Licorice root – the raw material used to make candy – contains a compound that scientists now believe may combat diabetes.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have discovered natural substances in licorice root – called amorfrutins -- not only reduce blood sugar, but also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Licorice root has been used in traditional healing methods since ancient times – often in teas -- with well-known ability to alleviate disorders of the digestive system and lungs, Max Planck researchers noted.
Lead researcher Sascha Sauer said the new study suggests the licorice compound could become a useful new way to treat or even prevent diabetes if follow-up clinical studies of patients confirm the findings.
"The amorfrutins can be used as functional nutritional supplements or as mild remedies that are individually tailored to the patient," said Sauer. "In view of the rapid spread of metabolic diseases like diabetes, it is intended to develop these substances further so that they can be used on humans in the future."
Sauer said natural substances have “a surprising and often largely unexploited potential in the prevention and treatment of common diseases.”
Sauer’s study of licorice root – which is native to the U.S., Canada and Mexico - found amorfrutins reduced blood sugar in diabetic mice, reduced inflammation and also prevented the development of liver fat, caused by excessively fat-rich diets.