Does Licorice Decrease Testosterone?

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


It is vital that, when you're trying to increase your T level, you also consider your diet. It is important to consider all the foods you consume, even sweets and snacks. 

Licorice, a popular and loved candy that is touted to be a healthy food is actually derived from a plant. It has been used as an aid for digestive and respiratory illnesses since centuries. It seems to be a healthy, occasional treat. 

Can it impact your testosterone level? This article will answer some questions about the male hormones affected by this sweet, dark treat. 

Let's take a look at the following:

  • What is licorice?
  • What is the effect on testosterone and cortisol levels?
  • What are the side effects of Cialis?

What is licorice?

The wild plant glycyrrhiza is the source of licorice. It's native to Asia, and also southern Europe. In ancient China it was used as a herbal remedy for its purported medicinal properties. This has existed since the 2nd to 3rd centuries B.C. [1]. 

Glycyrrhizin is the main bioactive component of this root. It is an extremely sweet compound. Its name literally means'sweet roots'. This root is often used in sweetening and flavoring products like candy, breath fresheners and herbal teas. The sugar is sweeter by 50 times than cane or sucrose [2]. 

Saponins are steroidal compounds found in plants. Glycyrrhizin falls into this category. Depending on the species, it can account for 2 to 25% of the root. It also contains other metabolites, such as glycyrrhetinic acid and glycyrhizic. 

Glycyrrhizic acid decreases T-levels

Take away: Licorice is a source of glycyrrhizin, a bioactive sweet-tasting compound. This flavoring is found in soft drinks, herbal teas and candy. 

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Licorice and testosterone: The relationship

Licorice roots may help to lower testosterone. Licorice root contains an active ingredient called glycyrrhizin that has the power to block 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2, having an impactful impact on androgen hormone levels.

A study conducted with healthy men demonstrated this result by showing 7g per day (containing 500mg of glycyrrhizin) decreased testosterone by 26% for seven days; though after seven days the levels rebounded back up again.

Another study discovered that licorice increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone which reduces testosterone by inhibiting protein synthesis.

Although glycyrrhizin in licorice root does not affect estrogen or prolactin levels directly, high cortisol levels could still have adverse impacts on androgen production when consumed regularly.

Diets high in carbohydrates and sugar may decrease testosterone levels, while dairy, red meat, and processed fats can have similar impacts.

Such foods may create hormonal imbalances that lead to decreased testosterone and inhibit muscle development; so to maintain optimal testosterone levels it's best to follow an ideal diet along with regular physical activity.

There are many studies on the effects of this plant. It is a regular research subject. The most important ones are listed below. 

#Study 1: Sakamoto et al [3] 

It was the first time that a study linked the effects of sweet root to the hormone testosterone in men. This was an in vitro study, which means that the test tubes were used under laboratory conditions. 

According to the results, eating sweet roots caused T levels to drop by up 40%, indicating that they had an inhibitory effect. The inhibitory effect was dependent on the amount of glycyrrhetinic acids - and the higher the levels, the less T there would be. 

Researchers concluded that 17b-hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of testosterone and other steroid hormones, was affected by glycyrrhetinic Acid. 

#Study 2: Armanini et al [4] 

Seven young men were studied in this New England Journal of Medicine study. Each man was given 7g of sweet root commercially prepared in tablet form. Each tablet only contained about 0.5g of glycyrrhizic acids. 

By day four of the experiment, levels of T had dropped dramatically from 740ng/dL down to 414ng/dL. This is a big drop if you think that anything below 300ng/dL would be considered clinically "hypgonodal" or "low T". 

The results again suggested that 17b-hydroxysteroid, a steroid hormone which stimulates the dehydrogenase of 17b-hydroxysteroid was inhibited. 

#Study 3: Armanini et al [5] 

This study was also conducted by Armanini & colleagues. In it, 25 men were each given 7g sweet root with 500mg of glycyrrhetic acids. After a week the testosterone level had dropped by 26 percent. T-levels returned to normal within a week of recovery. 

Sweet root can also cause T levels to drop in men. In a study published in Steroids[6], it was found that after a menstrual period, T levels in healthy women who were given 3.5g sweet root (7.6% Glycyrrhetic Acid) daily fell 31%. They also dropped 63% the following cycle. 

Licorice Side Effects

Licorice is a powerful testosterone-depressant for both men and woman. 

Does sweet root effect cortisol levels?

Cortisol, the stress hormone in our bodies, increases when we are under physical or emotional stress. It has an adverse effect on testosterone. 

Sweet root extract can not only decrease T-levels, but also increase stress hormone levels – a condition known as "mineralocorticoid overstimulation". 

Journal of Human Hypertension[7] examined the effects of using 100g of this product (150mg of glycyrrhetinic acids) daily for a period of 4 weeks on the health status.

They found that both total and free cortisol levels increased over the duration of the study. The blood pressure also increased in the same way. 

Similar results were also found when glycyrrhetinic acids in sweet root candies was given to a group consisting of 22 women and men. 

Cortisol and DHEA, a hormone precursor to testosterone, were found to be higher. 

Cortisol increases can cause testosterone levels to rise dramatically, especially if consumed over time. The sweet root is a plant that should be avoided by anyone who wants to increase their T level. 

Are there side effects to Glycyrrhizin?

Regular glycyrrhizin use can have a variety of adverse effects, especially when taken in large quantities or for a long period. They include: 

  • Blood pressure increases
  • Heart failure increased by water retention
  • Blood sodium and potassium levels increase
  • Edema, fatigue headaches
  • Pain or numbness in the muscles

Sweet root can also cause erectile problems in men. These actions are controlled through testosterone, so it is only natural that they will decrease if the main male hormone drops. 


Licorice comes from the roots of the glycyrrhiza plant. Glycyrrhizin is its main bioactive metabolite. It is an extremely sweet compound. 

It is also used in herbal teas, cough mixes, soft drinks, and candy. The sugar is sweeter by 50 times than cane or sucrose. 

This plant has been shown to significantly lower testosterone levels for both women and men when consumed in high doses or over a long period of time. It does this by blocking the enzymes that stimulate steroid hormones. It may reduce sexual performance and libido in men. 

Other side effects are also associated with glycyrrhizin, the compound that is active. High blood pressure, fatigue, and headaches are all possible.

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  1. Shibata, S. A drug over the millennia: Pharmacognosy, Chemistry,and Pharmacology of Licorice. Pharma Soc Japan. 2000; 120(10): 849-862
  2. Omar, HR et al. Licorice abuse: time to send a warning message. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2012; 3(4): 125–138.
  3. Sakamoto, K et al. Inhibitory effect of glycyrrhetinic acid on testosterone production in rat gonads. Endocrinol. Japon. 1988, 35 (2), 333-342
  4. Armanini, D et al. Reduction of Serum Testosterone in Men by Licorice. N Engl J Med. 1999; 341: 1158
  5. Armanini, D et al. Licorice consumption and serum testosterone in healthy man. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2003; 111(6): 341-3
  6. Armanini, D et al. Licorice decreases serum testosterone in healthy women. Steroids. 2004; 69(11-12); 763-6
  7. Sigurjonsdottir, HA et al. Subjects with essential hypertension are more sensitive to the inhibition of 11 beta-HSD by liquorice. J Hum Hypertens. 2003; 17(2): 125-31
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