Dried licorice root has been found to kill the major bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease – the leading causes of tooth loss in both adults and children.The root is used extensively in Chinese traditional medicine and now scientists have identified two substances in licorice which could have a huge dental health role.
Traditional Chinese Medical practitioners use dried licorice root to treat a variety of ailments like respiratory and digestive problems.
It is also used to enhance the activity of other herbal ingredients or as a flavouring.
Now a study by the American Chemical Society has found that two of the ingredients in the root – licoricidin and licorisoflavan A – are very effective antibacterials.
These substances killed tow of the major bacteria responsible for dental cavities and two of the bacteria that promote gum disease.
Licoricidn also killed a third gum disease bacteria.
The researchers say that these substances could treat or even prevent oral infections.
Consumers are warned to check with their health care provider before taking licorice root because it can interact with prescription drugs.
Licorice sold as a sweet has mostly been replaced with anise oil which has a similar flavour.
The study by Stefan Gafner and colleagues is published in the Journal of Natural Products.
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