The sheer number of antioxidants in licorice is astounding: twenty triterpenoids and almost three hundred flavonoids have been discovered. These various compounds have proven themselves potent anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antitumor agents.
One of the major compounds in licorice root, glycyrrhizin, is so effective that it has been used to treat hepatitis patients. (20) The antiviral qualities of glycyrrhizin alone have an immunostimulating effect that creates a synergism among immune cells.
“They [antioxidants in licorice] can weaken virus activities by inhibiting virus gene expression and replication, reducing adhesion force and stress, and reducing HMGB1 [high-mobility-group box1, a virus component] binding to DNA. They can also enhance host cell activities…activating T lymphocyte proliferation…In contrast, flavonoids, especially chalcones, play an important role in the treatment of bacterial infection by decreasing expression of bacterial genes, inhibiting bacterial growth and reducing the production of bacterial toxin.” (21)
Licorice root is an expectorant and demulcent (coats the throat and mouth), so is great as a cold and cough remedy. It’s available in many forms: tea, liquid extracts, capsules, tablets, and dried. Licorice has been used as a dietary supplement to treat symptoms of menopause, respiratory ailments, bacterial and viral infections, shampoo, food flavoring, skin rashes, oral health, and to aid digestion. (22)