Newswise — Gargling with a licorice solution can help reduce postoperative sore throat—a common and painful complication of anesthesia in patients undergoing surgery, reports a study in the July issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS).

Patients who gargled with licorice before surgery had fewer problems with postoperative sore throat and cough, according to the new study by Dr. Anil Agarwal and colleagues of Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow, India.

Licorice Gargle Cuts Rate and Severity of Postop Sore ThroatThe study included 40 patients undergoing spinal surgery. Five minutes before induction of general anesthesia with an airway (endotracheal) tube, the patients simply gargled with a diluted licorice solution or plain water.

Patients receiving the licorice gargle had a lower rate of postoperative sore throat, including pain on swallowing. Two hours after surgery, about 25 percent of patients who used the licorice gargle had a sore throat, compared to 75 percent of those who gargled with water. Postoperative sore throat was also less severe in the licorice group.

In addition, patients who used the licorice gargle were less likely to develop postoperative cough: ten percent, compared to 30 percent of patients who gargled with water. There were no side effects of the licorice gargle.

Postoperative sore throat is a common and troublesome complication after general anesthesia with intubation. If coughing is present, it can lead to further complications. A wide range of treatments have been tried to reduce postoperative sore throat, with inconsistent results.

"Licorice, derived from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, has been used for many millennia as an alternative medicine for treatment of inflammation, allergies, and gastric and duodenal ulcers," Dr. Agarwal and co-authors write. A number of active ingredients have been identified in licorice, including compounds with anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and anti-cough effects. Licorice is naturally sweet, and is commonly used as a sugar substitute in foods and a flavoring agent in medicines. In the study, the licorice gargle's sweet taste made it readily acceptable to patients.

The diluted licorice solution used in study is easily made and inexpensive, at a cost of pennies per patient. The researchers acknowledge that it may not be appropriate for children, or for adult patients who are sedated or uncooperative. However, for many patients undergoing surgery, licorice gargle appears to offers a sweet, simple, and effective approach to reducing a common and uncomfortable problem.

About the IARSThe International Anesthesia Research Society is a nonpolitical, not-for-profit medical society founded in 1922 to encourage, stimulate, and fund ongoing anesthesia-related research and projects that will enhance and advance the anesthesiology specialty. The IARS has a worldwide membership of 15,000 physicians, physician residents, and others with doctoral degrees, as well as health professionals in anesthesia-related practice. In additional to publishing the monthly scientific journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, the IARS sponsors an annual clinical and scientific meeting, funds anesthesia-related research, and sponsors the Global Perioperative Research Organization (GPRO). Additional information about the society and the journal may be found at and

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Anesthesia & Analgesia, Issue 109, July 2009 (Jul-2009)