Severely burned? Try some licorice.


If you're both German and a fashion model, then you can also WEAR your licorice. Just watch out for packs of ravenous street children. (AP Photo/ Hermann J. Knippertz)

Licorice! You might know it as the black jelly bean that makes you gag, the unsettling flavor in many a traditional liquor or, if you read this blog back in March, the candy that makes your transplanted kidney fall out.

But hey, there's more to licorice than puckered lips and catastrophic organ failure. In what can only come as a boon to the licorice-shilling candy tycoons of Europe, the Journal of Leukocyte Biology is reporting that licorice root (glycyrrhizin from Glycyrrhiza glabra) might just ward off a rare and deadly infection that can stem from severe burns.

Scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch and Shriners Hospitals experimented with burned mice and licorice (who hasn't?). They found that the glycyrrhizin boosted the damaged skin's production of proteins called antimicrobial peptides. These little defenders do their job by puncturing the cell membranes of the invading bacteria.

Research continues and, in the years to come, we might just see some licorice -based treatments for severe burns. In the meantime, however, please don't try to treat your wounds with Jägermeister or black jelly beans.I should also point out that red licorice is really licorice in name only. So you really have no business trying to stave off infection with a pack of red vines.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.