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Steroids. 2006 May;71(5):403-8. Epub 2006 Mar 2.

Effect of licorice on PTH levels in healthy women.

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Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences-Endocrinology, University of Padua, Italy.


Licorice has been considered a medicinal plant for thousands of years. Its most common side effect is hypokalemic hypertension, which is secondary to a block of 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 at the level of the kidney, leading to an enhanced mineralocorticoid effect of cortisol. This effect is due to glycyrrhetinic acid, which is the main constituent of the root, but other components are also present, including isoflavans, which have estrogen-like activity, and are thus involved in the modulation of bone metabolism. We investigated nine healthy women 22-26 years old, in the luteal phase of the cycle. They were given 3.5 g of a commercial preparation of licorice (containing 7.6%, w/w of glycyrrhizic acid) daily for 2 months. Plasma renin activity (PRA), aldosterone, cortisol, serum parathyroid hormone (PTH), 1,25-dihydroxy Vitamin D (1,25OHD), 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25OHD), estradiol, FHS, LH, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), calcium, phosphate and creatinine, urinary calcium and phosphate and mineralometry were measured. PTH, 25OHD and urinary calcium increased significantly from baseline values after 2 months of therapy, while 1,25OHD and ALP did not change during treatment. All these parameters returned to pretreatment levels 1 month after discontinuation of licorice. PRA and aldosterone were depressed during therapy, while blood pressure and plasma cortisol remained unchanged.


licorice can increase serum PTH and urinary calcium levels from baseline value in healthy women after only 2 months of treatment. The effect of licorice on calcium metabolism is probably influenced by several components of the root, which show aldosterone-like, estrogen-like and antiandrogen activity.

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