Scientists Studying Whether Licorice Could Help Treat Cancer

Licorice root has been used to treat many maladies, including digestive issues, menopausal symptoms, cough, and bacterial and viral infections. However, the National Institutes of Health says there is not yet any hard evidence to show that it helps with a particular health condition. Scientists are hoping to find such definitive evidence that licorice can help with cancer.

A team from the University of Illinois Chicago recently published a study in the journal Pharmacological Research that investigates derivatives of the licorice plant Glycyrrhiza glabra that may help with prostate cancer. The findings show that there is hope that it could ultimately be used within a treatment.


Dr. Gnanasekar Munirathinam, lead researcher and associate professor in the department of biomedical sciences at the College of Medicine Rockford, explains, “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. 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.”

According to the study, some of the benefits observed within the plant include inducing cell cycle arrest, inducing cell death, inhibiting invasion and metastasis, immunomodulation, sensitizing the tumor to other drugs, and protecting against conventional treatment’s side effects.

However, the study notes that there are also side effects from taking licorice. Among them are possible impacts on blood pressure, interactions with other medications, and other dangerous outcomes when used excessively.


With both factors in mind, Dr. Munirathinam’s team hopes to conduct further research in this somewhat limited field.

He says, “Very few clinical trials in humans have been conducted. 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.”

To read their study, click here.

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