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La réglisse, Glycyrrhiza glabra, crédit wikipedia GLYCYRRHIZA GLABRA


Liquorice, licorice or cultivated licorice is a perennial plant by its root which reaches 1m to 1m50, the flowers are grouped in erect clusters, of a more or less dark purple-lilac hue; the fruit is a small flattened pod, covered with hairs in some varieties, the foliage is pinnate with 10-20 leaflets, so nothing very noticeable. It looks like many other plants of this large plant family, the Fabacae, formerly legumes.

It is a plant from the Old World, there are several species and varieties.

Those that are most used are: Glycyrrhiza glabra in Europe and the Middle East, Glycyrrhiza uralensis in China (the complicated spelling of this plant genus is directly borrowed from ancient Greek).

Licorice is found in the wild and is now also cultivated in the Near East, China, Russia, Pakistan, USA and Spain.

It is an easy to grow plant with decorative foliage and flowers. The lateral roots (or runners) are harvested from the plants after 3 to 4 years of cultivation.

The root and the dried runners constitute the proper licorice and are the medicinal parts




Starch (25 to 30%), sugars (3 to 10%), coumarins, sterols, and especially flavonoids and saponosides are found in licorice root, which are probably responsible for the pharmacological activity.

The main saponosides, glycyrrhisin is the more important, it corresponds to 3 to 5% of the dry plant sometimes more.

Glycyrrhizin (in the form of calcium, potassium and magnesium salts of glycyrrhizinic acid, soluble in water) releases by hydrolysis two molecules of glucuronic acid and one molecule of glycyrrhetinic acid (or glycyrrhetic acid, the international name of which is much easier to write: ENOXOLONE).
This chemical transformation of glycyrrhizin into ENOXOLONE is important because it is the molecule responsible for the majority of the pharmacological effects of licorice.

In the body, the glycyrrhizin absorbed by the oral route is not transformed before the intestine where intestinal bacteria ensure this hydrolysis and the release of enoxolone.

Among the flavonoids: glabridin and glabren are the two most studied compounds


Licorice has a sweetening power 50 to 60 times greater than ordinary sugar. On the one hand, it is a flavor enhancer but it is also a bitterness attenuator.

The sweet taste is quite different from the banal sugar (sucrose) and above all it is more prolonged, "longer in the mouth" with a "vegetal" taste note typical of liquorice (but which is also found in stevia powder. )


Glycyrrhiza glabra and uralensis have long been used in traditional medicine in Europe and Asia.
They are still used for the same indications, but modern pharmacological studies show that these plants also contain compounds capable of acting both on cholesterol metabolism, as an antispasmodic, anti-hemorrhagic, as antivirals or anti-cancer drugs.

LICORICE. Action on the bronchopulmonary system:

Whole liquorice is a traditional remedy for coughs, bronchial irritation and is an expectorant.

LICORICE. Action on the metabolism of corticosteroid hormones:

Glycyrrhizin alters the metabolism of corticosteroid hormones (secreted mainly by the cortical part of the adrenal gland) by inhibiting an important enzyme in the liver and kidney (11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase) which normally converts cortisol (very active) into cortisone (much less active), there is a lot of inactive cortisone compared to cortisol (= hydrocortisone) which is very active as an hormone.

This inhibition or substitution of role is the starting point of a disorder which associates edemas, increase in arterial pressure (hypertension) and decrease in blood potassium (hypokalaemia) which can cause serious muscle disorders pseudo-paralytic (including cardiac)
It is a syndrome of pseudo hyperaldosteronism.

Enoxolone (glycyrrhetic acid see above) is 200 to 1000 times more active on this enzymatic system than pure licorice.

This effect on the regulation of electrolytes (mineralocorticoid effect) and therefore of body water is only felt after a large daily dose of licorice and in case of prolonged use.

