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Candy Fights Cancer?

What’s In Licorice That Is So Special?

You may have heard that sugar feeds cancer…. But here’s a new one: A particular kind of candy may actually stop the growth of cancer!

Let’s get right to it. Licorice is a magical candy that has been shown to fight cancer. But how?

Research on Licorice

Researchers at the University of Illinois studied the activity of glycyrrhizin, one of the plant chemicals of the licorice plant, or specifically the root. Glycyrrhizin offers a bit of sweetness but also is a rich source of saponins. Pharmacol Res, Apr 2022

Saponins toxicity to cancer cells is well studied…. And one of the best ways that saponins fight cancer is to trigger apoptosis or programmed cell death. Pathophys, Jun 2021

So when the researchers applied glycyrrhizin to prostate cancer cells, they saw some promising results where licorice could provide anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. But there is a serious health concern that comes with licorice candy and I’ll talk about that next.

Health Concerns About Real Licorice

OK, first of all – eating Twizzlers or other candy is not made from licorice extract but uses anise oil instead– so red and flavored licorice candies – taste a bit like licorice but do not contain any glycyrrhizin. If you get real licorice, usually black licorice, the package must indicate licorice extract was used to make it. And here is why: glycyrrhizin can be dangerous to eat if taken in large amounts! Eating 5 grams or more of licorice daily for several weeks can lower your potassium level and cause severe side effects including heart attack. If you have high blood pressure or kidney disease, you will be more sensitive to this risk.

Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab, Aug 2012

By the way, when I was hiking in Iceland I met some new friends from the Netherlands and they shared one of their favorite treats – Dutch licorice, which is not sweet at all (they laughed at my reaction to the salty, bitter taste) AND glycyrrhizin, so if you find yourself trying and liking Dutch licorice, don’t go crazy and eat too much! That won’t be a problem for me!

So all said and done, I doubt licorice candy or glycyrrhizin is going to be a go-to solution for fighting cancer. We will have to wait for more research and see if scientists can make it safer while keeping its efficacy.

To watch a video on licorice and cancer, view here:

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