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What Is Licorice?
Licorice is a plant mainly known for its sweet root, which has been used in various forms of traditional medicine for centuries. The root contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, responsible for its characteristic sweetness but also linked to some side effects like elevated blood pressure. Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice, commonly known as DGL, is a modified form of licorice with the glycyrrhizin removed. This makes DGL a safer option for long-term use, especially for those concerned about the potential side effects of regular licorice. Both forms come in various preparations, including teas, chewable tablets, and tinctures, and offer a host of health benefits ranging from digestive support to anti-inflammatory effects.
What are the Benefits of Deglycerized Licorice (DGL)?
Soothes Digestive Issues: Licorice and DGL are often used to treat conditions like acid reflux and heartburn. They can coat and protect the stomach lining. [PMC7348626]
Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The compounds in licorice have natural anti-inflammatory effects that can help with conditions like arthritis, skin rashes, and inflammatory bowel disease. [PMC9025446]
Antioxidant Benefits: Licorice contains flavonoids that act as antioxidants, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. [PMC8703329]
Supports Oral Health: The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of licorice can help in treating mouth ulcers (canker sores) [PMID: 2632514], combatting bacteria causing bad breath, and periodontal disease. [PMC10243202]
What Are the Benefits of Natural Licorice?
While considering the benefits of natural licorice, it is important to note the side effect of elevated blood pressure, which is not an issue with the deglyycerrhizinated form. With that said, here are some health benefits of taking full-spectrum natural licorice:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: “The active components of licorice, glycyrrhizin (GL) and glycyrrhetinic acid (GA), could not only potentiate the therapeutic effects but also decrease the adverse effects of NSAIDs or DMARDs through suppressing the COX-2/TxA2 pathway during treatment course of RA.” [PMC4811453]
- Respiratory Relief: The root has been used traditionally to ease symptoms of respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma. A review of studies highlights the potential of licorice in treating COPD and respiratory infections caused by viruses and bacteria. [PMID: 34579633] DGL is considered less effective for use in respiratory conditions because the glycyrrhizin component, which is removed in DGL, plays a key role in the anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects that are beneficial for respiratory issues.
- May Aid Weight Loss: A review of clinical trials found that licorice consumption can reduce body weight and BMI. However, it also raises diastolic blood pressure, making it unsuitable for people with high blood pressure. [PMID: 29433679]
- Promotes Liver Health In NAFLD: A study found that women with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease who took 1,000 mg/day of licorice root for 12 weeks saw significant improvements in liver enzymes and insulin resistance. The researchers concluded that “licorice root supplementation in addition to gradual weight loss and lifestyle modification is superior to lifestyle modification alone.” [PMID: 35785498]
Is Licorice Safe?
DGL, or Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice, is generally considered a safer alternative to regular licorice root for long-term use.
Regular, “natural licorice” contains glycyrrhizin, which can lead to elevated blood pressure, water retention, and other issues when consumed in large amounts or over extended periods. One of the most notable side effects is its ability to interfere with the body’s sodium and potassium balance. This can result in elevated blood pressure, water retention, and swelling. It may also cause low levels of potassium in the body, leading to issues like muscle weakness and irregular heart rhythms. High doses of glycyrrhetic acid may also contribute to other health problems, such as headaches, fatigue, and metabolic abnormalities. [PMC3498851]
DGL contains no glycyrrhizin, which is the problematic compound. This makes DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) a more favorable option for those who want to enjoy the health benefits of licorice without the associated risks.
What Medicines Interact with Licorice and DGL?
- Warfarin: Licorice may interfere with the effectiveness of this blood-thinning medication. DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) is generally considered safer in this regard.
- Digoxin: Licorice may increase the risk of digoxin toxicity. DGL is less likely to interact.
- Diuretics: Licorice can reduce the efficacy of certain diuretics, leading to increased fluid retention. DGL doesn’t have the same effect.
- Corticosteroids: The effects of corticosteroids may be increased when combined with licorice. DGL may not cause the same interaction.
- Insulin: Licorice might affect blood sugar levels, impacting insulin requirements. DGL has lesser effects on blood sugar.
- Anti-hypertensives: Licorice can raise blood pressure and may interfere with blood pressure medications. DGL is a safer option for people on these medications.
- Estrogen-based contraceptives: Licorice may potentially interact with these drugs, reducing their effectiveness. The impact of DGL is not well-studied.
- Aspirin: Licorice can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with aspirin. DGL is less likely to cause this issue.
Supplement Interactions with Licorice
- Potassium Supplements: Licorice can lower potassium levels. DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) has a reduced impact on potassium levels.
- Iron Supplements: Licorice may affect iron absorption. DGL is less likely to interfere with iron metabolism.
- St. John’s Wort: Both can affect liver metabolism of medications. DGL’s effects on liver metabolism are less studied.
- Ginkgo Biloba: Using it with licorice may increase blood pressure. DGL is generally considered to have a lesser effect on blood pressure.
- Garlic: Both garlic and licorice may thin the blood. DGL has a reduced likelihood of this interaction.
- Ginseng: Both ginseng and licorice can raise blood pressure. DGL is less likely to have this effect.
