In breast cancer, the cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be the main cause of metastasis and recurrence. Targeting of CSCs or cancer cells with stem cell-like properties has become a new approach for the treatment of breast cancer. Glabridin (GLA), a phytochemical from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, exhibited effective antitumor properties in various human cancer cells. However, the roles of GLA in the regulation of CSC-like properties and the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we reported that GLA attenuated the CSC-like properties through microRNA-148a (miR-148a)/transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ)-SMAD2 signal pathway in vitro and in vivo. In MDA-MB-231 and Hs-578T breast cancer cell lines, GLA enhanced the expression of miR-148a through DNA demethylation. By targeting of the SMAD2-3′-UTR, miR-148a blocked the expression/activation of SMAD2, and in turn, restored the epithelial characteristics, adhesive abilities, and CSC-like properties. Furthermore, in mouse xenograft models, we also confirmed that GLA attenuated the tumor growth, mesenchymal characteristics, and CSCs-like properties via demethylation-activated miR-148a. Our findings suggested a potential treatment strategy to reduce the CSCs-like properties, and therefore enhance the effectiveness of breast cancer therapy. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.