Licorice as an Ulcer Therapy

Licorice ( Glycyrrhiza glabra), harvested, dried and cut, comes directly from the peeled root of the licorice plant, which is native to the Middle East. Licorice possesses demulcent, anti-ulcer, spasmolytic, anti-inflammatory effects. Licorice root that has the active ingredient of  glycyrrhiza can have important adverse effects. DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), doesn’t seem to have the same negative effects and is used to treat peptic ulcers, canker sores, and reflux. To be effective, DGL tablets must be chewed before swallowing.

Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice and Ulcer

DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is particularly used to promote the healing of ulcers and relieves ulcer-related symptoms. When taken in high amounts licorice (glycyrrhizin) produces effects parallel to those of the  hormone aldosterone, causing fluid retention, increased blood pressure, and loss of potassium. To avoid this, firms have found a way to remove glycyrrhizin from licorice, producing the safer product DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). In more amounts, licorice root containing glycyrrhizin, has been shown to cause high blood pressure and side effects linked to heart problems.

This mechanism of action is much different from antacids and medications like Zantac, Tagamet, Prilosec and Prevacid which work by neutralizing or suppressing gastric acid. Use of DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) addresses the underlying factors and promotes true healing by stimulating the normal defense mechanisms that prevent ulcer formation. Particularly, DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) improves both the quality and quantity of the protective substances that line the intestinal tract. Licorice root contains flavonoids that help heal digestive tract cells. It supports stomach cells that produce mucin to protect the lining of the stomach. In test tubes, the flavonoids have been shown to kill H. pylori , the bacteria that causes most ulcers and stomach inflammation. The effect was  found to be concentration-dependent, indicating that the  flavonoids in DGL were the active factor in reducing the number of bacteria. There is a German E Commission (an official government agency similar to the FDA) Monograph for licorice that lists it use as beneficial for gastric ulcers.

UlcerDifferent studies in animals and humans have showed favorable effects from the use of DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) in gastric and duodenal ulcer conditions. DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) has been shown to reduce gastric bleeding caused by aspirin, therefore, it is strongly indicated for prevention of ulcers in patients requiring long term cure with ulcerogenic medications. One animal-based study found that aspirin coated with licorice root reduced the number of ulcers in rats by 50%. A human study showed that fecal blood loss induced by aspirin (375 mg 3 times daily) was significantly reduced with coadministration of deglycyrrhizinated licorice (175 mg/dose aspirin). Some studies have showed that DGL is as effective as ranitidine and cimetidine for both therapy and maintenance treatment of gastric ulcers. In a study  involving 100 gastric ulcer patients, half received the acid-blocking medication Tagamet (cimetidine) and half received a supplement of  DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice). Improvement was observed using an endoscope. In both groups 63%  of the patients had healed at 6 weeks and 91% had healed  at 12 weeks. After healing, dosages were reduced and a year later  just 14% of patients in both groups had had a recurrence. In other study, the  effect of  DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) was compared  with that of antacids or cimetidine in 874 patients with confirmed chronic duodenal ulcers. 91% of all ulcers healed within twelve weeks; there was no important difference in the healing rate in the groups. Nevertheless, there were fewer relapses in the DGL group (8.2%) than in those receiving cimetidine (12.9%) or antacids (16.4%).

According to a study reported in the British Medical Journal comparing an over-the-counter drug for peptic ulcer disease and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) for 82 participant who had endoscopically healed peptic ulcer. Some researches demonstrated that licorice root -derived compounds can increase the concentration of prostaglandins in the digestive system that encourage mucous secretion from the stomach, as well as produce new cells in the stomach lining. In a study of deglycyrrhizinated licorice in gastric ulcer, 33 gastric ulcer patients were treated with either 760 mg, 3  times a day, or a placebo for 1 month.  There was a important greater decrease in ulcer size in the DGL group 78 percent, than in the placebo group 34 percent. Complete improvement occurred in 44 percent of those receiving deglycyrrhizinated licorice, however in only 6 percent of the placebo group. One preliminary study found that participants with canker sores who gargled 4 times per day with DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) dissolved in warm water found pain relief. 20 patients with aphthous ulcers were advised DGL mouth wash and were followed for 2 weeks. 15 patients experienced 50-75% improvement within one day followed by complete healing of the ulcers by third day.


The standard dose to use of  DGL (Deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is about one to three tablets of  DGL at a dosage of 380 mg per tablet. DGL has been shown to be about as effective as conventional medications in healing ulcers, however it is important that it is taken as a chewable tablet. DGL works best when chewed and swallowed twenty minutes before each meal, and before bedtime.

Leave a Reply