Risk and safety assessment on the consumption of Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza sp.), its extract and powder as a food ingredient, with emphasis on the pharmacology and toxicology of glycyrrhizin

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2006 Dec;46(3):167-92. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2006.06.002. Epub 2006 Aug 1.


Licorice (or 'liquorice') is a plant of ancient origin and steeped in history. Licorice extracts and its principle component, glycyrrhizin, have extensive use in foods, tobacco and in both traditional and herbal medicine. As a result, there is a high level of use of licorice and glycyrrhizin in the US with an estimated consumption of 0.027-3.6 mg glycyrrhizin/kg/day. Both products have been approved for use in foods by most national and supranational regulatory agencies. Biochemical studies indicate that glycyrrhizinates inhibit 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, the enzyme responsible for inactivating cortisol. As a result, the continuous, high level exposure to glycyrrhizin compounds can produce hypermineralocorticoid-like effects in both animals and humans. These effects are reversible upon withdrawal of licorice or glycyrrhizin. Other in vivo and clinical studies have reported beneficial effects of both licorice and glycyrrhizin consumption including anti-ulcer, anti-viral, and hepatoprotective responses. Various genotoxic studies have indicated that glycyrrhizin is neither teratogenic nor mutagenic, and may possess anti-genotoxic properties under certain conditions. The pharmacokinetics of glycyrrhizin have been described and show that its bioavailability is reduced when consumed as licorice; this has hampered attempts to establish clear dose-effect levels in animals and humans. Based on the in vivo and clinical evidence, we propose an acceptable daily intake of 0.015-0.229 mg glycyrrhizin/kg body weight/day.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Female
  • Food
  • Food Industry* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Food Industry* / standards
  • Glycyrrhiza / chemistry
  • Glycyrrhiza / metabolism
  • Glycyrrhiza / toxicity*
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid / chemistry
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid / metabolism
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Structure
  • No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity
  • Plant Roots / chemistry
  • Plant Roots / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors


  • Plant Extracts
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid