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Glycyrrhiza-Glabra (view original)

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Glycyrrhiza glabra
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Illustration by Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm
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Glycyrrhiza glabra radix
(Liquorice Root)
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Photo by Michael Côté
licensed as CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 CA

Other Names

Guāng guǒ gāncǎo
gan cao
Glycyrrhiza glabra L.
There are nine synonyms according to the Catalogue of Life[1]
The Chinese materia medica also uses Glycyrrhiza inflata Batalin, and Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. as its standard species.[4]


If dry-fried, the thermal properties of licorice root is considered warming, otherwise it's considered neutral or cooling.[4]

Channels Entered

Primarily ShaoYin (Heart/Kidney), TaiYin (Lung/Spleen), and YangMing (Stomach/Large-Intestine), but licorice is considered to enter all the channels.[4]


TaiYin Qi tonic, humidifies the Lungs, lessens spasms and pain, mitigates heat and toxins, and modulates other herbs.[4]


Shortness of breath, lethargy, and loose stool (due to insufficient TaiYin Qi)
Spasms or pain of the abdomen and/or legs especially when licorice root is combined with white peony root (Paeonia lactiflora, bai shao)[4]


Some traditional North American use combined licorice root with Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), black cherry (Prunus serotina), flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum), and ginger root (Zingiber officinale) made as an infusion for sore throats and various respiratory problems. [2]
Licorice with white peony root (Paeonia lactiflora, bai shao) can reduce spasms and pain of the abdomen and legs.[4]
With Greater Burdock seed (Arctium lappa, niu bang zi), licorice can help with swollen and sore throats (due to Wind-Heat).[4]
Licorice with Vigna radiata (lu dou) as an antidote for food poisoning and for poisoning from other toxic herbs like Aconitum carmichaeli (aconite, fu zi, Chinese wolfsbane, carmichael's monkshood).[4]

Indigenous usage

The Keetoowah or Tsalagi used licorice as an expectorant, and to treat coughs and asthma.[5]
The Meskwaki used a compound with licorice root for "female trouble".[6]

Other uses

Added to tobacco for flavour.
Because licorice root can foam with water, it was used in fire extinguishers and shampoo.[2][3]
Used as a beverage with mung bean (Vigna radiata, lu dou) to prevent heat rash and Summer-Heat.[4]

Known Toxicity or Adverse Reactions

Licorice may contribute to hypertension.[12]
Excessive intake of licorice should be avoided during pregnancy as "high maternal licorice consumption during pregnancy is associated with poorer cognitive performance and with externalizing symptoms and attention problems in offspring at eight years of age. These findings are not interdependent; appear dose related, at least for cognitive effects; and are not obviously confounded by maternal or neonatal parameters."[13]
Licorice has glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid properties, but if consumed in excess, can lead to an acquired form of apparent mineralocorticoid excess syndrome which causes hypokalaemia, hypernatremia, oedema, hypertension, metabolic alkalosis, and low plasma renin and aldosterone levels.[14]

Notes on identification

There are many species used medicinally in the Glycyrrhiza genus like
Glycyrrhiza aspera Pall. (cu mao gan cao)
Glycyrrhiza eurycarpa P.C.Li (huang gan cao)
Glycyrrhiza pallidiflora Maxim. (ci guo can cao)
Be sure to differentiate from Sophora alopecuroides L. (ku dou zi)


Glycyrrhiza glabra has potent antiangiogenic and antitumor activity. Aqueous extract inhibits in vivo and in vitro proliferation of Ehrlich ascites tumor cells. Meaning the extract from Glycyrhiza glabra root might be a potential supplemental source for cancer therapy.[7]
Isoflavans from Glycyrrhiza glabra were shown to be effective in protecting mitochondrial function against oxidative stresses.[8]
Antimycobacterial activity of Glycyrrhiza glabra was found at 500 μg/mL concentration; bioactivity guided phytochemical analysis identified glabridin as potentially active against both Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Ra and H37Rv strains at 29.16 μg/mL concentration; it exhibited antimicrobial activity against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.[9]
There is significant anti-tuberculosis potential of the bioactive molecules from the endophytic Fusarium solani which is derived from Glycyrrhiza glabra and was evaluated against the virulent strain of M tuberculosis.[10]
Extracts of Glycyrrhiza glabra may possess an antidepressant-like effect which seems to be mediated by an increase of brain norepinephrine and dopamine, but not by an increase of serotonin.[11]

