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Where Tradition Meets The Lab: DGL Licorice

The Cabinet — 08.14.19
by Hilary Quartner

Hilma Ingredient: Licorice

While most think of licorice as an indulgence, found in vintage candy jars or as a snack at the movies, the ingredient licorice is derived from a soothing, anti-inflammatory herb called Glycyrrhiza glabra, whose root has has enjoyed a long history of medicinal use. However, that same root is also pretty sweet--licorice root is nicknamed "sweet root," because it contains a compound that is about 50 times sweeter than sugar. 

So then what does the “DGL” mean? DGL stands for Deglycyrrhizinated licorice, which is a safer form of the natural digestive soothing ingredient because it has less than 2% glycyrrhizin, which among other observed side effects, can cause elevations in blood pressure with long-term use.

The History 

Licorice is native to Europe (mostly Greece & Turkey) and Asia, where the plant is actually classified as a weed. Growing to be three to seven feet in height, licorice has an extensive underground root system, which grows horizontally. Licorice roots are brown on the outside and yellow on the inside.

Ancient cultures, especially early Egyptians, often used licorice root in tea as a general health boost. Licorice later made its way to China where it became an important herb in Chinese medicinal tradition.

The Benefits 

In traditional use, Licorice has been used more broadly for hormonal issues, gut and throat issues, respiratory support, and fatigue. However, Licorice shines in particular for soothing inflammation in the digestive tract and suppressing acid. 

The Science  

DGL Licorice has been well-studied to promote digestive comfort, and with strong results relative to over-the-counter options. In particular, a 2018 observational study found that DGL was more effective than acid-suppressive drugs. Scientific investigation into the mechanism of DGL shows that it is an  antispasmolytic (i.e, helps to relax the intestinal wall) to provide relief of indigestion symptoms, while it also repairs the mucosal lining of the digestive tract to promote its overall integrity.


This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder.


  1. https://healthcenter.ucsc.edu/pharmacy/references/dgl%20-%20deglycyrrhizinated%20licorice.pdf
  2. https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_licorice/drugs-condition.htm
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/licorice-the-sweet-root#history
  4. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=000262
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/licorice-the-sweet-root#history
  6. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dgl-supplements_b_2976260
  7. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/licoriceroot
  8. https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=950298610899394;res=IELHEA
  9. https://healthcenter.ucsc.edu/pharmacy/references/dgl%20-%20deglycyrrhizinated%20licorice.pdf


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