Can Licorice Keep You Heartburn-Free?

Pouring tea
Mattia Pelizzari/Stocksy United

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is an herb sometimes used as a natural treatment for heartburn. It's thought that certain compounds found in licorice root can help lessen the irritation associated with heartburn (a common ailment and key symptom of acid reflux). When used for heartburn relief, licorice is frequently taken in chewable-tablet form and consumed prior to eating. 

Why Do People Sometimes Use Licorice for Heartburn?

Heartburn occurs when the contents of your stomach move back into your esophagus (the tube that carries food to your stomach from your mouth).

When digestive fluids flow up into your esophagus, the acid found in those fluids can cause pain and burning sensations in your chest and/or throat. Along with soothing heartburn-related irritation, licorice is said to stimulate the release of chemicals involved in healing tissues damaged by acid reflux.

Heartburn is one of several digestive problems said to be remedied through use of licorice. Other digestive troubles commonly treated with licorice include stomach ulcers and gastritis (a condition marked by chronic inflammation of the stomach lining).

Research on Licorice and Heartburn

Although there's currently a lack of clinical trials exploring licorice's effectiveness for heartburn relief, some research shows that the herb may help treat heartburn-related health conditions.

In a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2012, for example, researchers tested the effects of licorice extract in 50 people with functional dyspepsia (a condition frequently caused by acid reflux and marked by symptoms like heartburn and indigestion).

Compared to patients given a placebo for 30 days, those assigned to 30 days of treatment with licorice extract showed a significantly greater improvement in symptoms like heartburn, pain, and regurgitation.

Related: Natural Remedies to Soothe Indigestion

In an earlier study (published in Digestion in 2004), an herbal formula containing extracts of licorice, peppermint, lemon balm, caraway, bitter candy tuft, and matricaria was also found to alleviate symptoms of functional dyspepsia.

After eight weeks of treatment, 43.3 percent of participants reported complete relief of their symptoms (compared to just 3.3 percent in the placebo group). The study involved a total of 120 patients.

Furthermore, a study published in Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology in 2013 found that acid reflux patients given a combination of licorice and bilberry extracts along with pantoprazole (a medication used in treatment of acid reflux) experienced a significant improvement in heartburn, chest pain, and abdominal swelling. An eight-week-long clinical trial, the study involved 63 patients with acid reflux.

Safety Concerns

While short-term use of dietary supplements containing licorice is generally considered safe, such supplements may trigger a number of side effects (including headache, tiredness, and water retention).

In addition, licorice is known to interact with several medications, including warfarin and other medicines used to slow blood clotting.

It should be noted that glycyrrhizin (a compound found in licorice) may increase blood pressure when consumed in large amounts for an extended period of time.

For this reason, medical experts often recommend opting for dietary supplements made with deglycyrrhizinated licorice (a form of licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed).

There's also some concern that use of licorice may aggravate certain health conditions, including heart disease, kidney disease, and hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Because letting acid reflux go untreated may lead to serious damage of the esophagus, it's important to consult your physician if you're frequently experiencing heartburn and/or symptoms such as chronic cough, sore throat, bad breath, and nausea.

Alternatives to Licorice

Apart from licorice, natural remedies that show promise in the treatment of heartburn include aloe vera juice, slippery elm, and marshmallow.

One of the most effective ways to fight heartburn is to avoid foods known to set off heartburn symptoms (such as chocolate, citrus, fried foods, spicy foods, and tomato). Limiting your alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking should also help control heartburn.

Since stress and anxiety may exacerbate heartburn symptoms, using mind-body techniques like meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing might also help shield you from heartburn.

Using Licorice for Heartburn Relief 

Along with chewable tablets, forms of licorice commonly used in the treatment of heartburn include powder and tea. You can purchase licorice-containing heartburn relief products in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements.


Di Pierro F, Gatti M, Rapacioli G, Ivaldi L. "Outcomes in patients with nonerosive reflux disease treated with a proton pump inhibitor and alginic acid ± glycyrrhetinic acid and anthocyanosides." Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2013;6:27-33.

Madisch A, Holtmann G, Mayr G, Vinson B, Hotz J. "Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a herbal preparation. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial." Digestion. 2004;69(1):45-52.

Raveendra KR, Jayachandra, Srinivasa V, Sushma KR, Allan JJ, Goudar KS, Shivaprasad HN, Venkateshwarlu K, Geetharani P, Sushma G, Agarwal A. "An Extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra (GutGard) Alleviates Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:216970.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading