin P. Jivani and J R. Chavda / International Journal of Pharmacology, 2011, Vol 7, No: 5,Pp 589-598 / DOI: 10.3923/ijp.2011.589.598

(15) An Extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) Alleviates Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study / Kadur Ramamurthy Raveendra, Jayachandra, Venkatappa Srinivasa, Kadur Raveendra Sushma et al / Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 216970, 9 pages / doi:10.1155/2012/216970

(16) Preterm Birth and Licorice Consumption during Pregnancy / Timo E. Strandberg, Sture Andersson, Anna-Liisa Järvenpää and Paul M. McKeigue / American Journal of Epidemiology Volume 156, Issue 9Pp. 803-805

(17) Eating Licorice In Pregnancy May Affect A Child’s IQ And Behavior / Science Daily, Oct 2009

(18) Maternal prenatal licorice consumption alters hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis function in children. / Räikkönen K, Seckl JR, Heinonen K, Pyhälä R, Feldt K, Jones A, Pesonen AK, Phillips DI, Lahti J, Järvenpää AL, Eriksson JG, Matthews KA, Strandberg TE, Kajantie E. / Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010 Nov;35(10):1587-93. Epub 2010 May 26.

(19) Maternal Licorice Consumption and Detrimental Cognitive and Psychiatric Outcomes in Children / Katri Räikkönen*, Anu-Katriina Pesonen, Kati Heinonen et al / American Journal of Epidemiology Volume 170, Issue 9Pp. 1137-1146

(20) In vitro studies on protective effect of Glycyrrhiza glabra root extracts against cadmium-induced genetic and oxidative damage in human lymphocytes. / Dirican E, Turkez H / Cytotechnology. 2014 Jan;66(1):9-16. / doi: 10.1007/s10616-012-9531-5. Epub 2013 Jan 17.

(21) The healing effect of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) on Helicobacter pylori infected peptic ulcers / Marjan Rahnama, Davood Mehrabani, […], and Mehdi Saberi Firoozi / Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Jun 2013; 18(6):532-533

(22) Effect of Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza Glabra) on Intelligence and Memory Function in Male Adolescents / A.K. Teltumbde, A.K. Wahurwagh, M.K. Lonare* and T.M. Nesari / Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences (SJAMS) Sch. J. App. Med. Sci., 2013; 1(2):90-95

(23) Phytochemical Constituent, Pharmacological Activities and Medical Uses Through the Millenia of Glycyrrhiza glabra Linn: A Review / Asha Roshan et al / International Research Journal of Pharm, 2012, 3(8).

(24) Antibacterial activity of Glycyrrhiza glabra against oral pathogens: an in vitro study / Fereshteh Sedighinia, Akbar Safipour Afshar, Saman soleimanpour1, Reza zarif, Javad Asili, Kiarash Ghazvini / Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, Vol. 2, No. 3, Summer 2012, 118-124

(25) ANTIDYSLIPIDAEMIC ACTIVITY OF GLYCYRRHIZA GLABRA IN HIGH FRUCTOSE DIET INDUCED DSYSLIPIDAEMIC SYRIAN GOLDEN HAMSTERS / Santosh Kumar Maurya, Kanwal Raj* and Arvind Kumar Srivastava / Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, 2009 / 24 (4) 404-409


(27) Biosynthesis of silver nanoparticles from Glycyrrhiza glabra root extract / S. Dinesh, S. Karthikeyan and P. Arumugam / Archives of Applied Science Research, 2012, 4 (1):178-187

(28) In Silico and In Vivo Anti-Malarial Studies of 18β Glycyrrhetinic Acid from Glycyrrhiza glabra / Komal Kalani, Jyoti Agarwal, Sarfaraz Alam, Feroz Khan, Anirban Pal mail, Santosh Kumar Srivastava / PLoS ONE 8(9): e74761 / doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074761

