(Photo by Massimo Adami on Unsplash)

CHICAGO, Ill. — Offering a distinct, almost bitter flavor profile, licorice candy is a treat most people either love or hate. Well, just like medicine, a new study finds it might be wise to grin and bear the taste — because licorice root could also be good for your health. As polarizing as its flavor is, researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago say licorice may one day help prevent and even treat certain types of cancer.

Gnanasekar Munirathinam, an associate professor in the department of biomedical sciences at the College of Medicine Rockford, authored these remarkable findings while studying substances derived from the licorice plant Glycyrrhiza glabra. At that time, Prof. Munirathinam and his team were focusing specifically on the effect of licorice on prostate cancer.

Study authors speculate that a substance derived from licorice, glycyrrhizin, can help create new “agents” for clinical cancer treatment.

Licorice root. (Photo: Susanne Hillmer on Pixabay)

“When we look at the research out there and our own data, it appears that glycyrrhizin and its derivative glycyrrhetinic acid have great potential as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents,” Prof. Munirathinam says in a university release. “More research is needed into exactly how these could best be used to develop therapies, but this appears to be a promising area of cancer research.”

Don’t fill your cart with licorice treats just yet

Before you run out to the grocery store for some licorice, study authors say they aren’t suggesting that anyone and everyone start eating more licorice. To start, that can influence blood pressure, interact with various medications, and ultimately result in a number of adverse health outcomes. For now, researchers suggest indulging in the occasional licorice candy or tea until further research projects clarify these findings.

“Very few clinical trials in humans have been conducted,” Prof. Munirathinam concludes. “We hope our research on prostate cancer cells advances the science to the point where therapies can be translated to help prevent or even cure prostate and other types of cancer.”

The study is published in the journal Pharmacological Research.

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Mark says:

    Pharmaceutical companies are now going to buy all the licorice in the world and hide it. There is no money in curing a disease. They have made billions for treatment of a disease.

  2. JOE BIDEN says:


    1. Nate Wu says:

      “You’re” an illiterate commenter.

  3. Michael Bauer says:

    Eating more than 2oz of black licorice in a 2-weeks time can lead to heart issues. It depletes your potassium levels, so beware.

  4. Vendicar Decarian says:

    It’s obvious that licorice can cure cancer. Have you ever seen anyone dying of cancer eating licorice?

    No. Because it cured them.

    God Bless Donald Trump. God’s chosen one and his holy leader of the Earth.

  5. Redjaguar says:

    Yes, be careful, people have died from eating too much Licorice. Of course too much of anything is not good for you. It would be better if you put licorice roots in a tea and drink only a couple of times a month. You can buy it from places that sell all natural leaves, stems, roots, like vitamin cottage does…I’d also advice adding like dandelion or camomile so it tastes better.

    1. Ed Conboy says:

      Who are these people who have died?

  6. Doubleducks says:

    This article is irresponsible in my opinion, given how someone can read it and be motivated to self-medicate eating large quantities of real licorice candy or tea. Why can this be dangerous? Read on.

    Most licorice candy does not contain licorice but only artificial licorice flavoring. However, real licorice candy and licorice tea are made from the licorice root which contains glycyrrhizic acid. If the candy or tea are consumed in too large a quantity, glycyrrhizic acid accumulates in the body as it has a half life of 30 hours due to the fact it is lipophilic and continues to recirculate between the liver and small intestine. Glycyrrizic acid is metabolized to glycyrrhetinic acid which closely resembles cortisol, hence blocking the very venues which break down cortisol in the body. The accumulation of cortisol signals the kidneys to absorb sodium and expel potassium in the urine. The result is hypokolemia. This prevents muscle relaxation leading to seizures and contraction of blood vessels, both contributing to necrosis of muscle tissue, and then heart fibrillation. The result is liver failure, kidney failure, and finally cardiac arrest causing death.

    So the article has a subtitle “Time to buy more candy?” is an invitation to disaster. A case in point is a young man who ate 2 pounds of licorice candy a day. This resulted in him being taken to the ER after found unconscious and convulsing. He died in the ICU less than two days later.

    1. Rob Roy says:

      A good post that needed to be said Dd. Kudos!

    2. Sam G says:

      World’s Oldest man credits longevity to sweets

      PS Your post is fill of elequite details that are comical at best when you make blanket statements about candy. Not all candy is created equal smarty pants, there are plenty of liquorice made from wholesome ingredients. There are so many types of wholesome Danish licorice and Australian liquorice I cannot begin to explain.
      Salty Danish licorice is my favorite, now that type of licorice may not be the healthiest, but in moderation it’s delicious.

      1. bluejayrobin says:

        You make it seem like it is “Mr. Bad Artificial Ingredients from Mr. Bad Factory” that is the cause of the trouble. It is natural, pure licorice that causes the problems. In fact artificially flavored licorice isn’t medicinal but at least it doesn’t deplete potassium as the natural substance does, when being a glutton.
        It is the “wholesome” stuff that is dangerous in EXCESS. I seldom buy it as it is all too easy to eat too much as it is too excellent. Licorice tea? The same: I’m afeared that I’ll pound it down like some crazed dipsomaniac, so I seldom indulge.

  7. bluejayrobin says:

    Perhaps one day people will say, “Cancer? Better get glycy* with it.”.

    *”Glizzy” (glycy) is some innocuous slang that sounds fancy. Who wouldn’t love some fantastic cure with a fancy but easy to pronounce name? Rather than one that works but you can never remember the name of because you can hardly pronounce it?