Glycyrrhiza glabra L.

Last updated: 09 Nov 2016

Scientific Name

Glycyrrhiza glabra L. 


Glycyrrhiza brachycarpa Boiss., Glycyrrhiza glandulifera Waldst. & Kit., Glycyrrhiza hirsuta Pall., Glycyrrhiza pallida Boiss. & Noe, Glycyrrhiza pallida Boiss., Glycyrrhiza violacea Boiss. & Noe., Glycyrrhiza glabra var. caduca X.Y. Li, Glycyrrhiza glabra var. glabra, Glycyrrhiza glabra var. glandulosa X.Y. Li, Glycyrrhiza glabra var. laxifoliolata X.Y. Li, Glycyrrhiza glabra var. typica L. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Common licorice, drop, licorice, licorice powder, licorice-root, liquorice plant, Spanish juice-root, Spanish juice-wood, Spanish liquorice, sweetwood [2]
India Anti-maduram, athimathuram, (for the liquorice of commerce), athimathurappal, ati-maduram, jalayashti, jashthi-madhu, jashtimadh, jestamaddu, klitaka, kubas susa, madhuka, mithilakdi (root), mulathee, neelipushapa, rasayani, yashti-madhukam, yashtika, yastho-madhu, yashtyawa [2]
Italian Liquirizia, regolizia [2]
South Africa Soethout [2]
Pakistan Khawasdar [2]
Tibet Shing-mngar [2]
Saudi Arabia Arab essous, ‘areq sous, el-irkasus, erq essous, oud essous, sous [2].

Geographical Distributions

Glycyrrhiza glabra can be found in Mediterranean region and Middle East countries and parts of Asia. [3]

Botanical Description

G. glabra falls under the family of Leguminosae. The plant is a herbaceous perennial. It is 1 to 2 m high and has a long sturdy primary taproot. There are several horizontal woody stolons which may reach 8 m. New stems are produced every year. They are sturdy, erect, branched either from the base or from further up, and are generally rough at the top. [3]

The foliage leaves are alternate, odd pinnate and 10 to 20 cm long. The leaflets are in 3 to 8 pairs. The stipules are very small and drooping. [3]

The axillary inflorescences are upright, spike-like and 10 to 15 cm long. [3]

The individual flowers are 1 to 1.5 cm long, bluish to pale violet and short-pedicled. The calyx is short, bellshaped and glandular-haired. The tips of the calyx are longer than the tube, and are pointed lanceolate. Petals are narrow, the carina petals are not fused, and they are pointed but not beaked. [3]

The fruit is a pod, 1.5 to 2.5 cm long, and 4 to 6 mm wide. It is erect and splayed, flat with thick sutures, glabrous, somewhat reticulate-pitted, and usually has 3 to 5 brown, reniform seeds. [3]

The taproot is 15 cm long and subdivides into 3 to 5 subsidary roots, 1.25 m in length. [3]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

G. glabra has been reported to contain triterpene glycosides (including glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhitic acid), polysaccharides, flavonoids (including liquiritin, isoliquiritin, glabrol, apigenin, quercetin) [4][5][6] coumarin derivatives, formononetin [7][8].

Plant Part Used

Roots, underground stem or stolon. [3]

Traditional Use

G. glabra roots were mentioned in some ancient Assyrian tablets. The roots were introduced into Egypt as medicine by one of Eckankar’s ancient master. The therapeutic value of the herb varied from expectorant to restorer of sexual vigor. [3]

Preclinical Data


Pyhtoestrogenic activity

G. glabra root is reported to have a variety of pharmacologic activities. Licorice root has phytoestrogenic activity due to its isoflavone content (formononetin) [9]. Because of the weak affinity for binding to estrogen receptors, estrogenic side effects are not seen. G. glabra root has an interesting effect on cortisol. It reportedly counteracts the effects of cortisol by inhibiting adrenal and thymus atrophy, as well as by reducing cholesterol manufacturing [10]. G. glabra root is claimed to inhibit antibody formation and support the stress response and the inflammatory response [11]. G. glabra root reportedly inhibits inflammatory prostaglandin formation and leukotrienes by inhibiting the enzymes responsible for their metabolic activation and manufacture [12]. Another more recent addition to the possible mechanism of the constituent glycyrrhizin’s anti-inflammatory activity is due in part to its anti-thrombin action [13].