Study Findings
• Antimicrobial / Glabridin / Roots: Study investigated the antimicrobial potential of Gg roots. Glabridin was identified as potentially active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains. It also showed activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative strains of bacteria.
• Antimicrobial / Leaves: Study of antimicrobial activity of various extracts of leaves were studied and compared to root extract activities. The root and leaf extracts showed dose-dependent activity against Candida albicans and tested gram-positive bacteria. The ethanolic extracts of leaves was the most active against gram-positive bacteria.
• Antioxidant / Anti-Cancer: Study yielded a new chacone derivative, neoligban lipid esters and seven known phenolic compounds. Hispaglabridin B, isoliquirtigenin, and paratocarpin B were found to be potent antioxidant agents. Isoliquirtigenin also demonstrated to prevent the incidence of 1,2-dimethylhydrazine-induced colon and lung tumors in mice when administered at a dose of 300 mg/kg.
• Memory Enhancement Effect: Aqueous extract of G glabra significantly improved learning and memory of mice and also reversed the amnesia induced by diazepam and scopolamine. Its antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties may be contributing to the memory enhancement effect through facilitation of the cholinergic-transmission in mouse brain.
• Anti-Allergic: Study yielded main components as glycyrrhizin, 18beta-glycyrrhetinic acid, isoliquiritin, and liquiritigenin were isolated from licorice, and their anti-allergic effects, such as anti-scratching behavior and IgE production-inhibitory activity, were evaluated both in vitro and in vivo. Antiallergic effects of licorice are were attributed to glycyrrhizin, 18beta-glycyrrhetinic acid, and liquiritigenin, which can relieve IgE-induced allergic diseases such as dermatitis and asthma.
• Hepatoprotective: Study evaluated the potential efficacy of Gg in protecting tissues from peroxidative damage in CCl4-intoxicated rats. Results showed Gg to be a potential antioxidant and attenuates the hepatotoxic effect of CCL4.
• Osteoporosis Benefit: Hexane extract of Gg showed an inhibitory effect on bone resorption of about 40% at dilution of 1:10,000 without being toxic.
• T-cell Expression Enhancement: A double-blind randomized pilot study showed CD25 expression on T cells significantly increased in subjects ingesting Echinacea with notable increases in activation from Astragalus membranaceous and Glycyrrhiza glabra.
• Anti-Androgenic: Reduction of serum testosterone has been reported with G glabra. This study showed the alcoholic extract of G glabra to have antiandrogenic properties possibly through increased testosterone metabolism, down-regulation of androgen receptors or activation of estrogen receptors.
• Hypolipidemic: G glabra has been known to contain hypolipidemic compounds and flavonoids with high antioxidant properties. The study showed GG significantly decreased TC, LDL and TG levels while increasing HDL and lessening atherosclerotic lesion in the aorta. The effect was probably through to an effect on plasma lipoproteins, its antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties.
• Cerebro-protective: Study on the aqueous extracts of roots of G glabra showed it possesses a cerebroprotective effect in hypoxic rats which may be mediated through its antioxidant effects.
• Phytoesterogens / Roots: Study analyzing the phytoestrogen content of GG roots harvested in Syria yielded eight phytoestrogen compounds. All tested extracts contain daidzein, daidzin, genistein, formononetin, ononin and coumestrol.
• Anticonvulsant: Study showed the ethanolic extract of G. glabra inhibits PTZ- (pentylenetetrazol) and lithium-pilocarpine-induced convulsions but not MES-induced (maximum electroshock seizure) convulsions.
• Glabridin / Memory and Learning Benefits: Glabridin is a major active isoflavan from Glycyrrhiza glabra. Study investigated the effect of chronic treatment with glabridin on cognitive function in untreated diabetic and glabridin-treated diabetic rats. Results showed improved learning and memory in non-diabetic rats and reversal of learning and memory deficits in diabetic rats. The effect was attributed, possibly, to the combined antioxidant, neuroprotective, and anticholinesterase properties of glabridin. Results suggested a potential use in the management of demented diabetic patients.
• Pharmacology / Toxicology of Glycyrrhizin: Licorice extracts and its main component, glycyrrhizin, are extensively used in foods, tobacco and herbal medicinal formulations. In the US, estimated consumption is 0.027-3.6 mg glycyrrhizin/kg/day. Glycyrrhizinates can inhibit 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, the enzyme responsible for inactivating cortisol. High level exposure can produce hypermineralocorticoid-like effects in both animals and humans. Other studies have shown anti-ulcer, anti-viral, and anti-genotoxic properties. The study proposes an acceptable daily intake of 0.015-0.229 mg glycyrrhizin KBW per day.
• Antibacterial: Study of extracts showed significant antibacterial activity against two gram-positive (B. subtilis and S. aureus) and two gram-negative (E. coli and P. aeruginosa) bacteria.
• Blood Glucose / Anti-Diabetic Effects: Study shows Gg affects peroxisome proliferation activated receptors, thereby regulating the expression of genes that play an important role in glucose metabolism.
• Mast Cell Stabilizing Activity / Synergistic Herb-Herb Interaction: Pretreatment of mast cell with Liquorice extract, Solanum xanthocarpum extract, and Adhatoda vasica extract showed significant protection against experimentally induced degranulation.
