REVIEW Glycyrrhetinic acid inhibits the enzymes (15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase and delta-13-prostaglandin) that metabolize the prostaglandins PGE-2 and PGF-2alpha to their respective 15-keto-13,14-dihydro metabolites which are inactive. This causes an increased level of prostaglandins in the digestive system. Prostaglandins inhibit gastric secretion but stimulate pancreatic secretion and mucous secretion in the intestines and markedly increase intestinal motility. They also cause cell proliferation in the stomach. The effect on gastric acid secretion, promotion of mucous secretion and cell proliferation shows why licorice has potential in treating peptic ulcer. PGF-2alpha stimulates activity of the uterus during pregnancy and can cause abortion, therefore, licorice should not be taken during pregnancy. The structure of glycyrrhetinic acid is similar to that of cortisone. Both molecules are flat and similar at position 3 and 11. This might be the basis for licorice''s anti-inflammatory action. -beta-D-(monoglucuronyl)-18-beta-glycyrrhetinic acid, a metabolite of glycyrrhetinic acid, inhibits the conversion of active cortisol to inactive cortisone in the kidneys. This occurs via inhibition of the enzyme by inhibiting the enzyme 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. As a result, cortisol levels are high within the collecting duct of the kidney. Cortisol has intrinsic mineralocorticoid properties (that is, it acts like aldosterone and increases sodium reabsorption) that work on ENaC channels in the collecting duct.
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