Top 4 Skin Benefits of Licorice Root Extract

Written by Steven Wang, MD, co-founder of Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare

Growing up, my mom would make this natural tea from the licorice root whenever we had a sore throat. She would grind up the licorice root into a coarse powder or just boil the whole root in a kettle full of hot water.

To this day, I still have a fond memory of drinking the licorice tea. It tasted better than other teas we usually had. We liked it so much that we would sometimes lie about having a scratchy throat, hoping she would make that special tea.

Little did we know, this so-called licorice root has so many hidden skin and health benefits other than providing calming relief to the throat.

The general health benefits of licorice root have been well-documented in different cultures over the centuries.

In this article, we will highlight the top four skin benefits of this root.


Consistent application of skin care that contains licorice extract can keep skin moisturized. Licorice root contains powerful antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals from external, environmental (sun, pollution) and internal (like energy production) stressors. Also, the presence of licochalcone is ideal for individuals with oily skin because licochalcone has shown to control oil production on the skin.


Glycyrrhizin, an active in the licorice root, has a strong anti-inflammatory activity that is similar to cortisol and steroids. Steroids are commonly used drugs in treating inflammatory dermatologic conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

For centuries, licorice root has been used to treat a wide variety of inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, and other conditions characterized by inflammation and itching.

Licorice root has been used both orally and topically for these skin conditions. Although it is a very safe herb and has minimal side effects, one must not overeat or drink licorice root, as this can lead to high blood pressure.


Hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, can be common after an acne breakout, an eczema flareup or a sunburn. Licorice root extract is a common ingredient used in many skin care products to lighten the discoloration or pigmentation. Glabridin, an active ingredient in licorice root, has been shown to possesses anti-inflammatory effects and inhibits tyrosinase, a key enzyme that is responsible for making the pigmentation. Liquiritin is another active ingredient which does not inhibit tyrosinase but helps to disperse and remove melanin and pigments in the skin. In one clinical study conducted on 20 Egyptian women, the investigators showed that use of skin care cream containing liquiritin was both safe and effective in the treatment of melasma.


Skin care products that contain licorice extract have the potential to alleviate the discomfort and inflammation associated with sunburn. New basic research shows that licochalcone, a molecule present in licorice root, can suppress cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) expression after intense sun exposure. Both COX2 and PGE2 are inflammatory enzymes that play a role in triggering an inflammatory reaction and are responsible for the painful sensation associated with sunburn. Hence, when mixed with other natural anti-inflammatory plants and herbs, such as aloe vera and crushed cucumbers, these mixtures from licorice root can provide significant comfort relief for a bad sunburn and help to maintain moisturization content of skin.


The sweet-flavored root is from a plant called glycyrrhiza glabra, which is an herbaceous perennial legume generally found in the southern regions of Europe and Asia. The plant is three to seven-feet-tall and has purple or blue flowers. The plant favors an environment with well-drained water flow and plenty of sunshine.

To make the extract, licorice root is boiled in water until most of the water is evaporated to produce a syrup consistency. The syrup contains glycyrrhizin, an ingredient that is 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar.

Aside from glycyrrhizin, licorice contains a rich source of flavonoid and volatile oils that are good for the skin. In addition, other ingredients such as glycosides, glycyrrhizic acid, coumarins, chalcones, and plant sterols are known to provide various health and medicinal benefits.

According to various studies, licorice root can help to provide relief for heartburn, tooth decay, stomach ulcers, and digestion problems. It is used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine and it is one of the staple herbs prescribed by professionals to treat many health conditions.

Despite all these benefits, one should not overeat licorice roots because a high level of glycyrrhizinic acid, a compound present in licorice root, can increase blood pressure and lead to weakness in the muscles and hypokalemia (low potassium level in the bloodstream), especially for people with kidney disease or heart disease.

Steven Q. Wang, M.D., is the director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He is involved in clinical research with a focus on photoprotection, antioxidants, nanotechnology, antiaging, and natural skin care formulation. The author of over 80 publications and five books, Wang has lectured extensively in the United States and around the world. He has been featured in several programs and publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Oprah Magazine. In 2016, Wang co-founded the Dr Wang Herbal Skincare company with his father, Gui Wang.

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