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  • Writer's pictureDavid S Klein, MD

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 sulfated 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.

Glycyrrhizin has demonstrated salutory and beneficial effects 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 a nuclear factor (NF)-kappa B, inflammatory modulators. Glycorrhizin has shown benefit 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, type 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, SARSUpset stomach, nausea.

  4. Adrenal insufficiency

Dosage and Administration

The licorice root extract is probably the best and most cost-effective way of administering glycorrhizin.  One must be certain to obtain a pharmaceutical-grade, assayed products 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.

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