• Alleviation of Functional Dyspepsia: In a randomized, DB, placebo-controlled study, GutGard, an extract of Gg, showed significant efficacy in the management of functional dyspepsia.
• Excessive Use During Pregnancy / Adverse Effects on Child’s IQ and Behavior: Science News report that excessive consumption of licorice by expectant mothers may adversely affect the child’s intelligence and behavior – children did not perform as well in cognitive tests and were more likely to have poor attention spans and exhibit disruptive behavior (ADHD). The effects were attributed to glycyrrhizin in licorice, affecting the placental barrier and allowing stress hormones (glucocorticoids) fetal brain development.
• Preterm Birth Risks: Heavy licorice consumptions has been associated with shorter gestation. Study showed heavy glycyrrhizin consumption versus lower level consumption was associated with a two-fold increased risk of preterm (<37 weeks) delivery.
• Effect on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenocortical Axis Function in Children: Prenatal overexposure to glucocorticoids is a mechanism that may adversely “program” the function of the HPAA. Glycyrrhizin in licorice potently inhibits 11B-hyroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2, the feto-placental barrier to the higher maternal cortisol levels. Study results showed dose-dependent pre-natal ‘programming’ of HPAA function by overexposure to glucocorticoids.
• Prenatal Use / Adverse Effects on Child’s IQ and Behavior:Study concludes prenatal exposure to glycyrrhiza dose-dependently predicts poorer verbal and visuospatial abilities and narrative memory, as well as increased risk of externalizing symptoms, attention, rule-breaking and aggression problems in children.
• Protective against Cadmium and Oxidative Induced DNA Damage: Study showed G. glabra extracts provided increased resistance of DNA against CdCl2 induced genetic and oxidative damage in human lymphocytes.
• Protective against Cadmium and Oxidative Induced DNA Damage: Study in peptic ulcer patients compared quadruple therapy of amoxicillin, metronidazole, omeprazole, and bismuth subnitrate with a regimen that replaced bismuth subnitrate with licorice. Results suggest licorice could be a replacement for BSN in treatment with quadruple therapy when the regimen is not available.
• Effect of Yashtimadhu on Mental Intelligence and Memory Function in Male Students: A formulation from crude powder prepared from roots was used in evaluating mental intelligence and memory function in male students. Results showed Yashtimadhu consumption improves general intelligence rather than STM (short term memory).
• Antibacterial / Oral Pathogens: Study evaluated the antibacterial activity of G. glabra against oral pathogens. Results showed good antibacterial activity against six pathogens and suggests a good candidate to control dental caries and endodontic infections.
• Antidyslipidemic / Roots: Study evaluated an ethanolic extract of root and its fractions for antidyslipidemic activity on HFD induced dyslipidemic hamsters. Results showed reduced cholesterol levels which could be due to both phytosterol and saponin content of the GG root.
• Effects of Androgenic Alopecia / Roots: Study showed a petroleum ether extract of roots of G. glabra possess anti-androgenic alopecia activity comparable to that of finasteride, the standard drug recommended for androgenic alopecia.
• Antitussive: of Androgenic Alopecia / Roots: Study evaluated the antitussive activity of ethanol extracts of G. glabra and Adhatoda vasica in a cough model induced by sulphur dioxide gas in mice. Results showed the extracts exerted significant antitussive effect in experimental induced cough reflex in mice comparable to the standard drug codeine sulfate.
• Antiarthritic / Synergism with Boswellia serrata: Combined formulation of Glycyrrhiza glabra and Boswellia serrata at 1:1 proportion showed significant synergistic action in freund’s adjuvant induced arthritis in rats.
• Anti-Inflammatory / Anti-Ulcer / Lipid Effects: Study of root extract showed significant reductions in total cholesterol and triglycerides without any significant reductions in HDl, LDL, and VLDL. The extracts also showed marked anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer effects in male rats.
• Silver Nanoparticles from Root Extracts: Plants provide an environmentally friendly nanoparticle synthesis process without using toxic chemicals in the synthesis protocols. In the study, the biosynthesis of silver nanoparticles was carried out using Glycyrrhiza glabra root extract as reducing agent.
• Antimalarial / 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid : Study investigated roots of G. glabra for anti-malarial activity. Study isolated 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid as a major constituent. in vitro studies against P. falcifarum showed significant anti-malarial potential. In-silico study showed GA possesses drug-like properties. In vivo study showed dose-dependent antimalarial activity.

Toxicity concerns
• At high doses, may produce potentially severe side effects – hypertension, hypokalemia, and fluid retention.
• Most adverse effects attributed to glycyrrhiza (glycyrrhizic acid). Processing can remove the glycyrrhiza to produce DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) without the metabolic side effects of the unprocessed licorice.
• Heavy consumption has been associated with increased risk of preterm birth.

Extracts, tea, flavorings, and supplements in the cybermarket.