Licorice tea has long been used to soothe an upset stomach. But does this treatment hold up? Here, we look at licorice tea benefits and drawbacks, plus how much licorice tea is too much.
Although more research is needed to confirm the health benefits of licorice root tea, it may soothe certain digestive and skin conditions. However, it also has negative side effects to be aware of before you drink it.
Licorice Tea Benefits
So, what is licorice root tea good for? While there's not a ton of research to support the drink's purported benefits, there is some evidence to suggest that it may help soothe certain conditions.
And glycyrrhizin, a compound found in licorice root that gives licorice its taste, is the primary active substance that may provide these perks, according to a July 2015 review in Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B.
Here are the potential licorice tea health benefits:
1. It May Soothe Digestive Issues
Licorice tea is often used to ease an upset stomach from conditions like heartburn or acid reflux, according to the University of Michigan Health.
In fact, there are some small studies that demonstrate this licorice tea benefit. For instance, a March 2013 study of 58 people with GERD found that those who took a low dose of glycyrrhetinic acid in addition to their regular treatment had a more significant decrease in symptoms than those who did not, per research in Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology.
However, larger studies are needed to better establish this link.
2. It May Help Relieve Skin Conditions
Licorice root contains hundreds of compounds that may have an antibacterial or anti-inflammatory effect on your skin, per the Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B review.
Accordingly, applying topical licorice root extract may help ease symptoms of skin conditions like eczema, according to the University of Michigan Health.
The extract has also been used to tackle other skin issues like psoriasis and canker sores, per the University of Michigan Health, but there is little evidence to support these uses, so talk to your doctor before trying it.
3. It Can Have Antioxidant Effects
Another health benefit of licorice tea is that the glycyrrhizin and other compounds found in the root may have antioxidant effects that protect against cell damage. These protective properties may also safeguard against some cancers, according to a January 2015 review in Current Pharmacology Reports.
Many licorice tea products don't contain the root — they merely mimic the flavor of licorice using anise oil, per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). So if you're looking for the best licorice root tea, make sure the ingredients are actually derived from the root, which contains the active constituents of the plant.
Licorice Tea Safety Considerations
But licorice tea isn't always good for you. Though it's generally considered safe in moderate amounts, you can't drink licorice root tea everyday because too much of it can potentially lead to health issues, per the NCCIH.
Here are some safety considerations to note before you sip the tea:
1. It Can Have Side Effects
Eating too much licorice root can lead to side effects, which may be due to a buildup of glycyrrhizin, according to the NCCIH. These issues can include:
- High blood pressure
- Low potassium levels
- Muscle weakness
These symptoms may be particularly harmful to people with existing heart or kidney conditions, so if you have either of these issues, avoid trying the tea without first talking to your doctor.
2. It Can Interact With Certain Medications
Another drawback of licorice root tea is that it can interfere with how well certain medications work, according to an October 2019 review in Foods. As a result, it's best to avoid licorice if you're taking any of the following medicines:
- Blood pressure medication
- Blood-thinning medication
If you're not sure how licorice interacts with your medications, check with your doctor before trying the drink to make sure it's safe for you.
3. It May Not Be Safe to Take While Pregnant
It's also best to skip licorice root tea during pregnancy, as the ingredient may interfere with the baby's development, according to the Foods review.
Eating licorice products may also increase your risk of miscarriage and preterm labor, per a July 2015 study in the Oman Medical Journal.
Licorice root products — including licorice tea — should not be used for a prolonged period of time without talking to your doctor.
How Much Licorice Tea to Drink in a Day?
There's no specific limit to how much licorice tea you should drink every day, so make sure to follow the dosage instructions listed on the label of your tea of choice, according to the University of Michigan Health.
In general, though, the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggest that adults don't take more than 100 milligrams of glycyrrhizin acid each day. One cup of licorice tea contains about 31.5 milligrams of glycyrrhizin on average, per June 2015 research in BMJ Case Reports, which means you shouldn't have more than 3 cups of the drink.
However, the contents of tea can vary from brand to brand, so check the label to make sure your drink (or other licorice product) doesn't exceed that glycyrrhizin upper limit.
And overall, it's best to talk to your doctor about the safest daily dose of licorice tea for you.
- Michigan Medicine: "Licorice"
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Licorice Root"
- Oman Medical Journal: "Herbal Medicines Use During Pregnancy: A Review From the Middle East"
- Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B: "The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widely-used Chinese herb"
- Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology: "Outcomes in patients with nonerosive reflux disease treated with a proton pump inhibitor and alginic acid ± glycyrrhetinic acid and anthocyanosides"
- Current Pharmacology Reports: "Chemopreventive Effects of Licorice and Its Components"
- Foods: "Bioactive Candy: Effects of Licorice on the Cardiovascular System"
- World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: "JOINT FAO/WHO EXPERT COMMITTEE ON FOOD ADDITIVES"
- BMJ Case Reports: "Hypertension induced by liquorice tea"