Toxicological Effects of Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice): A Review

Phytother Res. 2017 Nov;31(11):1635-1650. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5893. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been considered as an herbal drug since ancient time. Nowadays, it is a well-known spice that possesses worth pharmacological effects. However, some relevant articles have revealed negative impacts of licorice in health. By considering the great wishes in using herbal medicine, it is important to show adverse effects of herbal medicine in health. At present, there are misunderstandings toward the safety of herbal medicines. Herein, we gathered scientific research projects on the toxicity effects of licorice and glycyrrhizin to highlight their safety. In this regards, we categorized our findings about the toxicity effects of licorice and glycyrrhizin in acute, sub-acute, sub-chronic, and chronic states. Besides, we discussed on the cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity of licorice and glycyrrhizin as well as their developmental toxicity. This review disclosed that G. glabra and glycyrrhizin salts are moderately toxic. They need to be used with caution during pregnancy. G. glabra and glycyrrhizin possess selective cytotoxic effects on cancerous cells. The most important side effects of licorice and glycyrrhizin are hypertension and hypokalemic-induced secondary disorders. Licorice side effects are increased by hypokalemia, prolonged gastrointestinal transient time, decreased type 2 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activities, hypertension, anorexia nervosa, old age, and female sex. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: Glycyrrhiza glabra; acute toxicity; cancer cell; developmental toxicity; glycyrrhizin; liquorice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Glycyrrhiza / toxicity*
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid / toxicity*
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hypertension
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity
  • Plants, Medicinal / toxicity*
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Plant Extracts
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases