Liquorice (also spelled as Licorice, botanically Glycyrrhiza Glabra, also known as Mulethi in Hindi and Yashtimadhu in Ayurveda) is an important herb used in ayurveda, Indian medicines, home remedies and folk medicines. The health benefits of Liquorice include its use in hyperacidity, ulcer, general debility, joint pains and some other diseases. It is beneficial in these diseases due to its medicinal properties. It is a good anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent. It also acts as antacid and aphrodisiac.
Liquorice is botanically Glycyrrhiza Glabra that belongs to Fabaceae family (peas and legumes family). In Tamil Language, it is known as ATHIMATHURAM. It is herbaceous perennial plants bearing sweet roots used for therapeutic purposes.
|Botanical Synonym||Glycyrrhiza Glabra|
|English Name||Cultivated Licorice, Liquorice, Licorice|
|Also Spelled As||MULATHI, YASHTI-MADHU, YASHTI-MADHUKA, JETHI MADH|
Botanical Classification (Plant Taxonomy)
|Infra Kingdom||Streptophyta (Land Plants)|
|Division||Tracheophyta (Tracheophytes or Vascular Plants)|
|Sub Division||Spermatophytina (Spermatophytes or Seed Plants)|
|Family||Fabaceae (peas & legumes)|
|Species||Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Cultivated Liquorice)|
|Type of Plant||Herbaceous Perennial Plant|
|Native Range||India, Asia, Southern Europe|
|Height (grows up to)||Grows up to 1 meter in height|
|Habitat (type of environment)||Dry, hot and sunny climates with low annual rainfall are best for liquorice growth. However, adequate soil moisture is also necessary for its growth.|
|Leaves||Pinnate leaves (70 to 150 mm long) bearing 9–17 leaflets|
|Flowers||Purple to pale whitish blue (8 to 12 mm long)|
|Fruits||Oblong pod (20 to 30 mm)|
|Seeds||Fruits contains several seeds|
Medicinal Parts of Liquorice Plant
In Ayurveda, Liquorice (Yashtimadhu) roots are best for medicinal uses. It has all therapeutic properties.
Phytochemistry (Chemical Composition)
Liquorice (Mulethi) contains a sweet substance and a saponin glycoside, glycyrrhizin (also known as glycyrrhizic acid). It is 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar and taste of sweetness in mouth lasts longer than sugar. On hydrolysis, glycoside coverts into aglycone glycyrrhetinic acid and loses its sweetness. Yellow color of liquorice is due to Chalcone Glycoside Isoliquiritin.
Liquorice (Mulethi) has following healing properties.
- Anti-angiogenic (in cancer or Tumors)
- Anti-proliferative (in cancer or Tumors)
- Mild estrogenic – It might influence estrogen level in women.
|Taste – RASA||MADHURA (Sweet)|
|Main Quality – GUNA||GURU (Heavy) & SNIGADH or SNEHA (Unctuous or Oily)|
|Potency – VIRYA||SHEETA (Cold)|
|Resultant – VIPAKA||MADHURA (Sweet)|
|Therapeutic Effect – PRABHAVA||Rejuvenation & Supplement|
|DOSHA KARMA (Effect on Humors)||Pacifies VATA & PITTA|
|Dhatu (Tissue) Effect||All – RASA, RAKTA, MAMSA, MEDAS, ASTHI, MAJJA & SHUKRA|
|Beneficial for Organs||Stomach, Intestines, Liver, Brain, Heart & Blood Vessels|
Mulethi is helpful in following health conditions.
|Allergy||Allergic rhinitis or hay fever|
|Brain & Mind Health||Depression, emotional stress, memory loss|
|Digestive Health||Acidity, Chronic Gastritis, Canker sores, Constipation, duodenal ulcer, gingivitis, heartburn, indigestion, peptic ulcer, mouth ulcer, tooth decay, Ulcerative colitis, hepatitis and inflammation of gallbladder,|
|Heart Health||High Cholesterol level|
|Joint, Muscle & Bones||Arthritis, Bursitis, Fibromyalgia, Gout|
|Respiratory Health||Cough, Asthma, Bronchitis,|
|Skin & Hairs||Baldness, Eczema, Psoriasis,|
|General Indications||General debility, Chronic Fatigue, Physical exhaustion|
|Infections||Athlete’s foot, Intestinal infections, Conjunctivitis, sore throat|
|Women Health||Menopause, Excessive uterine bleeding,|
|Men Health||Prostate enlargement|
BENEFITS & MEDICINAL USES
The main beneficial effects of Licorice (Mulethi) are on digestive system and respiratory system. It helps in relieving gastric symptoms such as heartburn, burning sensation in the abdomen, peptic and duodenal ulcer, abdominal colic, GERD and chronic gastritis.
Licorice (Mulethi) contains Glycyrrhizin, which is sweet in taste and reduces inflammation of gastrointestinal tract. It benefits in following diseases related to digestive system.
Hyperacidity and Gastritis
In Indian Medicine, Licorice (mulethi) is used with amla powder, coriander seed powder, giloy and nut grass powder for relieving gastritis and hyperacidity.
