Licorice root is one of the oldest and most frequently employed botanicals in Chinese medicine. In the United States, licorice products are most often used as flavoring and sweetening agents in food products. Constituents of licorice include triterpenoids, such as glycyrrhizin and its aglycone glycyrrhizic acid, various polyphenols, and polysaccharides. A number of pharmaceutical effects of licorice are known or suspected (anti-inflammatory, antivirus, antiulcer, anticarcinogenesis, and others). Licorice and its derivatives may protect against carcinogen-induced DNA damage and may be suppressive agents as well. Glycyrrhizic acid is an inhibitor of lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase, inhibits protein kinase C, and downregulates the epidermal growth factor receptor. Licorice polyphenols induce apoptosis in cancer cells. These and other activities of licorice are reviewed, and a rationale is suggested for combinations of agents in preventive clinical trials.