Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) refers to the root of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, a perennial legume found throughout the Mediterranean and parts of southeastern Asia. It is perhaps most well-known for its taste and flavor for sweetening confectionary, or the root is eaten directly as a candy. Licorice root also has a long medicinal use history in both traditional Chinese medicine and the Indian Ayurvedic healing system. In Egypt, licorice was historically used as a mucokinetic or an agent that clears congestion and mucus from the respiratory pathways. In general, licorice root has a history of therapeutic uses in treating cough, asthma, gastrointestinal distress, ulcers, acid reflux, and adrenal stress. Clinical research has also pointed to licorice root possessing anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.
A 2003 study published by The Lancet evaluated licorice root’s antiviral potential in treating SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Specifically, researchers observed antiviral activity of the active components ribavirin, 6-azauridine, pyrazofurin, mycophenolic acid, and glycyrrhizin against SARS-associated coronavirus infection. Results yielded that glycyrrhizin was the most potent in inhibiting viral replication of all tested compounds.
This discovery prompted further research into licorice root’s bioactive compounds. A 2013 study published by Pharmacognosy Research evaluated the antiviral activities of an aqueous extract of Glycyrrhiza glabra and ribavirin, an antiviral therapeutic protein, in the treatment of acute infectious Newcastle disease. Results indicated that both ribavirin and licorice root extract demonstrated potent antiviral activity in embryonated poultry eggs without inducing toxicity.
Further research has indicated that licorice’s bioactive components may have therapeutic efficacy against herpes virus simplex, HIV, hepatitis virus, and influenza virus. However, if ingested in large quantities over extended periods, glycyrrhizic acid’s licorice component can be dangerous, eventually inducing high blood pressure and potassium deficiency. Back to the Blog
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