Licorice – Mulethi (Yashtimadhu) – Glycyrrhiza Glabra

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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.

Botanical Description

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.

Common Names

Botanical SynonymGlycyrrhiza Glabra
English NameCultivated Licorice, Liquorice, Licorice
Hindi NameMulethi
Sanskrit NameYashtimadhu
Ayurvedic NameYashtimadhu
Also Spelled AsMULATHI, YASHTI-MADHU, YASHTI-MADHUKA, JETHI MADH

Botanical Classification (Plant Taxonomy)

KingdomPlantae
Sub-KingdomViridiplantae
Infra KingdomStreptophyta  (Land Plants)
Super DivisionEmbryophyta
DivisionTracheophyta (Tracheophytes or Vascular Plants)
Sub DivisionSpermatophytina (Spermatophytes or Seed Plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida
Super OrderRosanae
OrderFabales
FamilyFabaceae (peas & legumes)
GenusGlycyrrhiza
SpeciesGlycyrrhiza Glabra (Cultivated Liquorice)

Plant Description

Type of PlantHerbaceous Perennial Plant
Native RangeIndia, 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.
RootsStoloniferous
LeavesPinnate leaves (70 to 150 mm long) bearing 9–17 leaflets
FlowersPurple to pale whitish blue (8 to 12 mm long)
FruitsOblong pod (20 to 30 mm)
SeedsFruits 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.

Medicinal Properties

Liquorice (Mulethi) has following healing properties.

  1. Antacid
  2. Anti-ulcerogenic
  3. Anti-inflammatory
  4. Anti-oxidant
  5. Anti-Alzheimer’s
  6. Anti-obesogenic
  7. Anti-adipogenic
  8. Anti-atherogenic
  9. Anticancer
  10. Anti-angiogenic (in cancer or Tumors)
  11. Anti-proliferative (in cancer or Tumors)
  12. Anti-asthmatic
  13. Antibacterial
  14. Adaptogenic
  15. Analgesic
  16. Anti-arthritic
  17. Antidepressant
  18. Antioxidant
  19. Anti-stress
  20. Antitussive
  21. Aphrodisiac
  22. Demulcent
  23. Expectorant
  24. Immuno-modulator
  25. Mild estrogenic – It might influence estrogen level in women.

Ayurvedic Properties

Taste – RASAMADHURA (Sweet)
Main Quality – GUNAGURU (Heavy) & SNIGADH or SNEHA (Unctuous or Oily)
Potency – VIRYASHEETA (Cold)
Resultant – VIPAKAMADHURA (Sweet)
Therapeutic Effect – PRABHAVARejuvenation & Supplement
DOSHA KARMA (Effect on Humors)Pacifies VATA & PITTA
Dhatu (Tissue) EffectAll – RASA, RAKTA, MAMSA, MEDAS, ASTHI, MAJJA & SHUKRA
Beneficial for OrgansStomach, Intestines, Liver, Brain, Heart & Blood Vessels

THERAPEUTIC INDICATIONS

Mulethi is helpful in following health conditions.

AllergyAllergic rhinitis or hay fever
Brain & Mind HealthDepression, emotional stress, memory loss
Digestive HealthAcidity, Chronic Gastritis, Canker sores, Constipation, duodenal ulcer, gingivitis, heartburn, indigestion, peptic ulcer, mouth ulcer, tooth decay, Ulcerative colitis, hepatitis and inflammation of gallbladder,
Heart HealthHigh Cholesterol level
HormonesAddison’s disease
Joint, Muscle & BonesArthritis, Bursitis, Fibromyalgia, Gout
Respiratory HealthCough, Asthma, Bronchitis,
Skin & HairsBaldness, Eczema, Psoriasis,

OTHERS

General IndicationsGeneral debility, Chronic Fatigue, Physical exhaustion
InfectionsAthlete’s foot, Intestinal infections, Conjunctivitis, sore throat
Women HealthMenopause, Excessive uterine bleeding,
Men HealthProstate 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

Licorice (Mulethi) acts as antacid and reduce free and total HCL levels in the stomach. It decreases acidic irritation to peptic mucosa. It is effective in acute as well as chronic gastritis. (1, 2)

In Indian Medicine, Licorice (mulethi) is used with amla powder (Indian Gooseberry), coriander seed powder, giloy and nut grass powder for relieving gastritis and hyperacidity.

Stomach ulcers

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)

Liquorice has protective effects against stomach ulcer. It reduces the chances of gastric ulceration induced by aspirin and other NSAIDs. (6, 7)

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.

Ulcerative colitis

Licorice contains a Glabridin compound, which reduces colonic inflammation. Licorice can speed up healing process in inflamed mucosa and prevent ulceration of mucosa of the intestines. (11, 12, 13)

In ayurveda, licorice is used with Indian gooseberry, Bamboo Manna (vanshlochan) and Giloy satva for ulcerative colitis treatment.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Licorice can help in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It reduces elevated liver enzymes. (14, 15)

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.

Cough

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 powder2 grams
Sitopaladi powder2 grams
Honey1 tsp.

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.

High cholesterol

Licorice has potency to reduce serum cholesterol levels and hepatic cholesterol. The possible action of licorice might be associated with conversion of cholesterol into the bile. (19, 20)

Atherosclerosis

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)

Hormones

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.