Licorice has anti-inflammatory effects and anti-ulcer properties. Mulethi decreases the inflammation of stomach linings. Various studies have shown its significant anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory diseases. (3, 4, 5)
In duodenal ulcer, deglycyrrhizinized licorice has ulcer healing properties. It corrects the gastric mucosa and reduces ulcerations. (8)
Helicobacter pylori infection induced peptic ulcer
Licorice extract has some flavonoids, which act as Anti-Helicobacter pylori. The flavonoids such as glabridin and glabrene found in licorice have inhibitory effects against H. pylori. Therefore, licorice can be used against H. pylori infection and peptic ulcer caused due to H. pylori. (9)
Aphthous ulcers or Mouth ulcers or Canker sores
Licorice can provide 50 to 75% relief from Aphthous ulcers within in one day and complete remission of ulcers within three days. (10)
Canker sores are a common type of mouth ulcer characterized by pain and tenderness. These are white or yellow in appearance surrounded by red area. Licorice water or tea reduces the pain and tenderness. Its gargle is also effective in reducing the size of canker sores.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
According to ayurveda, licorice is not a potent remedy for liver diseases, but it can help in this condition when taken with other hepatic protective herbs such as Punarnava, Bhringraj, Giloy, Patha etc.
Mulethi is therapeutically helpful in sore throat, throat irritation, cough and bronchitis.
Licorice has expectorant properties. It also eases coughing up the thick yellow sputum accumulated in the lungs. Due to antibacterial properties, it also reduces infection of upper respiratory tract. It reduces throat irritation and helps in chronic cough.
In ayurveda, licorice is used in such conditions as follows:
|Licorice powder||2 grams|
|Sitopaladi powder||2 grams|
Bronchitis & Asthma
Licorice attenuates the inflammation of bronchi and and soothes respiratory tract, so it helps in bronchitis. Due to anti-inflammatory effects, licorice is effective in many inflammatory diseases including bronchitis and arthritis. It can also be beneficial in allergic asthma, according to studies. (16, 17, 18)
In asthma, it can be used with Pushkarmool powder and honey.
Licorice root or mulethi has anti-atherosclerotic characteristics. The effects can be due to reduction of serum cholesterol and plaque formation in the blood vessels. Another antioxidant property can also potentiate its effects in preventing cardiovascular diseases. (21, 22, 23)
Licorice is known for its effects on adrenal gland. It improves the adrenal gland functions. Licorice can be helpful in people who take steroid drugs, because steroids suppress important adrenal gland functions and results in adrenal insufficiency. Licorice assists adrenal gland to recover its natural functions and stimulates adrenal hormones.
Chinese licorice roots contain a compound named as LICOCHALCONE. It inhibits the falciparum strain and its effects are similar to chloroquine. The studies have concluded that a new isolated licorice compound has potent anti-malarial properties. (24, 25)
LICOCHALCONE found in Chinese licorice roots has inhibitory effects against myco-bacterial species. However, yet further studies are required to investigate the results of licorice in tuberculosis, but it can help in bacterial lung infections. (26)
Gargle with licorice water or decoction reduces throat inflammation, irritation and pain. The studies have shown that licorice gargle reduces incidence of sore throat by 50% in post-extubation coughing and attenuates postoperative sore throat. (27, 28, 29)
In ayurveda, licorice root powder is used in sore throat with honey and sitopaldi churna.
High potassium levels
Some research studies conclude that there are certain compounds found in licorice decreases potassium levels in the blood. It might be effective in cases of high serum potassium in people with kidney diseases and diabetes.
The main warning is that it should not used in cases with low potassium levels and high sodium levels. Otherwise, it may result in sever myopathy due to hypokalemia. (30)
Licorice paste, oil or gel application helps in eczema and inflamed and itchy skin. Some herbal creams and gel used for eczema treatment contains licorice extract. It reduces itchiness, redness and swelling. (31)
Hair fall & premature graying of hairs
In ayurveda, licorice is used for preventing hair fall. It is useful orally as well as in herbal shampoos. According to ayurveda, vitiation in PITTA and VATA humor results in hair fall and premature graying of hairs. Licorice affects on both humors and helps in pacification of these aggravated humors activities in the body.
Generally, it is used with calcium supplement because ayurveda believes that hairs are matter produces from minerals, which also helps forming the bone. Yet, there are no evidences available supporting these claims.
Blemishes and dark spots
Generally, blemishes and dark spots are found in PITTA type people or in PITTA aggravation. Licorice with Indian gooseberry shows promising results in decreasing blemishes and dark spots. According to our experience, it can take up to 3 to 6 months for a complete fading of blemishes and dark spots. This herbal combination is more effective in blemishes than dark spots.
Licorice has antispasmodic and muscle relaxant characteristics. It reduces muscle cramps and tenderness in patients with fibromyalgia.
Its effects are more shown on abdominal spasm that occurs during menstruation in women, but it cannot be so potent that it can work alone, so patient may require other medications too.
