Further studies on the mechanism of the mineralocorticoid action of licorice in humans

J Endocrinol Invest. 1996 Oct;19(9):624-9. doi: 10.1007/BF03349029.


The pathogenesis of pseudohyperaldosteronism from licorice has been evaluated in 6 male volunteers taking daily 7 g of a commercial preparation of licorice for 7 days, corresponding to an intake of 500 mg/day of glycyrrhizic acid. Pseudohyperaldosteronism was evident during the treatment (increase of body weight, suppression of plasma renin activity and plasma aldosterone, reduction of serum potassium). The ratio (tetrahydrocortisol + allo tetrahydrocortisol)/tetrahydrocortisone in urine increased in 5 cases after 3 days of treatment, without an increase of plasma mineralocorticoid activity (PMA). In the 6th case the urinary ratio was unchanged and PMA increased from the pretreatment value. After 7 days of therapy the ratio remained high and PMA was not measurable in 3 cases, while in the other 3 cases the ratio returned to pretreatment and PMA was higher than pretreatment value. We conclude that the pseudohyperaldosteronism from licorice is initially related to decreased activity of 11 beta-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase and afterwards also a direct effect of licorice derivatives on mineralocorticoid receptors becomes evident in some cases. In other cases however the effect on the enzyme is prevailing probably due to individual factors.

MeSH terms

  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Adult
  • Aldosterone / analogs & derivatives
  • Aldosterone / blood
  • Aldosterone / urine
  • Glycyrrhetinic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Glycyrrhetinic Acid / adverse effects
  • Glycyrrhetinic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycyrrhiza*
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid
  • Humans
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Hyperaldosteronism / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Mineralocorticoids / blood*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Potassium / blood
  • Renin / blood
  • Tetrahydrocortisol / urine
  • Tetrahydrocortisone / urine


  • Mineralocorticoids
  • tetrahydroaldosterone
  • Aldosterone
  • Tetrahydrocortisone
  • Glycyrrhizic Acid
  • Tetrahydrocortisol
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Renin
  • Glycyrrhetinic Acid
  • Potassium