Malaria

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)

Tuberculosis

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)

Sore throat

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)

Eczema

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.

Muscle cramps

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)

Osteoarthritis

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)

In ayurveda, licorice is used for reducing menopausal symptoms with SARASWATARISHTA and MUKTA PISHTI.

Oligospermia

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.

Seminal Weakness

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.

Abdominal fat

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.
Children250 mg to 1.5 grams *
Adults1 to 3 grams *
Maximum Possible Dosage6 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.

Safety Profile

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.

Side Effects

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:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Low potassium in the blood
  3. High sodium levels
  4. Bloating*
  5. 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)

Pregnancy

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.

Breastfeeding

Avoid mulethi consumption during breastfeeding above dosage 6 grams per day. Regular intake of licorice products is also restricted.

Contraindications

  1. Patients with high blood pressure or on hypertensive drugs
  2. Hypertension encephalopathy
  3. Loss of Libido
  4. Erectile dysfunction
  5. Kidney disease (unless high potassium)
  6. Hypertonia
  7. Hypokalemia (low potassium)
  8. Fluid retention
  9. Congestive heart failure

Drug Interactions

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.

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17 Comments
  1. KANUBHAI PATEL says

    Can I use Mulethi Powder for gastric acid reflux problem?

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      Yes, Mulethi works very fine in Acid Reflux Disease.

      1. Aqeel says

        I have problems of gastritis (GERD) by endoscopy test, weakness, Colitis etc. and early discharge.
        May the combination of yashtimadhu + Drakshasava syrup + Confido be taken together?
        How should I take and how long?
        Thanks

        1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

          The combination should help and results can be seen within 4 to 12 weeks but may vary person-to-person.

  2. pankaj says

    How to use Mulethi to reduce bad habits, keep body fit and healthy

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      In such cases, Mulethi (1 gram) with Vidarikand (500 mg), Amla (500 mg) and Jatamansi (500 mg) is effective.

      1. pankaj says

        Tell me daily doses of Licorice.
        Can I take this treatment in winter season?

        1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

          This mixture should be taken twice daily. It can be used in winter season.

  3. Ashwani says

    Hello Dr Jagdev,
    I have history of H Pylori, Chronic duodenitis. I have been taking one tablet of Himalaya yashtimadhu for more than 6 months. Can I keep on continuing it? I have pitta dosha. I know an ayurvedic doctor and he advised me to take dhatri lauha. I am not taking it now. Please advise.

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      1. Yashtimadhu in dosage of 1 tablet can be continued and safe for long-term use.
      2. Dhatri Lauha is also a good medicine; please follow your doctor recommendations.

  4. Jyoti says

    sir,

    Yashtimadhu ksheerapaka (licorice with milk) is a classic preparation that is extolled by our shastras. Your article on the contrary gives an impression that this combination will produce side effects like bloating, etc.

    kindly clarify.

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      There is no doubt that Yashtimadhu along with milk is excellent for many health problems. Already discussed in the article, side effects are rare and dose dependent. Some side effects only appear when Yashtimadhu Dosage exceeds from 10 grams per day.

  5. Sonia says

    Hello, I am currently in my last 2 weeks of pregnancy and just now I found out that Yashtimadhu is contraindicated during pregnancy. I am worried about the well being of my baby, should I be concerned about her cognitive development? Thank you!

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      According to study, women eating more than 100 grams pure licorice powder per week are more likely to have children with lower intelligence levels or behavior problems. 100 grams pure licorice powder contains 500 mg glycyrrhizin.

      However, licorice is still safe if you take its powder in the recommended dosage because the recommended dosage of licorice in pregnancy does not exceed from 100 grams per week.

      According to ayurveda, it improves intelligence and treats behavior problems when taken in adequate dosage. The higher dosage or unwise use of anything (including licorice) is always unsafe.

  6. Jitendra Sihwag says

    It is a wonderfully educative article and I enjoyed reading it.

    I am sensitive in nature and have week digestion since birth. I am taking an allopathic medicine (Flueoxotin 30 mg) for depression which is compounds my stomach disorders which include constipation, gas, acidity, dry mouth etc. In such cases allopathic Doctors prescribe Pantaprozole, which I have taken for some years.

    Then I tried taking Avipattikar churna twice daily and Liv-52-1 each, Gasex Tablets-2 each and Yashtimadhu (1 to 2 tablets) [All by Himalaya] daily instead of Pentaprozol with the conviction that regular use of Ayurvedic Medicine would be less risky than Pentaprozol, whose regular consumption is stated to have adverse effects on kidneys. I take Triphala before going to bed and occasionally Isabgol too. The benefits have been substantial. But, I would need them till I take the Allopathic Medicine for depression, which is to continue for whole life.

    My question is what regime should I follow while consuming these medicines. Regards,

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      Licorice along with Amla, Coriander and Giloy should be helpful. Mix these remedies in equal parts. The dosage of this mixture is 2 grams twice daily in between food.

  7. Ravinder Kumar Shah says

    Please tell me how and when to take Yashtimadhu tablets. I am currently suffering from Duodenal ulcer, Gastritis, Mucus in stool, flatulence etc.

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