Liquorice for pain?

Rae F. Bell, Vânia M. Moreira, Eija A. Kalso, Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Liquorice has a long history of use in traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and herbal medicine. The liquorice plant contains numerous bioactive compounds, including triterpenes, flavonoids and secondary metabolites, with glycyrrhizin being the main active compound. Liquorice constituents have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, anticancer, hepatoprotective and neuroprotective properties. In addition, they appear to have antidepressant actions and effects on morphine tolerance. Glycyrrhizin, its metabolite glycyrrhetic (glycyrrhetinic) acid and other liquorice-derived compounds such as isoflavonoids and trans-chalcones, exert potent anti-inflammatory effects via a wide range of mechanisms including high mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1) inhibition, gap junction blockade and alpha(2A)-adrenoceptor antagonism. These properties, together with an increasing body of preclinical studies and a long history of use in herbal medicine, suggest that liquorice constituents may be useful for pain management. Glycyrrhizin is used widely in the confectionary, food and tobacco industries, but has documented adverse effects that may limit clinical use. Whether liquorice plant-derived compounds represent a novel class of analgesics is yet to be established. Having a host of bioactive compounds with a broad range of mechanisms of effect, liquorice is a plant that, in the future, may give rise to new therapies for pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2021


  • glycyrrhizin
  • inflammation
  • liquorice
  • pain


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