- Echinacea: Both stimulate the immune system, possibly amplifying each other’s effects. DGL’s impact on the immune system is less well-understood.
Food Sources of Licorice
Licorice is not found in most foods. In the United States, a lot of what is marketed as “licorice” candy doesn’t actually contain any real licorice root. Instead, these candies often use anise oil for flavor, which tastes similar to licorice. The label will usually indicate whether the candy contains real licorice extract.
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Deglycerized Licorice (DGL)
DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) does not contain glycyrrhizin, which turns into glycyrrhetic acid in the body, is removed to create DGL. This is done to avoid the side effects associated with glycyrrhizin, such as elevated blood pressure and water retention. DGL is commonly used for gastrointestinal issues like heartburn or ulcers.
DGL by Bioclinic Naturals
Manufacturer Description: Suggested Use: Chew 1 tablet per day 20 minutes prior to each meal, or as directed by a health care practitioner. Consult a health care practitioner for use beyond 16 weeks.
Amount Per 1 Chewable Tablet Serving
Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice 10:1 Extract … 400mg
(Glycyrrhiza glabra) (root)
DGL Powder by Vital Nutrients
- promotes healthy GI mucus secretion*
- maintains healthy epithelial cells*
- supports healthy cell function*
DGL Powder (deglycyrrhized licorice root) is soothing to, and provides nutritional support for, the gastrointestinal tract.* DGL significantly stimulates the proliferation of mucus secreting goblet cells.* It also aids in maintaining healthy epithelial tissue and helps to maintain normal cell function.*
Take 1/8 teaspoon, 3 times daily after meals, and at bedtime or as directed by a healthcare practitioner.
Amount Per 1/8 teaspoon Serving
DGL Powder … 300mg (deglycyrrhizinated licorice root)
Chewable Licorice by Rx Vitamins (500 mg)57215
Manufacturer Description: Rx Vitamins’ Chewable Licorice is a standardized extract of deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). DGL must be chewed in order to promote optimal absorption and maximum benefit. Licorice has a long history of health-related benefits and is listed as an approved herb in the German Commission E Monographs. Each tablet maximizes the synergistic benefits of the whole root, which naturally contains flavonoids, isoflavonoids and coumarins.
As a dietary supplement, chew one or two tablets just prior to each meal.
Serving Size: 1 Chewable Tablet
Amount Per Serving
Calories … 5
Total Carbohydrate … 1g
Total Sugars … 0g
Added Sugars … 0g
Xylitol … <1g
Licorice … 500mg (DGL) (Glycyrrhiza glabra root) (standardized <2% [10 mg glycyrrhizin])
Other ingredients: Xylitol, fructose, stearic acid, fructooligo-saccharides (FOS), magnesium stearate, stevia, chicory root, mung bean extract.
Full Spectrum Licorice
Routine daily use of full-spectrum licorice supplements has been associated with health issues including high blood pressure and others due to glycyrrhetic acid. [PMC3498851]
Licorice Extract 400mg by Vital Nutrients 66751
Manufacturer Description: Licorice Root Extract is an adaptogenic herb that helps maintain balanced levels of adrenal hormones.* Licorice helps maintain healthy lung tissue and supports smooth muscle health.* Licorice also promotes the health of gastric and duodenal tissues.* Glycyrrhizin, the main bioactive component in licorice, has been shown to support the immune system.* Licorice may also help the body maintain a balanced inflammatory response.*
Take 1 capsule 2 times daily. Use only as directed by your healthcare professional. May cause fluid retention.
Amount Per 1 capsule Serving
Licorice Root Extract … 400mg
(Glycyrrhiza glabra) (high glycyrrhizin content)
Cautions: Do not take during pregnancy. Not for use in persons with hypertension, liver disorders, edema, severe kidney insufficiency, low blood potassium or heart disease. Not for prolonged use except under supervision of an expert healthcare practitioner.
Licorice by Herb Pharm 58297
Manufacturer’s description: Herb Pharm prepares their Licorice Extract from the root and stolon of Glycyrrhiza glabra plants which are Certified Organically Grown.
To assure optimal extraction of Licorice’s bioactive compounds, the root and stolon are hand-harvested only in the autumn, are carefully cleaned and dried, and are then thoroughly extracted. Shake Well Before Using
Add one full squeeze of the dropper bulb to 2 oz. of water or juice, two to four times per day. Best taken between meals.
Distilled water, certified organic cane alcohol and Certified Organic Licorice extractives. non-GMO and GLUTEN-FREE
Potency: Dry herb/menstruum ratio: 1:2
Cautions: Do not take during pregnancy. Not for use in persons with hypertension, liver disorders, edema, severe kidney insufficiency, low blood potassium or heart disease. Not for prolonged use except under supervision of an expert healthcare practitioner. Keep Out of the Reach of Children
Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.
Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.
To Sum It Up
DGL and licorice both offer a range of health benefits, but they serve different needs. DGL is particularly effective for gastrointestinal issues, as it’s processed to remove glycyrrhizin, making it safer for those concerned about blood pressure. On the other hand, the full-spectrum benefits of licorice include respiratory support and immune system benefits, which are not as prominent in DGL. So, if gut health is your main focus, DGL might be the better option, while licorice is a more versatile choice for multiple health benefits.
This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice
Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.