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Licorice root and licorice powder in a spoon on a kitchen counter.

Licorice Root: An Ancient Solution for Modern Gut Health

By Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN

You’re likely familiar with the unique taste of licorice root in candy or herbal tea, but did you know this herb provides much more than natural sweetness? Licorice has been used for thousands of years, from traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to the ancient Greeks and Romans, as a health-promoting remedy. 


Glycyrrhiza, the scientific name for the licorice plant, includes more than 30 species worldwide. Nearly 400 compounds have been isolated from the plant, including metabolites like triterpenes, flavonoids, and polysaccharides, contributing to its health-supportive qualities.1


Licorice has been traditionally used for its ability to promote digestive health. In herbalism, licorice is known as demulcent herb that soothes and protects tissue. In the gut, licorice may help support normal function of the mucous membranes that line the GI tract and promote digestive comfort.2


Below, you'll learn more about how licorice root can support health and digestion and why maintaining healthy gut mucosa is essential for overall health.


Gut Health and Gastric Mucosa


Understanding why the gastrointestinal (GI) mucosa is essential for maintaining gut health can also help you understand why and how licorice can be supportive. The thought of mucus may bring up images of runny noses and coughing, but in this case, mucus is a beneficial substance that lines the inside of your digestive system. 


Your GI tract runs from your mouth to your anus and is responsible for the breakdown, digestion, and absorption of food. Throughout this long pathway, the GI mucosa acts as a physical barrier that lines the walls of your digestive tract and helps protect the delicate tissues in your digestive tract from damage caused by stomach acid, bile salts, digestive enzymes, and other harsh substances.3


Your mucosa also helps prevent harmful substances, pathogens, and toxins from leaving the digestive tract and entering the bloodstream. Within the mucosa, specialized cells also produce and secrete mucus, which helps lubricate and protect the GI tract and promote healthy digestion.3 These cells also secrete antimicrobial peptides and immunoglobulins (two types of immune system proteins) to combat invaders and protect the GI tract. The cells within the GI mucosa are deeply involved in immune surveillance, which means they help detect and respond to any problematic substances or threats to keep your GI tract and whole body healthy. 3


Where does licorice come in? Research suggests that licorice's demulcent properties could help maintain the health and integrity of the GI mucosa, making it an ideal herb (could leave as is or substitute “herb” in the place of natural remedy) to support gut health. 1 


Licorice Versus Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice


It's often assumed that plants and herbs are less potent than medications, but glycyrrhizin, the main active compound in licorice, can significantly impact the body and should be used with care. Research suggests glycyrrhizin can cause low potassium when taken at high doses.1It can also increase blood pressure due to its impact on cortisol, the primary hormone involved in the body's stress response.4


However, you can still utilize the benefits of licorice without risking potential side effects by considering deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). This form of licorice removes glycyrrhizin via extraction, making it safer for long-term use without causing the same adverse side effects. 2


Even with the removal of glycyrrhizin, DGL retains the critical bioactive compounds that give licorice its supportive properties, making it an effective alternative to regular licorice for GI support.2


Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice Supports Gastric Mucosa


DGL may help maintain the normal function of mucous membranes in the stomach and small intestines. While glycyrrhizin was first studied for its GI support, studies suggest that DGL may be more effective without the cortisol-increasing side effects. 2


DGL may support gut health by stimulating the quality and production of mucous that protects the stomach lining. It may also provide nutritional support to the cells of the GI tract while maintaining a healthy blood supply to the gastric mucosa.2 


For individuals seeking to support the innate protective functions of the GI tract, DGL stands out as an attractive option. Rather than impeding the body's natural acid production, DGL could support digestion and promote digestive comfort by reinforcing the body's natural defense mechanisms. Some research also found that licorice may help with digestive comfort, helping with occasional symptoms like fullness and bloating or even loss of appetite.6 


Consider Licorice for Your Digestive Health


Licorice, specifically DGL, could be a valuable tool for supporting digestive health. DGL may help maintain the normal function of the GI tract and promote healthy digestion.


Always discuss with your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your routine, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking other medications. Even though it's a natural remedy, licorice may interact with certain medications or health conditions. 


When choosing a licorice supplement, look for high-quality DGL supplements from reputable brands to ensure safety and efficacy. Third-party verification for purity and potency can also help verify a high-quality product.


There's no single solution or "magic pill" for gut health, but adding licorice to your healthy lifestyle habits, including a fiber-rich diet and regular exercise, may help support and maintain digestive wellness.


Caitlin Beale, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. She has a master's degree in nutrition and over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian.  


+The views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Pure Encapsulations®.  



1 Yang R, Yuan BC, Ma YS, Zhou S, Liu Y. The anti-inflammatory activity of licorice, a widely used Chinese herb. Pharm Biol. 2017;55(1):5-18. doi:10.1080/13880209.2016.1225775

2 Murray MT. Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice). Textbook of Natural Medicine. 2020;641-647.e3. doi:10.1016/B978-0-323-43044-9.00085-6

3 Song C, Chai Z, Chen S, Zhang H, Zhang X, Zhou Y. Intestinal mucus components and secretion mechanisms: what we do and do not know. Exp Mol Med. 2023;55(4):681-691. doi:10.1038/s12276-023-00960-y

4 Sharifi-Rad J, Quispe C, Herrera-Bravo J, et al. Glycyrrhiza Genus: Enlightening Phytochemical Components for Pharmacological and Health-Promoting Abilities. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2021;2021:7571132. Published 2021 Jul 24. doi:10.1155/2021/7571132

5 Tian M, Yan H, Row KH. Extraction of glycyrrhizic acid and glabridin from licorice. Int J Mol Sci. 2008;9(4):571-577. doi:10.3390/ijms9040571

6 Raveendra KR, Jayachandra, Srinivasa V, et al. 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. doi:10.1155/2012/216970