Compounds isolated from liquorice root may help prevent tooth decay, according to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In test tube studies, the scientists showed that an extract from a plant root that is used to make liquorice sweets and other products contains at least two compounds that appear to be potent inhibitors of a bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, a major cause of dental caries.
More studies are needed before it is proven that the compounds effectively fight cavities in humans, but if further studies show promise, the liquorice compounds could eventually be used as cavity-fighting components in mouthwash or toothpaste. Liquorice has been an important herb in Chinese medicine for many years and is now being rediscovered by Western medicine as a rich source of potentially beneficial compounds.
In addition to being used as flavouring and sweetening agents in sweets, tobaccos and beverages, compounds derived from liquorice root have been shown to help fight inflammation, viruses, ulcers and even cancer, according to the researchers.