Phytochemistry and biological properties of glabridin

Fitoterapia. 2013 Oct:90:160-84. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2013.07.003. Epub 2013 Jul 10.


Glabridin, a prenylated isoflavonoid of G. glabra L. roots (European licorice, Fabaceae), has been associated with a wide range of biological properties such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, regulation of energy metabolism, estrogenic, neuroprotective, anti-osteoporotic, and skin-whitening. While glabridin is one of the most studied licorice flavonoids, a comprehensive literature survey linked to its numerous bioactivities is unavailable. The present review provides a comprehensive description of glabridin as a key chemical and biological marker of G. glabra, by covering both its phytochemical characterization and reported biological activities. Both glabridin and standardized licorice extracts have significant impact on food, dietary supplements (DSs) and cosmetic markets, as evidenced by the amount of available patents and scientific articles since 1976, when glabridin was first described. Nevertheless, a thorough literature survey also reveals that information about the isolation and chemical characterization of this important marker is scattered and less detailed than expected. Accordingly, the first part of this review gathers and provides all analytical and spectroscopic data required for the comprehensive phytochemical characterization of glabridin. The four most frequently described and most relevant bioactivities of glabridin are its anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, estrogenic-like effects, and its capacity to regulate energy metabolism. While all bioactivities reported for glabridin belong to a wide array of targets, its principal biological properties are likely interconnected. To this end, the current state of the literature suggests that the biological activity of glabridin mainly results from its capacity to down-regulate intracellular reactive oxygen species, bind to antioxidant effectors, and act on estrogen receptors, potentially as a plant-based Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (phytoSERM).

Keywords: Anti-atherogenic; Chemical characterization; Glabridin; Metabolic syndrome; Pharmacokinetics; PhytoSERM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Glycyrrhiza / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology*
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Phytoestrogens / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / pharmacology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Isoflavones
  • Phenols
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Extracts
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • glabridin