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Jan 9, 2012

Licorice Root Helpful in Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth loss in both children and adults today can be a devastating problem with long-lasting detrimental effects.  It is caused primarily by tooth decay and gum disease, which typically involves certain types of undesirable bacteria.  A recent study published in the Journal of Natural Products indicates that at least two constituents found in licorice root, a widely used herb in Chinese and western herbal medicine, are responsible for strong antimicrobial effects against these pathogenic bacteria. 

Licoricidin and licorisoflavan A were the components in licorice root found to be most effective as antibacterials.  These compounds had the ability to inhibit growth of two of the major bacteria involved in dental cavities (Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus) as well as two of the bacteria involved in promotion of gum disease (Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia).  Licoricidin was also noted to inhibit growth of a third type of bacteria known for contributing to gum disease (Fusobacterium nucleatum).   

The researchers involved in this study concluded that the substances found in licorice may potentially be used to treat or prevent oral infections.  With such a need for improving overall dental health in the United States and even across the world, this is an exciting finding!     

As a commonly used herb in botanical medicine, licorice root is known not only for its sweet and distinct flavor, but its many medicinal properties.  Herbal practitioners frequently use licorice as an adaptogen (helps you adapt to stress), anti-inflammatory, demulcent (soothing to mucous membranes like the throat, respiratory system, and digestive system), and antiviral.  Used appropriately, this herb can do wonders.  Please note that licorice root should not be used by everyone, particularly those with high blood pressure or in those taking certain medications.  Also be aware that the majority of “licorice” candies available in stores throughout the United States do not usually contain any licorice at all, but are rather candies flavored with anise oil, a compound with a strikingly similar flavor.  Those that are interested in finding out more about licorice root or finding sources of true licorice should seek guidance from a naturopathic doctor, Chinese medicine practitioner, or other practitioner trained in botanical medicine.     
Shana McQueen, N.D.