Licorice is an herbal plant named for its unique sweet flavor. It is widely used in the food and tobacco industries as a sweetener. Licorice is also used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and complementary medicine. Because the use of licorice has long been a part of TCM, the details of its therapeutic applications have been thoroughly established. In modern science, licorice is of interest because of its broad range of applications. Extracts of and compounds isolated from licorice have been well studied and biologically characterized. In this review, we discuss the nutraceutical and functional activities of licorice as well as those of the extracts of and the isolated compounds from licorice, including agents with anti-inflammatory activity, cell-protective abilities, and chemopreventive effects. The side effects of licorice are also enumerated. A comparison of the activities of licorice described by modern science and TCM is also presented, revealing the correspondence of certain characteristics.
Keywords: 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid; biological function; glycyrrhizic acid; licorice; safety.