Unlocking the Healing Potential of Licorice: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

Licorice, a plant with a sweet root, is more than just a tasty treat. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its numerous health benefits. In this article, we will explore the various uses, benefits, and potential side effects of licorice.


Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is an herbaceous plant native to the Mediterranean and certain parts of Asia. Its root has been employed in traditional medicine practices, including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), for its medicinal properties.

Uses of Licorice:

  1. Cough and Cold Relief: Licorice root is often used to soothe sore throats and alleviate coughs. Its demulcent properties help in the formation of a protective layer in the throat.
  2. Digestive Aid: Licorice can help relieve digestive discomfort, including indigestion and heartburn. It has mild laxative properties that promote bowel regularity.
  3. Hormone Regulation: Licorice contains compounds known as glycyrrhizic acid, which can have a mild estrogenic effect. It may be used to balance hormone levels in women.
  4. Anti-Inflammatory: Licorice possesses anti-inflammatory properties and may be used topically or internally to reduce inflammation and pain.
  5. Skin Health: In skincare, licorice is valued for its skin-soothing and brightening properties. It is used in various cosmetic products to treat conditions like hyperpigmentation.

Benefits of Licorice:

  1. Sore Throat Relief: Licorice has soothing properties, making it a common choice for alleviating sore throats and coughs. Its demulcent effect helps form a protective layer in the throat, reducing discomfort.
  2. Digestive Health: Licorice is often used to relieve digestive issues such as indigestion, heartburn, and stomach discomfort. It can help by promoting proper digestion and reducing inflammation in the digestive tract.
  3. Hormone Regulation: Compounds in licorice, including glycyrrhizic acid, have mild estrogenic effects. This makes licorice potentially useful in balancing hormone levels, particularly in women experiencing hormonal imbalances or menstrual irregularities.
  4. Stress Reduction: Licorice is an adaptogen, which helps the body adapt to stress. It can assist in reducing the physical and emotional effects of stress on the body.
  5. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Licorice contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects. This makes it useful for managing inflammation-related conditions, such as arthritis and gastritis.
  6. Skin Health: Due to its ability to soothe skin, licorice is prized in skincare products. It’s frequently used in cosmetic products to enhance skin tone and cure skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation.
  7. Respiratory Health: Licorice may be beneficial in conditions like bronchitis and asthma due to its ability to soothe the respiratory tract and reduce coughing.
  8. Immune Support: Some studies suggest that licorice may have immune-boosting properties, helping the body fend off infections and illnesses.
  9. Pain Management: The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of licorice make it a potential natural remedy for managing pain associated with various conditions
  10. Antioxidant Effects: Licorice is a source of antioxidants, which can help protect the body from oxidative stress and may play a role in preventing chronic diseases.

Side Effects of Licorice

While licorice is generally safe when used in moderate amounts, excessive or prolonged consumption can lead to certain side effects, including:

1. Hypertension (high blood pressure): Hypertension: One of the main issues with licorice is that it might increase blood pressure. Glycyrrhizic acid, a substance in licorice that can raise blood pressure when ingested in sufficient amounts, is mostly responsible for this impact. For those who already have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing it, this can be especially dangerous.

2. Potassium Imbalance: Licorice can cause a decrease in potassium levels in the body, a condition known as hypokalemia. Low potassium levels can result in muscle weakness, irregular heartbeats, and other health problems.

3. Edema (Fluid Retention): Some individuals may experience fluid retention, leading to swelling, particularly in the legs and ankles, when they consume licorice in excessive amounts.

4. Hormonal Imbalance: Prolonged and excessive consumption of licorice may lead to hormonal imbalances, particularly in women. It can affect the menstrual cycle and lead to symptoms such as irregular periods.

5. Sodium Retention: Licorice can cause the body to retain sodium, which can contribute to increased blood pressure and fluid retention.

6. Decreased Potassium Excretion: Licorice can interfere with the normal excretion of potassium by the kidneys, contributing to low potassium levels.

7. Muscle Weakness: Low potassium levels can result in muscle weakness, cramps, and an increased risk of arrhythmias.

8. Hormonal Changes in Women: Glycyrrhizic acid in licorice may lead to hormonal changes in women, potentially causing irregular menstruation, breast tenderness, and other hormonal symptoms.

9. Interaction with Medications: Licorice may interact with certain medications, particularly those that affect blood pressure, potassium levels, or hormones. It’s important to be cautious if you are taking such medications and are considering licorice supplements or products.

10. Allergic Reactions: In rare cases, individuals may be allergic to licorice, leading to skin rashes, itching, or swelling.

How to use licorice in Ayurveda

Licorice can be consumed in a variety of ways in Ayurveda, including:

  • Tea: Licorice root tea can be made by steeping the root in hot water.
  • Powder: Licorice root powder can be added to food or drinks, or it can be mixed with water or milk to make a paste.
  • Extract: Licorice root extract is available in supplement form.


The recommended dosage of licorice in Ayurveda varies depending on the form in which it is consumed. It is important to talk to your Ayurvedic practitioner before taking licorice supplements, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.


Licorice is a versatile herb with a wide range of potential uses and benefits, from soothing a sore throat to promoting digestive health and hormone regulation. However, it’s crucial to use licorice in moderation and be aware of potential side effects associated with excessive consumption.

As with any herbal remedy, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using licorice, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medications. When used wisely, licorice can be a valuable addition to your holistic health and wellness routine.