Got 5 minutes to spare and trying to kick a gum-chewing habit? Then chew licorice root. When eaten raw it’s bursting with sweet flavor. Recent research suggests that licorice root can help prevent cavities and tooth decay. Licorice root is concentrated with natural plant compounds that help stop bacteria from sabotaging our oral health.
What Science Is Showing
Two compounds in licorice root are all-star bacteria busters—licoricidin and licorisoflavan A. An in vitro study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products showed that both strongly suppressed two primary strains of bacteria that cause tooth decay: Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. Licorice compounds also inhibited two common gum disease bacteria—Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia.
A separate study published this year in Chemical Communications focused on another natural compound in licorice root called trans-chalone, which was found to help prevent the formation of bacteria-induced biofilms. This is significant because harmful bacteria in your mouth convert sugars from your food and drink into a bacterium that forms a biofilm on your teeth. These biofilms cause bad breath, irregular color, and eventual tooth decay. Trans-chalone enacted an inhibitory effect by suppressing enzymes that help this bacteria thrive.
So chew licorice root, but exercise caution. Too much licorice root has been shown to raise blood pressure and decrease potassium levels, and because it contains isoflavones it can cause your hormones to fluctuate. Consult your doctor to make sure there are no contraindications with your current health regimen.