The association of hypertension, edema, muscle weakness and cardiac arrhythmias is quite characteristic.
The disorders disappear in a few weeks if you stop taking liquorice.
The toxic threshold would be around one gram of glycyrrhizin per day (or about 20g of dry root or 80 to 100g of fresh root) over a prolonged period, but some people may show signs of intoxication at lower doses ( 300 to 400 mg / day)

LICORICE. Action on the digestive system:

Whole liquorice is a traditional remedy for gastralgia, dyspeptia and peptic ulcer disease.
We now know that licorice promotes an increased secretion of mucus in the stomach, which provides better protection of the stomach lining to which is added a local anti-inflammatory effect.

As the licorice-based treatment is limited in time due to the risk of disturbance of the mineralocorticoid metabolism, licorice extracts from which glycyrrhizin has been removed are also used.

It turns out that the anti-ulcer effect is still present, it is attributed to the action of flavonoids which are anti-inflammatory and which also limit the development of Helicobacter pylori main responsible for ulcerations of the mucous membrane of the stomach

LICORICE. Anti-inflammatory action:

Liquorice extract (glycyrrhizin) has a local anti-inflammatory action (skin, mucous membrane) reminiscent of corticosteroids :
- by inhibiting certain enzymes responsible of the inflammatory reaction,
- perhaps by inhibiting the release of certain prostaglandins ,
- by reducing the aggregation of blood platelets.

LICORICE. Immunostimulating, anti bacterial and antiviral action:

Liquorice extracts and glycyrrhetic acid are weakly antibacterial, antiviral, healing and immunostimulating, apparently without toxic or mutagenic effects except for the mineralocorticoid disorders mentioned above.
The antiviral activity is known from in vitro studies and from clinical results on herpetic lesions, in particular of the mouth.
We also note in the scientific literature the possibility of an action against the very pathogenic viruses of AIDS, SARS (including the agent of covid 19), influenza A or hepatitis, but this remains to be confirmed.

LICORICE. Action on the metabolism of cholesterol, blood lipids and the metabolic syndrome associated with type 2 diabetes:

A recent study has shown the interest of licorice in reducing tissue resistance to insulin, the determining cause in the onset of type 2 diabetes and one of the difficulties in treating it.

The action of the regulator would be twofold: action on 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase at the tissue level and on another important enzyme, lipoprotein lipase.

LICORICE. Action on estrogen metabolism:

We have long known the estrogenic action (feminization) of licorice root, it turns out that it is probably more flavonoids than glycyrrhizin that have a female hormone-like action.
It remains to be seen whether this hormonal action is the result of a strengthening of "estrogen-type" hormones or of an antagonism with "testosterone-type" hormones.

LICORICE. Antitumor activity:

In Japan, the use of licorice to limit the progression of hepatitis (especially hepatitis C) has been shown to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer (hepatocarcinoma) .

In the laboratory, observation shows a clear slowing down of the development of cancer cells in certain types of prostate cancer and an anti-angiogenic effect (inhibition of the creation of new blood vessels and therefore limitation of cancerous development).
These anti-cancer effects are attributed to the flavonoids in licorice




Licorice is widely used in the food industry (aniseed drink, beers, sodas), confectionery and the tobacco industry.

The content in confectionery varies enormously (5 to 40 g / kg), in drinks (concentrate type "ANTESITE" 23 g per liter, final drink 65 to 100 mg per liter).
Antésite is a liquorice-based concentrate, created in 1898 by a French pharmacist to fight against male alcoholism. Diluted in water, at the rate of 10 drops for a glass, it gives a thirst-quenching drink.

In all cases (drink, pastry or confectionery) care must be taken with the amount of glycyrrhisin absorbed (maximum recommended dose per day, 125 to 150 mg).


They are used:
- to reduce inflammation of the bronchi and upper respiratory tract, to facilitate expectoration: chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, nasopharyngitis,
- as a flavoring and for their antiulcer and anti-inflammatory properties: dyspeptia, ulcer gastric, gastric infection with helicobacter pylori with ulcerations, inflammatory gastritis,
- as flavoring, antispasmodic in laxative preparations,
- as flavoring and digestive regulator in antidyspeptic preparations: slow digestion, flatulence, epigastric ballooning,
- as analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial in conditions of the mouth and throat: Painful and recurrent mouth ulcers but also oral lichen planus, tonsillitis .

