Historical sources for the use of Glycyrrhiza species include ancient manuscripts from China, India and Greece. They all mention its use for symptoms of viral respiratory tract infections and hepatitis. Randomized controlled trials confirmed that the Glycyrrhiza glabra derived compound glycyrrhizin and its derivatives reduced hepatocellular damage in chronic hepatitis B and C. In hepatitis C virus-induced cirrhosis the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma was reduced. Animal studies demonstrated a reduction of mortality and viral activity in herpes simplex virus encephalitis and influenza A virus pneumonia. In vitro studies revealed antiviral activity against HIV-1, SARS related coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus, arboviruses, vaccinia virus and vesicular stomatitis virus. Mechanisms for antiviral activity of Glycyrrhiza spp. include reduced transport to the membrane and sialylation of hepatitis B virus surface antigen, reduction of membrane fluidity leading to inhibition of fusion of the viral membrane of HIV-1 with the cell, induction of interferon gamma in T-cells, inhibition of phosphorylating enzymes in vesicular stomatitis virus infection and reduction of viral latency. Future research needs to explore the potency of compounds derived from licorice in prevention and treatment of influenza A virus pneumonia and as an adjuvant treatment in patients infected with HIV resistant to antiretroviral drugs.