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Licorice Root Fights the Bacteria That Cause Tooth Decay and Gum Disease, New Study Finds

Licorice root

Scientists are reporting identification of two substances in licorice, used extensively in Chinese traditional medicine that kill the major bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. Identified as the leading causes of tooth loss in children and adults, tooth decay and gum disease can be prevented with proper care. In a study in ACS’ Journal of Natural Products,
the researches report that the licorice-derived substances could have a role in treating and preventing tooth decay and gum disease.

The dried root of the licorice plant is a common treatment in Chinese traditional medicine, especially as a way to enhance the activity of other herbal ingredients or as a flavoring.

Despite the popularity of licorice candy in the U.S., licorice root has been replaced in domestic candy with anise oil, which has a similar flavor. Traditional medical practitioners use dried licorice root to treat various ailments, such as respiratory and digestive problems, but few modern scientific studies address whether licorice really works.

Consumers should check with their health care provider before taking licorice root because it can have undesirable effects and interactions with prescription drugs.To test whether the sweet root could combat the bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities, the researchers took a closer look at the various substances in licorice.

They found that two of the licorice compounds,licoricidin and licorisoflavan A,  were the most effective antibacterial substances. These substances killed two of the major bacteria responsible for dental cavities and two of the bacteria that promote gum disease. One of the compounds licoricidin also killed a third gum disease bacterium. The researchers say that these substances could treat or even prevent oral infections.

Story Source: American Chemical Society

Journal Reference:
Isoflavonoids and Coumarins fromGlycyrrhiza uralensis: Antibacterial Activity against Oral Pathogens and Conversion of Isoflavans into Isoflavan-Quinones during Purification.
Journal of Natural Products, 2011;

American Chemical Society (2012, January 4). Dried licorice root fights the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease, study finds.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only;
It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

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