The Benefits of Chinese Licorice

chinese licorice
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Chinese licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) is an herb long used in traditional Chinese medicine (a form of alternative medicine that originated in China). Available in dietary supplement form, it's thought to promote detox. Taking Chinese licorice is also said to treat a number of common health conditions, as well as aid in cancer prevention.

One of the most frequently studied compounds in Chinese licorice is isoliquiritigenin, a substance with antioxidant effects.

Chinese licorice is also known to contain several antibacterial compounds.

Go here to learn more about Glycyrrhiza glabra, a more commonly used species of licorice.

Uses for Chinese Licorice

According to some alternative medicine proponents, Chinese licorice is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

Chinese licorice is also said to promote weight loss and protect against some forms of cancer. 

The Benefits of Chinese Licorice

Although there’s currently a lack of clinical trials testing the potential benefits of Chinese licorice, preliminary research suggests that it may help treat or prevent the following health problems:

1) Metabolic Disorders

Chinese licorice may help ward off metabolic disorders such as diabetes, suggests a preliminary study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology in 2014.

For the study, researchers focused on three groups of mice: the first group was fed a normal diet, the second group was fed a high-fat diet, and the third group was fed a high-fat diet supplemented with isoliquiritigenin extracted from Chinese licorice.

While the high-fat diet led to the development of obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver in the second group of mice, researchers observed that animals given the isoliquiritigenin-enriched diet were protected from these conditions.

Chinese licorice may help shield metabolic health by stopping the activation of NLRP3 (a protein involved in the disease process), according to the study's authors.

2) Cancer 

A number of preliminary studies indicate that Chinese licorice shows promise as an anti-cancer agent. For example, a study on human cells (published in Cancer Letters in 2005) found that Chinese licorice extract may help fight breast cancer.

In addition, a study published in European Urology determined that isoliquiritigenin extracted from Chinese licorice may help hinder the growth of prostate cancer. The study involved a series of experiments on prostate cancer cells.

What's more, a study published in Cancer Science in 2004 found that that isoliquiritigenin extracted from Chinese licorice may help prevent colon cancer. In the study, tests on mouse and human cells demonstrated that treatment with isoliquiritigenin helped induce apoptosis.


Due to a lack of studies testing Chinese licorice's effects in humans, little is known about the safety of this herb.

Chinese licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, a compound found to trigger adverse effects (including reduced potassium levels and increased blood pressure) when consumed in large amounts (a safe limit has not been established). Licorice products without the glycyrrhizic acid (called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) extract) are available, but they are usually made from another type of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra).

It's also important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Alternatives to Chinese Licorice

Despite preliminary findings suggesting that Chinese licorice may help fend off major diseases like diabetes and cancer, more research is needed before the herb can be recommended for protection against either condition.

For help in enhancing your metabolic health, make sure to get your fill of antioxidant-rich foods. Research shows that consumption of carotenoids (a class of antioxidant compounds that includes beta-carotene and lycopene) may help stave off metabolic syndrome.

To strengthen your defense against cancer, consider increasing your intake of substances such as turmeric and resveratrol (both found to possess anti-cancer properties in preliminary research).

Where to Find It

Dietary supplements containing Chinese licorice are sold in some natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in natural products. You can also purchase Chinese licorice online.

Using Chinese Licorice for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend Chinese licorice as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using Chinese licorice for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.


He J1, Chen L, Heber D, Shi W, Lu QY. "Antibacterial compounds from Glycyrrhiza uralensis." J Nat Prod. 2006 Jan;69(1):121-4.

Honda H1, Nagai Y2, Matsunaga T3, Okamoto N4, Watanabe Y5, Tsuneyama K6, Hayashi H7, Fujii I7, Ikutani M5, Hirai Y5, Muraguchi A8, Takatsu K9. "Isoliquiritigenin is a potent inhibitor of NLRP3 inflammasome activation and diet-induced adipose tissue inflammation." J Leukoc Biol. 2014 Dec;96(6):1087-100.

Hu C1, Liu H, Du J, Mo B, Qi H, Wang X, Ye S, Li Z. "Estrogenic activities of extracts of Chinese licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) root in MCF-7 breast cancer cells." J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2009 Feb;113(3-5):209-16.

Jo EH1, Kim SH, Ra JC, Kim SR, Cho SD, Jung JW, Yang SR, Park JS, Hwang JW, Aruoma OI, Kim TY, Lee YS, Kang KS. "Chemopreventive properties of the ethanol extract of chinese licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) root: induction of apoptosis and G1 cell cycle arrest in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells." Cancer Lett. 2005 Dec 18;230(2):239-47.

Kanazawa M1, Satomi Y, Mizutani Y, Ukimura O, Kawauchi A, Sakai T, Baba M, Okuyama T, Nishino H, Miki T. "Isoliquiritigenin inhibits the growth of prostate cancer." Eur Urol. 2003 May;43(5):580-6.

Takahashi T1, Takasuka N, Iigo M, Baba M, Nishino H, Tsuda H, Okuyama T. "Isoliquiritigenin, a flavonoid from licorice, reduces prostaglandin E2 and nitric oxide, causes apoptosis, and suppresses aberrant crypt foci development." Cancer Sci. 2004 May;95(5):448-53.

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.

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