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QUESTION: My husband is type O and when he takes Glycyrrhiza glabra, he feels that his sexual ability (potency) reduces. Is there by any chance a connection between licorice and sexual ability?
ANSWER: Large doses of licorice have been known to cause breast tenderness in men (I remember in school clinic a case of a man with rather large breast enlargement due to drinking over 1 gallon of strong licorice tea over a period of 2 years.)
Licorice has been shown to lower testosterone (1), and to bind with estrogen receptors (2). In rational amounts and in non-sensitive individuals this is probably not much of an issue; however people do vary significantly in their sensitivity to licorice and prudence should be used with taking licorice or any other herbal supplement.
You husband may want to switch over to using DGL licorice, as this form still possesses many of licorices' benficial properties while elininating the potential for its more serious side effects, such as edema (swelling) and high blood pressure.
1. Armanini D, Bonanni G, Palermo M. Reduction of serum testosterone in men by licorice. N Engl J Med. 1999 Oct 7;341(15):1158
2. Zava DT, Dollbaum CM, Blen M. Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1998 Mar;217(3):369-78