Hepatoprotective activity

G. glabra root is reported to have antioxidant effects, which can be linked to its hepatoprotective capabilities [14][15][16]. Flavonoids from licorice have been reported to provide protection to hepatocytes exposed to carbon tetrachloride, and galactosamine [17]. The research suggests that the anti-lipid peroxidation effect of G. glabra is the central mechanism contributing to its protective action against carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity [17]. Further results suggest that glycyrrhiza may inhibit the NF-kappaB binding activity in carbon tetrachloride and ethanol-induced chronic liver injury [18]. Also, glycyrrhiza may be used in commercial topical skin preparations against damage caused by free radical and reactive oxygen species (ROS) [19].

Antigenotoxic activity

Evidence from human and animal laboratory studies have demonstrated that the constituent isoliquatirin apioside found in G. glabra has antigenotoxic activity. This constituent has been reported to destroy ROS that initiate carcinogenesis and mutagenesis through oxidative DNA damage. The compound isoliquaritin apioside has also been reported to exert a protective effect against H2N2 and 4-nitroquinoline-N-oxide induced damage of DNA in Escherichia coli strains and in human blood lymphocytes. [20]

Mucolytic activity

G. glabra also has mucolytic activity and is used as an expectorant. The component glycyrrhizin produces demulcent and expectorant effects by stimulation of tracheal mucous secretion, although the potential for side effects are increased [21]. G. glabra roots also contain polysaccharides which have been reported to be immunostimulating (increases macrophoges in vitro) [22]. G. glabra may also stimulate interferon production in the body, which could support its antiviral activity [23][24]. Reported in an in vitro study, the glycyrrhizin in G. glabra is reported to inactivate herpes simplex virus particles irreversibly [25]. Flavonoids found in G. glabra root have been reported to have antimicrobial activity [26].

Antimicrobial and antiviral activity

G. glabra root has been reported to have antimicrobial and antiviral activity. A laboratory study found that a component of G. glabra called glabridin is effective against Mycobacterium tuberculosis [27]. Clinical trials have investigated glycyrrhizin’s activity in chronic viral hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections. Glycyrrhizin has also been reported to prevent the development of hepatic carcinoma from hepatitis C and have in vitro antiviral activity against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) associated corona virus. [28][29]

Gastroprotective activity

Deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) G. glabra has demulcent activity, having the ability to protect irritated mucous membranes [30]. In cases where the intestinal lining is inflamed, DGL licorice reportedly stimulates the production of mucus, and is used to reduce symptoms [31]. Most studies on the stomach ulcer have focused mainly on polysaccharides constituent which act as anti-adhesive against the bacterial docking process of Helicobacter pylori to human stomach tissue. This bacterium is one of the main causes of chronic infection to the stomach ulcer [32].

Immunostimulatory activity

The polysaccharides of glycyrrhiza plants have been reported to have immune modulating activity in laboratory animals. Laboratory studies have also reported that a high-fat diet decreased the proliferation index of spleen lymphocytes and the level of serum LgA, LgG and LgM in mice, therefore modulating immunostimulatory activity. When extract of polysaccharides were injected into mice, the level of immunostimulatory activity was increased by enhancing the level of serum LgA, LgG and LgM in mice [33]. Another study has reported the polysaccharide fraction has many functions including antiviral and antitumour with a low cellular toxicity [34].

Antidepressant activity

Of note, G. glabra has been reported to have antidepressant activity in animal studies, possibly through the inhibition of monoamine oxidase by glycyrrhizin, which will increase the levels of monoamine such as epinephrine and dopamine in brain and subsequently lead to production of antidepressant effects. The results reported that G. glabra extract significantly reduced the immobility time of mice without any significant effect on its locomotor activity [35].


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


Based on pharmacology and animal studies, G. glabra should be used with caution in individuals with hypertension, kidney [36], or liver problems [37].

Side effects

Based on animal data and pharmacology, if a non-DGL form is taken, there is a risk of pseudohyperaldosteronism leading to increased blood pressure, potassium loss, weakness and edema [38][39][40]. It is safest to use a deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) form in peptic ulcer to avoid this potential effect [41].

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation

Age limitation

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


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