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J Nat Prod. 2016 Feb 26;79(2):281-92. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00877. Epub 2016 Feb 3.

Bioactive Constituents of Glycyrrhiza uralensis (Licorice): Discovery of the Effective Components of a Traditional Herbal Medicine.

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State Key Laboratory of Natural and Biomimetic Drugs, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University , 38 Xueyuan Road, Beijing 100191, People's Republic of China.


Traditional herbal medicines have been reported to possess significant bioactivities. In this investigation, a combined strategy using both phytochemical and biological approaches was conducted to discern the effective components of licorice, a widely used herbal medicine. Altogether, 122 compounds (1-122), including six new structures (1-6), were isolated and identified from the roots and rhizomes of Glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice). These compounds were then screened using 11 cell- and enzyme-based bioassay methods, including Nrf2 activation, NO inhibition, NF-κB inhibition, H1N1 virus inhibition, cytotoxicity for cancer cells (HepG2, SW480, A549, MCF7), PTP1B inhibition, tyrosinase inhibition, and AChE inhibition. A number of bioactive compounds, particularly isoprenylated phenolics, were found for the first time. Echinatin (7), a potent Nrf2 activator, was selected as an example for further biological work. It attenuated CCl4-induced liver damage in mice (5 or 10 mg/kg, ip) and thus is responsible, at least in part, for the hepatoprotective activity of licorice.

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