Licorice Extract Reduces Testosterone Levels in Men

Licorice extract is often used to treat a number of gastrointestinal disorders. However, new findings suggest that the chemicals in licorice could have an effect on testosterone levels, particularly in men.

Licorice Extract Reduces Testosterone Levels in Men

This research on licorice extract was presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference, and it follows previous studies that have suggested a similar adverse affect in men. Reduced testosterone levels were reported in an Italian study in 1999, but U.S. researchers were unable to replicate this finding in a study published in the Lancet two years later.

Effect of Licorice Root Extract

In this study, a research team from Iran investigated the effect of licorice root extract in 20-healthy male volunteers. The group took 1.3-grams of dried extract (containing around 400 to 500-miligrams glycyrrhizic acid) daily for 10-days. Blood samples were collected before the study and for 20-days to measure testosterone levels.

Results showed a significant decrease in serum testosterone levels after 10-days of licorice consumption. The effect on testosterone is believed to relate to interference of the active agent glycyrrhizic acid with 17-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, the enzyme that catalyses conversion of androstenedione to testosterone.

Licorice Extract Reduces Testosterone Levels in Men because it reduces the activity of the enzyme 5α-reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Licorice extract inhibits an enzyme that converts testosterone into a more potent form.

It turns out that licorice extract contains an ingredient called licochalcone A, which inhibits an enzyme known as 5α-reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more active androgen that’s responsible for male pattern baldness and enlarged prostates.

Banaba leaf extract also inhibits 5α-reductase, which explains why it might help treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Unfortunately, licorice root extract inhibits 5α-reductase too. And since you can’t get one without the other (licochalcone A is found in both), taking it might seriously decrease your testosterone levels.

The results of this study also explain why some studies show that products containing licorice root boost testosterone, while others show that they decrease testosterone. It all depends on which study you read and what type of licorice root extract is being used.

Studies involving an ingredient called glabridin, which is found in licorice root, also show mixed results regarding its effect on testosterone. In one such study, glabridin increased testosterone levels while another showed that it decreased testosterone. Again, both studies were done on different types of licorice root extract.

The verdict: don’t take products containing licorice root if you want to preserve your testosterone levels. This is particularly true if you’re trying to get bigger muscles and stronger bones because, 100 mg of glabridin supplementation caused an 11% decrease in testosterone levels. That’s more than enough to make a noticeable difference if you’re healthy, but not so much that it will send your T levels into the toilet.

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