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26 January 2012
You probably think of liquorice as being the sweet, black stuff that is a feature of “all-sorts”and is found in the sweets section of most food stores. Liquorice however, has another life.
For centuries the root of the liquorice plant has been a favourite remedy among practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The root of this plant has been decocted into teas and used to treat a range of ailments from respiratory to digestive problems. Liquorice root acts as a decongestant and in recent times has been found to help heal stomach ulcers. For the modern westerner liquorice root teas have been augmented in the market place with pills, capsules, and liquid tinctures containing liquorice extracts.
Unfortunately, for those who might like to gather the benefits of liquorice and have a sweet fix at the same time, in most sweet liquorice now available, liquorice root has been replaced with anise oil to give the flavour of liquorice. This is a bit of a shame really since the latest study on liquorice has suggested that it might be an effective agent against tooth decay.
The research found that two compounds from liquorice, licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, are effective antibacterial agents. The researchers also found that they killed two of the bacteria most often responsible for tooth decay and in addition licoricidin killed 33 per cent of all gum disease bacteria. As a result the researchers believe that these substances could treat or prevent oral infections and cavities.
Whether whole liquorice root or liquorice root extracts will do the same as these two substances derived from liquorice root remains unproven, but it is yet another valuable potential for this already useful herb.
Perhaps if confectionary companies could be persuaded to revert to using liquorice root in their sweet liquorice we might have the ultimate “bandaid strapped to a bullet” (“liquorice strapped to sugar”) and we could truthfully say that you can have your liquorice and eat it.