Chronic hepatitis C is a slowly progressive liver disease that may evolve into cirrhosis with its potential complications of liver failure or hepatocellular carcinoma. Current therapy with α-interferon is directed at viral clearance, but sustained response is only achieved in 20-40% of patients without cirrhosis, and less than 20% in patients with cirrhosis who have the greatest need for therapy. Treatment for those who do not respond to anti-viral therapy is highly desirable. In Japan glycyrrhizin has been used for more than 20 years as treatment for chronic hepatitis. In randomized controlled trials, glycyrrhizin induced a significant reduction of serum aminotransferases and an improvement in liver histology compared to placebo. Recently, these short-term effects have been amplified by a well-conducted retrospective study suggesting that long-term usage of glycyrrhizin prevents development of hepatocellular carcinoma in chronic hepatitis C. The mechanism by which glycyrrhizin improves liver biochemistry and histology are undefined. Metabolism, pharmacokinetics, side-effects, and anti-viral and hepatoprotective effects of glycyrrhizin are discussed.

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Journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
van Rossum, T.G.J, Vulto, A.G, de Man, R.A, Brouwer, J.T, & Schalm, S.W. (1998). Glycyrrhizin as a potential treatment for chronic hepatitis C. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Vol. 12, pp. 199–205). doi:10.1046/j.1365-2036.1998.00309.x