Glycyrrhetinic acid (GA), the main active ingredient of licorice, reportedly has anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective properties, but its molecular mechanisms remain be elusive. In the present study, Balb/c mice were pretreated with GA (10, 30, or 100 mg/kg) 1 h before lipopolysaccharide (LPS)/d-galactosamine (D-GalN) administration. In other in vitro experiment, RAW264.7 macrophages were pretreated with GA before LPS exposure. The mortality, hepatic tissue histology, serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were analyzed. Toll like receptor 4 (TLR4), interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinases (IRAKs), activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and NF-κB, and production of TNF-α were assessed by flow cytometry, western blotting, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), respectively. Our results showed that pretreatment with GA protected mice against LPS/D-GalN-induced fulminant hepatic failure (FHF), including a dose-dependent alleviation of mortality and ALT/AST elevation, ameliorating hepatic pathological damage, and decreasing TNF-α release. Moreover, GA inhibited LPS-induced activation of MAPKs and NF-κB in response to LPS, but the expression of TLR4 was not affected in vivo and in vitro. Notably, GA pretreatment in vivo suppressed IRAK-1 activity while inducing IRAK-M expression. Silencing of IRAK-M expression with siRNA blocked these beneficial effects of GA on the activation of MAPKs and NF-κB as well as TNF-α production in LPS-primed macrophages. Taken together, we conclude that GA could prevent LPS/D-GalN-induced FHF. The underlying mechanisms may be related to up-regulation of IRAK-M, which in turn caused deactivation of IRAK-1 and subsequent MAPKs and NF-κB, resulting in inhibiting TNF-α production.