Licorice Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Licorice

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Licorice (or "liquorice," as it's known in the UK) is found in the herbaceous roots of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. These roots provide a distinct confectionery flavor often extracted and inserted into your favorite childhood (and adult) chewy, twisty candies and popular sweeteners.

However, licorice root also offers effective medicinal properties dating back thousands of years—history reports claim that even Julius Caeser and Egyptian pharaohs touted the benefits of this healthful plant to cure stomach ailments and skin inflammation. Here's what modern research tells us about this unique herb.

Licorice Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 10 bite-sized pieces (14g) of licorice candy.

  • Calories: 53
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 7mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 9.8g
  • Protein: 0g

Carbs

There are 53 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrate in a single serving of licorice candy. The glycemic index of licorice is estimated to be 78, making it a high glycemic food. The glycemic load of licorice is 16.

Fats

Licorice is a naturally fat-free food.

Protein

There is no protein in a single serving of licorice.

Vitamins and Minerals

Licorice provides no significant vitamins or minerals, other than a minimal amount of sodium and potassium.

Health Benefits

Although licorice candy is a relatively low-sugar treat (compared to most other types of candy), it provides little to no health benefits. Licorice candy derives its distinct flavor from the licorice root, which can have beneficial effects when consumed in its natural form.

Eases Menopausal Symptoms

The onset of menopause can come with several unpleasant side effects, like hot flashes, bone loss, and declines in cardiovascular health. To reduce these symptoms, some women take hormone replacement therapy (HRT). While HRT offers some relief and benefit, some treatments may put women at greater risk for breast, ovarian, and/or uterine cancers.

As a natural alternative with less potential negative side effects, dietary supplements containing licorice root are often used. In one study, four components in licorice root were shown to impact estrogen activity. The activity may not relieve hot flashes but may promote a healthier cardiovascular and metabolic system.However, one should consult a registered dietitian and an oncologist when considering alternative medicine related to cancer.

Supports Immunity

Although more human studies are needed, preliminary studies on mice have attributed protective effects of glycyrrhizin (a component of licorice root) against certain viruses, including variants of influenza. When exposed to a lethal dose of the flu virus, mice treated with glycyrrhizin showed significant antiviral effects. A 90% reduction was also observed when testing infection rate from the influenza virus on human lung cells. Glycyrrhizin may have antiviral properties that needs to be further investigated in humans.

This antiviral activity is believed to warrant further investigation of glycyrrhizin for potential pharmaceutical therapies.

Improves Digestion

In a 2012 double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 50 patients, researchers found an extract of glycyrrhiza glabra, the plant containing licorice root, actually relieves symptoms of stomach pain at both day 15 and day 30 when tested. 

In addition, the root can also act as nature’s antacid and relieve acid reflux, heartburn, and indigestion. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, researchers found licorice offered a healing effect against the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, a bug that causes stomach issues.

Helps Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

The active components of licorice root show anti-inflammatory effects that may be an additive benefit to current practices of treating people with rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid have been shown to suppress biological feedback loops that are not currently targeted by traditional rheumatoid arthritis drugs.

As a result, researchers theorize that licorice root may serve as an effective supplemental treatment for the management of the disease.

Protects the Liver

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a fatty liver disease that's not caused by excessive alcohol intake. Liver damage from NASH can lead to serious complications, like liver cancer and cirrhosis.

While limited treatment options exist, glycyrrhizin from licorice root has demonstrated positive effects on this condition when studied in mice. Upon further studies with humans, it is possible that licorice root may be recommended as a treatment option for NASH.

Allergies

Licorice root is not considered a major allergen, however, allergies to any food are possible. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, be sure to check the ingredients for licorice candies, as many contain common allergens like wheat.

If you suspect an allergy to licorice (which might show up as hives, sore throat, wheezing, trouble swallowing, or dizziness), have an allergist evaluate your symptoms.

Adverse Effects

Regardless of your health status, it's always a good idea to watch your sugar intake and consume candy in moderation, but especially with black licorice. In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that for those 40 years and older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least 2 weeks can potentially throw off heart rhythms.

The FDA also states that a person of any age should not eat large quantities of black licorice at any time, as the compound glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall.

Pregnant women should also avoid herbal medications that contain licorice root as heavy licorice use has been associated with preterm birth. Licorice can also interact with certain medications and supplements. You should consult a doctor before starting any herbal supplements.

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Article Sources
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