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In The News: Licorice Root May Help Stop Tooth Decay

| 1/18/2012 4:12:46 PM

J.PattonLicorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), an herb commonly used to flavor tobacco in the United States, may help prevent cavities and stop tooth decay, the most prevalent chronic disease in the country. A whopping 92 percent of American adults and senior citizens suffer from tooth decay in the U.S. 

A new study, published in the Journal of Natural Products, found that licorice root, which is 50 times sweeter than table sugar, may serve as a useful tool for keeping a healthy smile. Researchers found that licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, the two predominant compounds in the root, were effective in preventing cavity-causing bacteria from thriving on teeth and gums.

Want to keep those pearly whites? Taking licorice root supplements may help stop tooth decay and prevent cavities.
Photo by lurdz/Courtesy

These two compounds, paired with others found in licorice root, also proved to prevent the growth of bacteria that often occurs with periodontitis, a disease that occurs when inflammation or gingivitis is left untreated. The infection spreads from the gums to the ligaments and bones that support the teeth, and the teeth eventually fall out. This disease is the primary cause of tooth loss among adults.  

Of course, the view that licorice has medicinal benefits is nothing new. The herb has been used for centuries to treat medical problems. Native Americans and early white settlers used the herb to relieve earache, toothache and fever. Licorice has been used to treat a plethora of other conditions, including sore throat, urinary tract infections, stomach ulcers and constipation.

However, researchers warn that licorice root is not for everyone, and with good reason. Using licorice for more than four to six weeks can cause sodium retention and potassium loss. So women who are pregnant and people with high blood pressure or kidney disease should not take licorice root. If you’re thinking about taking licorice for its health benefits, consult your primary physician for proper dosage information.

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