Could liquorice soon be used to treat prostate cancer?

Posted: 7 April 2022 | | No comments yet

A marmite-like substance, liquorice divides many in terms of taste, but the plant could soon be elevated in status after researchers found a potentially promising use for it.


Liquorice sweets are not everyone's cup of tea, but could the plant have another important use?

Liquorice is a divisive confectionery – but it may well win over significant support in the years to come as University of Illinois Chicago researchers claim it may play a role in preventing certain types of cancer.

Gnanasekar Munirathinam and his research team are studying substances derived from the liquorice plant Glycyrrhiza glabra to determine if they could be used to prevent or stop the growth of prostate cancer.

It’s hoped that more research conducted on the back of this study could end with some clinical applications for the plant, the root of which is crushed and pulped to create the sweets that plenty love, but some hate.   

“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,” Munirathinam said.

“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.”

So are the University of Illinois Chicago researchers giving us the green light to consume as much liquorice as we please?  Alas not. The research team reminded readers that it may affect blood pressure, interact with certain medications, and cause serious adverse effects, including death, when used excessively. An occasional sweet treat of liquorice sweets or tea may be better options until more studies can show how to best harness the plant’s benefits.

“Very few clinical trials in humans have been conducted,” Munirathinam said. “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.” 

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