Research on dried licorice root released in January, published in ACS’s Journal of Natural Products, reports that two of compounds found in licorice, licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, may play a significant role in “treating and preventing tooth decay and gum disease.”
Stefan Gafner and his team of researchers point out that the dried root of the licorice plant is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, especially as a way to enhance the activity of other herbal ingredients, or as a flavoring. And herbalists and alternative health practitioners have long known of the many benefits of licorice including; to relieve respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, colds, coughs, congestion, sore throat, and allergies. In addition, it is used for stomach ailments including heartburn from reflux, inflammatory issues, skin conditions (eczema and psoriasis), minor skin infections, and liver problems.
The leading cause of tooth loss is gum disease and tooth decay which is best managed by good oral hygiene practices and regular trips to the dentist, but the discovery of the antibacterial properties of dried licorice root now offers an additional way to stave off these dental health issues. Before using the dried licorice root it is best to take stock of any other prescription drugs you may be using as it has been known to have adverse effects when used with certain prescription drugs.
Glycyrrhizin, one of the more common components found in licorice, has long been believed to contribute to its many therapeutic properties. Additional substances that have been identified in licorice include compounds called flavonoids and various plant estrogens (phytoestrogens). But to test whether the root could combat specific bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities, the researchers focused on the licorice compounds called licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, which tested as the most effective antibacterial substances. Together, these substances killed two of the major bacteria responsible for dental cavities and two of the bacteria that promote gum disease while the substance licoricidin honed in on and killed a third gum disease bacterium. The researchers also indicate that these substances could treat and quite possibly prevent oral infections.
For a list of precautions visit the Herb Library, and/or consult with your physician before taking licorice root supplements.