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Drug Database - Licorice Root Licorice Root

Common Names: licorice root, licorice, liquorice, sweet root, gan zao (Chinese licorice)

Latin Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Chinese licorice)

Classification: Herb / Dietary Supplement

Licorice root has been used as a dietary supplement for stomach ulcers, bronchitis, and sore throat, as well as infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis. This product contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has special labeling requirements for dietary supplements.

  • What the Science Says
  • Side Effects and Cautions
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    What the Science Says

    A review of several clinical trials found that glycyrrhizin might reduce complications from hepatitis C in some patients. However, there is not enough evidence to confirm that glycyrrhizin has this effect.

    There are not enough reliable data to determine whether licorice is effective for stomach ulcers.

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    Side Effects and Cautions

    In large amounts, licorice containing glycyrrhizin can cause high blood pressure, salt and water retention, and low potassium levels, which could lead to heart problems. DGL products are thought to cause fewer side effects.

    The safety of using licorice as a supplement for more than 4 to 6 weeks has not been thoroughly studied.

    Taking licorice together with diuretics (water pills) or other medicines that reduce the body's potassium levels could cause dangerously low potassium levels.

    People with heart disease or high blood pressure should be cautious about using licorice.

    When taken in large amounts, licorice can affect the body's levels of a hormone called cortisol and related steroid drugs, such as prednisone.

    Pregnant women should avoid using licorice as a supplement or consuming large amounts of licorice as food, as some research suggests it could increase the risk of preterm labor.

    Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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    Sources:

    • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hepatitis C and Complementary and Alternative Medicine: 2003 Update. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Web site. Accessed on Oct. 31, 2009.

    • DLicorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:391–399.

    • Licorice. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed on Oct. 31, 2009.

    • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) and DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on Oct. 31, 2009.

    • Licorice root. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:233–239.
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