Licorice- an overlooked, under-utilized medicine



The chemical component of licorice that seems to have the greatest apparent medical benefit is Glycyrrhizin.  Chemically,
glycyrrhizin is a sulphated polysaccharide, in a class known as triterpenoid saponins.

Glycyrrhizin  is considered to be the active constituent of licorice, and potency is determined by glycyrrhizin content.  Glycyrrhizin
is converted into glychyrrhetic acid by glycaronidase.


has demonstrated salutory and beneficial effectts on liver function. In situations where liver enzymes are elevated, glychorrhizin can reduce alanine transaminase and aspartate
transaminase values. While the mechanism has not been entirely elucidated, glycyrrhizin may
inhibit the immune mediated cytotoxicity against hepatocytes and on
nuclear factor (NF)-kappa B, inflammatory modulators. Glycorrhizin has shown benfit in patients with hepatitis and cirrhosis. Other than modest elevation in blood pressure, toxicity has not been demonstrated.



It has been
proven to have antiviral activity against DNA and RNA virus (VZV, HIV,
Influenza A and B, types 1 and 2 herpes simplex and hepatitis B and C).   The Glycyrrhizin acid blocks the viral replication.


Clinical Indications

In clinical use, there are several uses of licorice that are effective, safe and cost-effective:

  1. Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, chemical hepatitis, cirrhosis.
  2. Herpes Simplex
  3. Influenza, SARS
  4. Upset stomach, nausea.
  5. Adrenal insufficiency
Dosage and Administration
Licorice root extract is probably the best and most cost-effective way of administering glycorrhizin.  One must be certain to obtain pharmaceutical grade, assayed product in order to carefully administer this medicine.  Too much glycorrhizin results in blood pressure elevation, too little may be ineffective.

I prefer an assayed 12% standardized extract, given in 450 mg dosages.  This delivers about 50 mg of glycorrhizin.  I prefer that patients start with one capsule in the morning, increase to a two or three time a day basis.  Blood pressure should be monitored as the dosages are increased.

For hepatitis, it seems to be most beneficial to add:

  1.  n-acetyl cysteine 500 mg, three to four times daily.
  2. Silymarin 100-150 mg, three times daily.
  3. Curcumin 500 to 750 mg, daily.
  4. Stages of Life offers #2 and #3 in combination, at a very reasonable price.
About David S Klein, MD 149 Articles
David S. Klein, MD, FACA, FACPM was born in Washington, DC, and was raised in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Maryland with degrees in Chemistry and Psychology. Medical School was completed at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, followed by Internship in General Surgery at the University of North Carolina and Residency in Anesthesiology at the Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. Dr Klein has been practicing medicine since 1983, concentrating in Pain Medicine, Minimally Invasive Medicine and Surgery, and Neuroendocrinology. Earning Board Certification in Anesthesiology, Dr. Klein was elected Fellow in the American College of Anesthesiology, and he was elected Fellow in the American College of Pain Medicine. He is currently an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida, School of Medicine. He has focused his private practice on treating patients with hormone imbalance issues, nutritional deficiency related medical problems as well as pain related issues and impairment. With a highly-complex, CLIA licensed laboratory in-house, he has been able to provide rapid-turn around analysis efficiently and cost-effectively. Lecturing extensively nationally as well as internationally, Dr. Klein has authored many articles on topics relating to pain, injury and nutritionally modulated illness. His radio show, “Pain Free Living,” received top ratings during the 6 years it was on the air. Currently practicing in Longwood, Florida, Dr. Klein practices entirely in the office setting.