Black Licorice: Are There Health Benefits?

Black licorice, sometimes spelled liquorice, is a polarizing candy. It has a unique, potent flavor that people tend to either love or hate. Fans of black licorice might be winning out, though, because it has a number of impressive health benefits. 

Licorice comes from a shrub that’s native to Turkey, Greece, and Asia. The flavor comes from the root of the licorice plant. Historically, it’s been used in Eastern and Western medicine for everything from heartburn to bronchitis. More recently, it’s found its place in a unique black candy. 

Nutrition Information

As candies go, you might say black licorice is relatively nutritious. That being said, even the healthiest of sugary treats should be consumed in moderation.

Nutrients per Serving

A single serving of black licorice candy (about 1.5 ounces) contains:

  • 140 Calories
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 33 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1 gram of fiber
  • 6 grams of sugar

Potential Health Benefits of Black Licorice

Black licorice’s health benefits come primarily from its concentration of glycyrrhizin, licoricidin, and liquiritin. These compounds affect the body in a number of ways. They fight bacteria, and even help fight cancer.

Here are some of things that genuine black licorice can do for your health:

It can help a sore throat. Black licorice has been used to help with cold symptoms for centuries. Recent studies show that this traditional treatment has factual roots. Licoricidin has been shown to have antibacterial properties that can help ease symptoms from upper respiratory tract problems like the common cold . It has also been shown to be effective against strep throat when consumed as a tea.

It could help allergic asthma. Black licorice can help with chronic upper respiratory problems, too. Recent studies have shown that compounds in black licorice can help reduce the inflammation caused by allergic asthma. As a result, people with asthma feel less discomfort and can breathe more easily.

It could help your teeth (no, really). The antibacterial properties that allow black licorice to soothe sore throats may also improve your dental health. In fact, black licorice appears to help prevent cavities. One early study showed that consuming black licorice, even in candy form, can help reduce the number of cavity-forming bacteria in your mouth.

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It can help digestion. Black licorice can help your digestive system work more effectively. It can even ease symptoms from indigestion, heartburn and ulcers. Black licorice extracts have been linked to a reduction in the bacteria that cause ulcers.

Furthermore, when combined with standard acid reflux medication, black licorice can help you have fewer episodes. It can also make the ones you have less serious.

It gives you a ntioxidants . The compounds liquiritin and glycyrrhizin act as antioxidants, helping to remove dangerous free radical particles from your body. Antioxidants bind to free radicals and keep them from damaging your cells. The damage free radicals cause can lead to everything from sagging skin to cancer. As a result, black licorice can help reduce your risk of certain types of cancer and reduce the effects of aging on the body.

Potential Risks of Black Licorice

If you know you have genuine licorice, it’s best to eat it in small amounts. The FDA recommends eating no more than a few ounces of black licorice at a time.

In fact, for people who are 40 or older, eating at least two ounces of genuine black licorice daily for two weeks might lead to hospitalization for heart palpitations.

The same compound in licorice that helps ulcers and fights bacteria can cause an irregular heartbeat if consumed in large quantities.

It can also interfere with some medicines and supplements, so be sure to talk with your doctor if you notice any changes in how your medicines or supplements work.

However, in moderation, there is little risk of heart problems. This is a food to be savored, not eaten in large amounts.

Healthier Alternatives

If you're worried that you might be eating too much black licorice, look for low-sugar items flavored with something called anise oil, instead.

Many licorice products in the U.S. aren't genuine licorice, but are flavored with this since it tastes and smells just like black licorice. What's more, it doesn't carry the potential heart risks that genuine licorice does.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 23, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Biomedicines: “Herbal Tea for the Management of Pharyngitis: Inhibition of Streptococcus pyogenes Growth and Biofilm Formation by Herbal Infusions.”

Brazilian Journal of Infectious Disease: “To evaluate of the effect of adding licorice to the standard treatment regimen of Helicobacter pylori.”

Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology: “Outcomes in patients with nonerosive reflux disease treated with a proton pump inhibitor and alginic acid ± glycyrrhetinic acid and anthocyanosides.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry: “Clinical reduction of S. mutans in pre-school children using a novel liquorice root extract lollipop: a pilot study.”

Food and Drug Administration: “Black Licorice: Trick or Treat?”

Food Chemistry: “Free radical-scavenging, antioxidant and immunostimulating effects of a licorice infusion (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.).”

Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: “Antibacterial compounds of licorice against upper airway respiratory tract pathogens.”

Phytotherapy Research: “Glycyrrhiza uralensis flavonoids present in anti-asthma formula, ASHMI™, inhibit memory Th2 responses in vitro and in vivo.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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