Licorice and Deglycrrhizinated Licorice (DGL)


David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Licorice is an herb that is commonly used by both western herbologists and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. It is likely that licorice is the most common herb used in Botanical medicine.

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It has many effects in the body, one of the most important being its powerful anti-inflammatory action which seems to be somewhat similar to cortisol.

Licorice has adrenal gland actions (it is called a glucocorticosteroid and a mineralocorticosteroid effect). These actions can be very powerful and beneficial in healing patients. Some of these effects include:

  1. Licorice seems to enhance desoxycorticosterone, a hormone that affects sodium levels in the body
  2. This causes retention of sodium and water
  3. Excretion of potassium from the body
  4. Licorice will keep the circulating levels of cortisol in the blood steam longer than normal, thus elevating cortisol levels and producing an antiinflammatory effect
  5. This effect is dose related, so one can use appropriate dosages with little risk
    1. Excessive use can lead to a weaknesses in the adrenal gland (called the adrenocortical axis)
    2. This can produce edema (fluid retention)
  6. The mineral/adrenal effects are most common in women
    1. Licorice can be used in women, but with some caution
    2. This sensitivity probably does not extend to spayed dogs and cats

We commonly use licorice in animals for:

  1. Pulmonary disease in general
  2. Treating dryness of the lungs
  3. Coughs
  4. Chronic bronchitis
  5. Upper respiratory viruses
  6. Digestive diseases
  7. Inflammation of stomach, esophagus, small intestine and colon

It may be used alone, but we most commonly use formulas containing several herbs, licorice being only one of them.


Deglycyrrhizinated (DGL)
licorice is a nutraceutical extract of licorice. DGL does not have any of the adrenal gland effects associated with licorice. DGL restores the intestinal lining. It is good for ulcers, stomatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. DGL increases the quantity and quality of mucin, increases the life span of intestinal cells, improves mucosal blood flow and has a prostaglandin-like effect on cytoprotection.

DGL is often used for:

  1. Stomach Ulcers
  2. Stomach Inflammation
  3. Chronically Vomiting Animals
  4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  5. Chronic small intestinal Diarrhea

When To use DGL and when to use Licorice?

The whole licorice herb has an adrenal cortical action, as previously mentioned, which may be beneficial in specific situations. Because of this "cortisol-like" effect, it has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can be very helpful when needed. It should be used in those situations. If you want to have the intestinal protective and mucosal soothing effects on the stomach, then you should consider DGL as it is slightly safer. Ultimately, this is a very hard decision with some cases, and a phone consultation would be appropriate.

Dehpour AR, Zolfaghari ME, Samadian T, Vahedi Y. The protective effect of liquorice components and their derivatives against gastric ulcer induced by aspirin in rats. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1994 Feb;46(2):148-9.

Schambelan M. Licorice ingestion and blood pressure regulating hormones. Steroids. 1994 Feb;59(2):127-30.