Licorice is commonly used as a cure for digestive disorders and as a detoxification agent in East Asia. This study investigated the protective effect of licorice water extract against cadmium (CdCl2, Cd)-induced liver toxicity in rats. To induce acute toxicity, Cd (4 mg/kg body weight) was dissolved in normal saline and intravenously (i.v.) injected into rats. The rats then received either a vehicle or licorice water extract (50, 100 mg/kg/day) for 3 days, and were subsequently exposed to a single injection of Cd 24 h after the last licorice/vehicle treatment. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) were significantly increased by Cd treatment. In contrast, pretreatment with licorice reduced ALT, AST and LDH. In histopathological analysis, licorice decreased the central necrosis around central veins, the peripheral hemorrhage around portal triads, the percentage of degenerative hepatic regions (%/mm2 hepatic parenchyma) and the number of degenerative hepatic cells (N/100 hepatic cells). Licorice also inhibited the increment of Bad (a BH3 domain-containing protein) translocation by Cd in liver cells. These results demonstrate that licorice could have a hepatoprotective effect by inhibiting the translocation of Bad to the mitochondria in Cd-intoxificated rats.