Licorice Root Tea: Is It Good For You?

Licorice is a plant grown primarily in the Mediterranean and western Asia. Licorice is a common flavoring in candy, medicines, tobacco, and personal products like toothpaste. The root of the plant is not only 50 times sweeter than sugar, but it also has numerous medicinal properties.

Licorice root is often added to herbal teas to enhance the flavor. You can find licorice root tea in health food stores and some supermarkets. It’s also possible to buy licorice root from health food shops if you wish to make the tea yourself.

To make licorice root tea, boil 1 cup of water and pour over one licorice root. Allow licorice root to steep for 5 minutes. Strain and serve.

Licorice root tea is commonly used as a gastrointestinal (stomach-related) remedy and to soothe a sore throat. Recent studies have suggested that licorice root is useful in treating liver disease and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS ) infections, and is also helpful in treating gum disease and preventing cavities.

Nutrition Information

One licorice root contains:

  • Calories: 17
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 2 grams
  • Fiber:  0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Licorice root tea is a great source of:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Potential Health Benefits of Licorice Root Tea

Research has found several potential health benefits to drinking licorice root tea: 

Protection Against Infections

Licorice root contains over 300 flavonoids (plant compounds). These potent plant chemicals have shown valuable antiviral and antibacterial activity in numerous studies. Licorice root extracts have been shown to help treat hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), coxsackievirus (responsible for hand-foot-and-mouth disease), and flu viruses. 

Gastrointestinal Relief

Licorice root tea is a common home remedy for an upset stomach. One study showed that using licorice root extract for 30 days greatly improved gastrointestinal symptoms compared to a placebo. This improvement may be due to licorice’s antibacterial properties. Bacterial infections are an underlying cause of indigestion, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Reduce Acid Reflux

Licorice root may reduce the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), such as acid reflux (also known as heartburn). One study found licorice root to be more effective at reducing the symptoms of acid reflux than antacids over a two-year period.

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Improved Liver Health

Fatty liver disease can be caused by drinking alcohol. This condition causes fat to build up in the liver. Researchers have found that licorice root protects against oxidative damage in the liver and may be an effective treatment for fatty liver disease. 

Anti-Cancer Activity

Several studies have shown that compounds found in licorice are powerful antioxidants and protect against cellular damage. One particular flavonoid in licorice disrupts the cancer cell growth cycle and even increases cancer cell apoptosis (cell death). 

Promotes Skin Health

Some studies have shown that topical gels made with licorice root can help treat atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema). Licorice root can help reduce irritated, inflamed, and itchy skin caused by eczema.

Potential Risks of Licorice Root Tea

The same compounds in licorice root that have health benefits can also cause some negative effects. Consider the following before preparing or drinking licorice root tea:

Lower Potassium Levels

Eating licorice root reduces potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can cause an irregular heartbeat and may be dangerous if you have heart disease.

High Blood Pressure

Licorice can also cause an increase in blood pressure, so if you already have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before eating licorice.

Pregnancy Concerns

A Finnish study found that the children of women who ate large amounts of licorice during their pregnancies had a higher risk of developmental problems. Therefore, pregnant women should avoid licorice root.

Medication Interference

Avoid licorice root if you take diuretics, as it may increase the amount of potassium excreted by the body. Licorice root can also interfere with Aldactone, a blood pressure medication. Licorice root should also be avoided if you’re taking Warfarin, a blood thinner.

Reduced Testosterone Levels

Some studies have shown that consuming seven grams of licorice (containing 500 milligrams of glycyrrhizin) per day for seven days can decrease testosterone levels in men. However, other studies have found no significant effect on testosterone levels. Further research is needed.

Most of the side effects associated with licorice are believed to be caused by glycyrrhizic acid. To avoid the chance of experiencing any complications, look for deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 13, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B.: “The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widely-used Chinese herb.”

American Journal of Epidemiology: “Maternal Licorice Consumption During Pregnancy and Pubertal, Cognitive, and Psychiatric Outcomes in Children.”

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Hepatoprotective effect of licorice, the root of Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fischer, in alcohol-induced fatty liver disease.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Why Black Licorice Can Make Your Heart Skip a Beat — Literally.”

Current Pharmacology Reports: “Chemopreventive Effects of Licorice and Its Components.”

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “An Extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) Alleviates Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.”

Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society: “Prevention of symptoms of gastric irritation (GERD) using two herbal formulas: An observational study.”

My Fitness Pal: “Licorice Root.”

National Center for Complementary Integrative Health: “Licorice Root.”

Peace Health: “Licorice.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Licorice Root.”

World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: “EFFECT OF DILUENT SUPPLEMENTATION WITH LIQUORICE EXTRACT ON QUALITY AND STORAGE ABILITY OF ROOSTER’ SEMEN DURING LIQUID STORAGE.”

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