Conservation/IUCN/CITES Status

Not Threatened.[1]

1. Roskov Y., Zarucchi J., Novoselova M. & Bisby F.(†) (eds) (2017). ILDIS World Database of Legumes (version 12, May 2014). In: Roskov Y., Abucay L., Orrell T., Nicolson D., Bailly N., Kirk P., Bourgoin T., DeWalt R.E., Decock W., De Wever A., Nieukerken E. van, Zarucchi J., Penev L., eds. (2017). Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life, 27th February 2017. Digital resource at www.catalogueoflife.org/col. Species 2000: Naturalis, Leiden, the Netherlands. ISSN 2405-8858.
2. Hutchens, Alma R., Tretchikoff, N.G, Tretchikoff, Natalie K. Indian Herbalogy of North America 1973 National Library of Ottawa , Canada Catalogue No. 615.321 RS 164 pp. 177
3. NCCIH Publication No.: D318 Updated: September 2016 Last modified December 01, 2016 https://nccih.nih.gov/health/licoriceroot
4. Benskey, Dan; Clavey, Steven; Stöger, Erich; Gamble, Andrew; Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica 3rd Edition Estland Press, Inc. 2004 pages 51, 195, 732-734
5. Hamel, Paul B. and Mary U. Chiltoskey, 1975, Cherokee Plants and Their Uses — A 400 Year History, Sylva, N.C. Herald Publishing Co., page 43
6. Smith, Huron H., 1928, Ethnobotany of the Meskwaki Indians, Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee 4:175-326, page 229
7. M.L. Sheela, M.K. Ramakrishna, Bharathi P. Salimath, Angiogenic and proliferative effects of the cytokine VEGF in Ehrlich ascites tumor cells is inhibited by Glycyrrhiza glabra Department of studies in Applied Botany and Biotechnology, University of Mysore, Manasagangothri, Mysore-570 006, India International, Elsevier B.V. 2005 Immunopharmacology Volume 6, Issue 3, March 2006, Pages 494–498
8. Araguchi, H., Yoshida, N., Ishikawa, H., Tamura, Y., Mizutani, K. and Kinoshita, T. (2000), Protection of Mitochondrial Functions against Oxidative Stresses by Isoflavans from Glycyrrhiza glabra. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 52: 219–223. doi:10.1211/0022357001773724
9. Vivek K. Guptaa, Atiya Fatimaa, Uzma Faridia, Arvind S. Negib, Karuna Shankerb, J.K. Kumarb, Neha Rahujaa, Suaib Luqmana, Brijesh S. Sisodiaa, Dharmendra Saikiaa, M.P. Darokara, Suman P.S. Khanujaa; Ethnopharmacological communication Antimicrobial potential of Glycyrrhiza glabra roots Journal of Ethnopharmacology Volume 116, Issue 2, 5 March 2008, Pages 377–380 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2007.11.037
10. Shah, A., Rather, M. A., Qazi, P. H., Aga, M. A., Mushtaq, S., Shah, A. M., Hussain, A., Baba, S. A. and Ahmad, Z. (2017), Discovery of antimicrobial and antitubercular molecules from Fusarium solani: an endophyte of Glycyrrhiza glabra. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 02 February 2017 doi:10.1111/jam.13410
11. Dinesh Dhingra, Amandeep Sharma Antidepressant-like activity of Glycyrrhiza glabra L. in mouse models of immobility tests Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry; Volume 30, Issue 3, May 2006, Pages 449–454 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2005.11.019
12. Jalili, Jamal M.D.; Askeroglu, Ufuk M.D.; Alleyne, Brendan B.S.; Guyuron, Bahman M.D. Herbal Products That May Contribute to Hypertension Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. January 2013 - Volume 131 - Issue 1 - p 168–173 doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318272f1bb
13. Katri Räikkönen, Anu-Katriina Pesonen, Kati Heinonen, Jari Lahti, Niina Komsi, Johan G. Eriksson, Jonathan R. Seckl, Anna-Liisa Järvenpää, Timo E. Strandberg; Maternal Licorice Consumption and Detrimental Cognitive and Psychiatric Outcomes in Children. American Journal of Epidemiology 2009; 170 (9): 1137-1146. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp272
14. Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, ISSN 1923-2861 print, 1923-287X online, Case Report Volume 3, Number 4-5, October 2013, pages 124-125 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4021/jem181w


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