Liquorice for Diabetes

Liquorice can help control Diabetes but does much more than just lowering blood sugar



iquorice plants are graceful shrubs with light spreading pinnate foliage that are almost feathery looking from a distance. The axils of the leaves have small pale-blue, violet, yellowish-white or purplish flowers followed by small pods. At night the leaflets hand down on each side or the midrib. Liquourice is a legume and it is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel which have similar flavor compounds. The word liquorice or licorice is derived from old French licoresse. There are several well known species: G. glabra, glandulifera, echinata but the only the G. glabra is the main source of medicinal compounds. These plants are native of South-East Europe and South East Asia. Liquorice have been used for thousands of years and the Greeks were the first ones who learned to use it. It was than named Glycyrrhiza (Greek glukos, sweet, and riza, root).

Liquorice extract also appeared to be of common use in Germany during the middle ages. Today approximately 60% of all liquorice production is used as a flavoring enhancement, and moisturizer for cigarette manufacturing. The tobacco industry also use it as a kind of bronchodialator allowing your lungs to open up so smoke can easily be inhaled; this trend has diminished 10% in the past years. Candy making is the other well known use of liquorice but don’t think for a moment you are getting the benefits by eating it. Black liquorice may have some actual liquorice depending on how its was made but mostly do not. Red liquorice is just refined sugar and food coloring. Bottom line candy is just candy, stay away from it unless they are prepared naturally and don’t have added sugars; nothing substitute the extracts if you want to use it as a medicine. Look for natural products when using liquorice for diabetes.

Liquorice for Diabetes

There is not an abundance of scientific research available, mostly articles. I did not however encounter any article which tried to debunked liquorice anti-diabetic properties which is a good sign. Most were anecdotal but scientific evidence in some of these studies seem agree on three main points:

1) lowering blood sugar, 2) anti-inflammatory, 3) prevention of fatty liver disease. All three are of extraordinary benefit specially if someone has diabetes in advanced stages, diabetic ulcers or inflammatory complications. One problem using liquorice to treat diabetes is that it also has properties which accomplish the opposite we want to achieve:

1) elevate blood pressure, 2) lowers Potassium. These are two conditions which are of chief concern to diabetics. Diabetes is both associated with potassium deregulation and high blood pressure. Low potassium is a serious matter but even more serious if you are diabetic. There is a direct relationship between potassium levels and insulin action. Potassium is also important on the making of glucagon by the liver, so we don’t want to lower potassium here, if anything we want to have more of it. So should we discard the idea of using Liquorice?  Not yet.

Certainly the side effects of liquorice for diabetes are mild if compared to traditional medication so its all a question of weighing the costs Vs. benefits (something we should do with any medicine). Again the best is experimentation using small doses at first and observing the results. Maybe not your preferred herb but it might be beneficial to try on temporary basis and stop if undesirable effects appear. Herbs like foods or any other substance may have different effects depending on the individual genetic makeup. People have different rates of absorption when it comes to drugs and food nutrients. There is no manual other then knowing how your body functions and also safe experimentation.

Action mechanisms for diabetes

The chief compound found in Liquorice is called Amortifrutin which is named after the Amorpha fruticosa plant which also contains the compound. Research have demonstrated reduced blood sugar, anti-inflammatory, and anti fat liver disease properties in laboratory mice.

Amortifrutin molecules bind to peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) in the nucleus of the cell. PPARγ plays an important role in the cell’s fat and glucose metabolism. This binding activates several genes responsible for reducing fat in cells as well as reducing glucose and fatty acids. Both actions also prevent insulin resistance a hallmark of diabetes.

The binding of PPARγ is well known. Other anti-diabetic drugs also use the same mechanism such as Metformin, Glipizide, and triglyceride lowering drugs. These drugs however are not selective enough and there are problems with side effect such as weight gain and cardio-vascular problems. Amortifutin does not present side effects and is well tolerated as studies have shown.


Licorice Root extract

How to use liquorice for diabetes
Do not use liquorice candy, they usually don’t even have any liquorice in it only aromatic essence and sugar. Liquorice products can be extracted from peeled or unpeeled root. The roots are prepared as fine cuts for teas, tablets and capsules. Using teas or sucking on dry roots is less potent then liquid preparations. Extracts are the best form to consume and are likely to have the most concentration of beneficial compounds. Trials are important to see results. Use the extract and compare blood sugar levels. Be careful is you are using oral anti-diabetic drugs such as Metformin, Glipizide or insulin. Some liquorice extracts do not contain glycyrrhizin the sweet component of liquorice which has anti-inflammatory properties. These extracts are known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). Some studies suggest it has less side effects such as high blood pressure. It is mostly used against ulcer formation, GI disturbances, specially when aspirin is used and GI disturbances. Have in mind that when you use liquorice you are treating anti-inflammatory and fatty acids, liver protection. Observe sugar lowering, it might not be the chief benefit of liquorice for diabetes.