It can also help preventing muscle cramps in patients on hemodialysis. (32)
In ayurvedic medicine, licorice is used with Ashwagandha for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Many ayurvedic analgesic preparations contain licorice and ashwagandha as main ingredient.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
Licorice can help patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. This action of licorice might be due to strengthening and antioxidant activities. (33)
Menopausal Hot Flashes
Studies suggest that licorice can decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes during menopause. It is also well acceptable and tolerable in most of women. (34)
Licorice has cooling effect in the body, according to ayurveda. It also has a great strengthening rejuvenation effects. It is used with other herbs to boost spermatogenesis and quality.
However, licorice is not recommended in people with loss of libido, but it can help men suffering with early discharge or seminal weakness . Generally, hyper-excitement or hypersensitivity is a cause of early discharge in men. Licorice reduces excessive excitement and thus helps in treating early discharge problems in men. Sometimes, mind plays a role in early discharge in which licorice is also effective.
Prostate hypertrophy or cancer
Licorice is also used in prostate hypertrophy and prostate cancer, but its relevant studies are not yet available on this subject.
Licorice contains some flavonoids, which reduces abdominal fat accumulation. The research suggests that it also has hypoglycemic effects, so mulethi (Liquorice) can benefits in diabetes too. (35)
It can also help obese people with elevated serum cholesterol levels. We already discussed the effects of licorice on cholesterol in heart health section above.
Dosage & Administration
|The general dosage of Licorice Powder (Mulethi Churna) is as follows.|
|Children||250 mg to 1.5 grams *|
|Adults||1 to 3 grams *|
|Maximum Possible Dosage||6 grams Per Day (in divided doses)|
|* Twice Daily with Water, Lukewarm Milk or as recommended by physician|
|Best Time to Take: Before Meal in abdominal diseases like gastritis, ulcer etc.|
Mulethi side effects occur in people with hypertension. Generally, it does not tend to raise your blood pressure if you do not have history of high blood pressure. The side effects appear mostly in cases taking high dosage of mulethi (licorice). Therefore, it may POSSIBLY SAFE in people having no history of high blood pressure. The dosage should not exceed from 10 grams per day. You should not consume mulethi or licorice more that 4 weeks continuously.
Regular intake of mulethi is also not suggestible because regular intake also results in low potassium and high sodium in the body, which can cause fluid retention.
A few side effects are listed here:
- High blood pressure
- Low potassium in the blood
- High sodium levels
- Fluid retention*
*These effects are rare and occur if it is taken with milk or in unnatural form such as extract. Side effects occur only if patients are taking it for a several months regularly.
Mulethi may increase your blood pressure, but this effect is seen only with dosage more than 10 grams per day. All studies suggesting this side effect are done with dosage above 50 grams to 200 grams per day, which is not a therapeutic dosage. The therapeutic dosage does not exceed from 3 grams to 10 grams per day. (36, 37)
Glycyrrhetinic acid present in mulethi can result in low potassium level in the blood and thus it can cause high blood pressure. This effect occurs due to inhibition of renal 2-beta-hydroxysteroid de-hydrogenase and stimulation of mineralocorticoid receptors by the glycyrrhetinic acid. (38, 39, 40)
These effects disappear after licorice withdrawal within three weeks and the blood pressure reverts to normal, according to a report published in Journal of hypertension. (41)
Regular intake of mulethi or licorice causes hypermineralocorticoidism, which can result in moderate hypertension and hypertensive encephalopathy. (42)
Ayurvedic science recommends using mulethi in pregnancy in case of intrauterine growth restriction. It has been used in such cases therapeutically since 2000 years in India.
However, modern science restricts its use during pregnancy. Mulethi is UNSAFE in pregnancy in higher dosage.
The heavy dosages of mulethi or licorice can cause adverse effects in pregnancy. The study on heavy dosage of glycyrrhizin (mulethi extract) concluded that it may result in preterm delivery. (43)
Another contradictory study concluded that heavy glycyrrhizin (mulethi extract) exposure did not have any significant influence on maternal blood pressure and birth weight of babies, but glycyrrhizin was significant affected the gestational age and resulted in early delivery. (44)
Maternal licorice consumption may affect the cognitive performance of children in later life. It may result due to the glycyrrhiza, active constituent in licorice and overexposure to glucocorticoids. (45)
In conclusion, we suggest that you should not consume glycyrrhizin during pregnancy if other options are available and unless benefits are more over the potential risk factors.
Avoid mulethi consumption during breastfeeding above dosage 6 grams per day. Regular intake of licorice products is also restricted.
- Patients with high blood pressure or on hypertensive drugs
- Hypertension encephalopathy
- Loss of Libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Kidney disease (unless high potassium)
- Hypokalemia (low potassium)
- Fluid retention
- Congestive heart failure
Mulethi may interact with hypertensive drugs. It can reduce the concentration of these drugs and result in treatment failure.
Special Precaution in Diabetes
Some research studies concluded that Mulethi (Licorice) might affect blood sugar level. Many studies suggested, it lowers the blood sugar level, so regular blood sugar level check up becomes necessary to adjust anti-diabetic medication dosage.