Anti-inflammatory liquorice extracts

Glycyrrhetic acid (ENOXOLONE) is used locally as an alternative to the use of steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, especially on the face : solar erythema (sunburn), inflammatory dermatitis of the face and eyelids, diaper rash .
It is also found in preparations intended to calm the hemorrhoidal crisis, anal and vulvar pruritus.

Licorice extracts without Glycyrrhizin

For prolonged use in the treatment of gastric ulcers, it is best to use the extract without glycyrrhizin.
Experience proves that gastric functioning (acid secretion) is not too disturbed by this licorice extract. Mucosal secretion is abundant and the development of Helicobacter pylori is controlled.

Licorice and hepatitis

Since many years glycyrrhizin has been used in Japan to limit the development of hepatic disorders caused by the hepatitis C virus.
It is called "Stronger Neo-Minophagen C" or SNMC.
Inflammation and necrosis of liver cells is reduced, there are fewer side effects than treatment with interferon, BUT to be truly effective you need a daily IV injection over a long period of time.

Licorice and Bleeding

ANKAFERD is a mixture of plant extracts marketed in TURKEY based on Thymus vulgaris, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Vitis vinifera, Alpinia officinarum, and Urtica dioica.
Licorice seems important in the composition of this specialty used mainly to stop in a few seconds bleeding especially mucous membranes and difficult to treat. The principle of the drug: it induces the very rapid appearance of a protein network which traps the red blood cells and facilitates coagulation but without interfering with the coagulation process itself. This product can be deposited by endoscopy directly on the hemorrhagic site and the results seem convincing and lasting, especially to stop digestive hemorrhages .



Sweetener liquorice

In the event of regular consumption of liquorice extracts in drinks or confectionery it is imperative to calculate the amount of glycyrrhizin absorbed to reasonably limit it to 150 mg per day otherwise there is a risk of increased blood pressure and possibly the onset of heart rhythm disturbances.

Licorice medicine

Comply with the indications of the specialty for the dosage and duration of treatment

Liquorice powder or sticks.

You can make a licorice tea with licorice powder or finely fragmented roots or chew dried licorice roots to limit the urge to smoke or for oral hygiene.
Licorice paste is the result of a prolonged decoction of dried and crushed roots which are concentrated by evaporation.



This slender tropical liana is known for its pretty little black and red very decorative seeds which are used to make necklaces (in India they are used to weigh gold).
Both the stem and the root contain glycyrrhizin.
In the West Indies the infusion of the whole plant is used to calm the cough.
In other tropical regions, it is mixed with other plants to make an asthma syrup.

The seeds contain a violent and formidable poison: abrin.
A seed can kill a child. Fortunately the seed coats are very hard but there is always the fear that the string of pierced seeds will be worn in the mouth.
Abrin like many lectins (castor ricin, bean phasin) is destroyed by heat.

GLYCYRRHIZA LEPIDOTA or American Liquorice
Found in the western part of the North American continent, its slightly sweet root is traditionally eaten raw or cooked.

Found in the dry and calcareous parts of the Mediterranean region, it is the leaves and flowers that contain a little glycyrrhizin.

A small fern found in the wet parts of the American Northwest (California and Alaska). Its rhizome contains a substance with a sweet taste similar to licorice but chemically different (polypodoside A)

Very similar to the previous plant, present in Europe, it is a small fern whose rhizome is also slightly sweet.
The sweet component, osladine, is present in small amounts. This small, sometimes epiphytic fern is difficult to differentiate from other ferns whose rhizome can be bitter or poisonous.

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The pleasant taste and its sweetness (50 times that of normal sugar) make licorice used as a flavoring of many sweets, liqueurs or drinks.
It also contains a compound which protects the lining of the stomach and helps heal certain ulcers or gastritis. It is also used to reduce skin irritation (sunburn, dermatosis).
Licorice contains substances that are active against viruses, certain cancers or that slow the progression of hepatitis C.
Warning : its abuse in both confectionery and drinks can cause secondary hormonal disorders