Licorice can be taken in the following forms:

  • Dried root: 1 – 5 g as an infusion or decoction (boiled), 3 times daily
  • Licorice 1:5 tincture: 2 – 5 mL, 3 times daily
  • Standardized extract: 250 – 500 mg, 3 times daily, standardized to contain 20% glycyrrhizinic acid


Possible Interactions

Licorice may interfere with several medications, including the ones listed below. If you are taking any medication, ask your doctor before taking licorice.

  • ACE inhibitors and diuretics — If you are taking angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or diuretics for high blood pressure, you should not use licorice products. Licorice could cause these medications to not work as well or could make side effects worse, including a build-up of potassium in the body. ACE inhibitors include:
    • Captopril (Capoten)
    • Benazepril (Lotensin)
    • Enalapril (Vasotec)
    • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
    • Gosinopril (Monopril)
    • Ramipril (Altace)
    • Perindopril (Aceon)
    • Quinapril (Accupril)
    • Moexipril (Univasc)
    • Trandolapril (Mavik)
  • Digoxin — Because licorice may dangerously increase the risk of toxic effects from digoxin, do not take this herb with this medication.
  • Corticosteroids — Licorice may increase the effects of corticosteroid medications. Talk to your doctor before using licorice with any corticosteroids.
  • Insulin or drugs for diabetes — Licorice may have an effect on blood sugar levels.
  • Laxatives — Licorice may cause potassium loss in people taking stimulant laxatives.
  • MAO inhibitors — Licorice may make the effects of this class of antidepressant stronger.
  • Oral contraceptives — There have been reports of women developing high blood pressure and low potassium levels when they took licorice while on oral contraceptives.
  • Warfarin (Coumadin) — Licorice may decrease the levels of this blood-thinner in the body, meaning it may not work as well.
  • Medications processed by the liver — Licorice may interfere with several medications processed by the liver, including celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fluvastatin (Lescol), glipizide (Glucotrol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), phenytoin (Dilantin), piroxicam (Feldene), phenobarbital, and secobarbital (Seconal).


Other Warnings for  Liquorice for diabetes

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is UNSAFE to take licorice by mouth if you are pregnant. High consumption of licorice during pregnancy, about 250 grams of licorice per week, seems to increase the risk of early delivery. It might cause a miscarriage or early delivery. Not enough is known about the safety of licorice during breast-feeding. Don’t use licorice if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

High blood pressure: Licorice can raise blood pressure. Don’t consume large amounts of it if you have high blood pressure.

Heart disease: Licorice can cause the body to store water, and this can make congestive heart failure worse. Licorice can also increase the risk of irregular heartbeat. Don’t consume licorice if you have heart disease.

Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Licorice might act like estrogen in the body. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use licorice.


A muscle condition caused by nerve problems (hypertonia): Licorice can cause the level of potassium to drop in the blood. This can make hypertonia worse. Avoid licorice if you have hypertonia.

Low potassium levels in the blood (hypokalemia): Licorice can lower potassium in the blood. If your potassium is already low, licorice might make it too low. Don’t use licorice if you have this condition.

Sexual problems in men: Licorice can lower a man’s interest in sex and also worsen erectile dysfunction (ED) by lowering levels of a hormone called testosterone.

Kidney disease: Overuse of licorice could make kidney disease worse. Don’t use it.

Surgery: Licorice for diabetes might interfere with blood pressure control during and after surgery. Stop taking licorice at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


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As herbalist and WishGarden founder Catherine Hunziker explains, the Rocky Mountain foothills are an exciting bio-region; a place with multiple influences that can bring in unexpected visitors. Take licorice, for example; a plant normally associated with exotic faraway places like China. And yet, there it is growing right in Colorado! Revered as an invaluable medicinal herb for its anti-inflammatory, adrenal tonifying properties and ability to harmonize formulas, learn why this surprising visitor to the Rocky Mountain landscape is one of the world’s best-loved herbal remedies.



Licorice is used as a natural plant based raw-materials and flavor ingredients around the world. Alfarid Corporation is an Organic Certified Company for Licorice, botanical name Glycyrrhiza glabra; an ISO 9001 and HACCP certified and USA FDA Registered. Licorice Roots originating from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Turk Mandi, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. AFC has been supplying to major international extract manufacturers, food & beverage, flavor, pharma, confectionery, nutraceuticals, cosmetic, liquor, ayurvedic, herbal, tobacco, flavor and tea industries. and product websites and

Dr Meschino explains how the dangers of licorice supplements.…


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