But licorice is not just something sweet. Instead, it has long been praised for its healing properties, being used to help snackers with a variety of ills feel better. While this has been the case with a variety of common household foods turned home remedies, such as baking soda and 7-Up, the consequences of licorices healing properties might be more serious — interfering with certain medications.
On March 24, 2009, the American Chemical Society heard evidence that the active ingredient in licorice, the same ingredient that has allowed it to be “used as a good treatment for plenty of ills” (Ehrenberg), can interfere with other medications. That ingredient is called Glycyrrhxin, and it is a natural compound found in plants that are related to the pea. For quite some time, this compound has been used to treat ailments in Europe and Asia, although its history as an ingredient for flavoring sweets is similarly lengthy. In Asia, though, it is not used as a candy, primarily, but is, instead, used in medications. Because it is a candy in the United States, however, consumers may not realize that it could interfere with their other medications, causing a potentially serious condition. In fact, the historically bioactive component has been shown to interact with drugs that are commonly taken by those who have had transplants, and may have similar reactions with other drugs. The effects of the interaction between drugs and licorice might result in the activation of P-glycoprotein, affecting the drugs ability to get to bile or urine, leading to faster absorbtion. The interaction may also make it difficult for drugs to be absorbed.
While chemistry has traditionally been responsible for identifying interactions between certain drugs, allowing drug companies and federal regulating agencies to use drug labels to warn against these actions, it does not traditionally study the interactions between candy and medications. The fact that licorice may, actually, interfere with necessary prescription drugs has serious implications for individuals and the medical industry.
Although most people who have to take either prescription and non-prescription medication are certainly aware of the other medicines that they cannot take with their medication, they do not necessarily think about the dangers of eating certain foods or ingesting other edible materials. This discovery may cause federal regulating agencies and medication producers to write more specific labels and conduct more research into the reactions of some drugs, not only with other drugs, but also with other ingestible materials. In addition, individuals should take this as an opportunity to investigate the drugs they are taking and the foods they are eating, searching for any sources of conflict. Individuals must remember that chemical compounds are natural substances, so reactions between even natural ingredients are possible. Armed with this understanding, both medical personnel and others will have the tools to understand what they are ingesting and why it might be more problematic Thus, this article serves to remind students of chemistry that chemistry is at the heart of many problems, a practical pursuit with a host of practical applications. If chemistry can be used to determine whether candy interacts with drugs, and harms patients, it can also be used to further determine how drugs and natural components, as well as other unnatural components can work well together in order to cure certain diseases or relieve certain symptoms. Further, as these problems are found, chemistry can also help to solve them, determining how compounds can coexist without causing harmful reactions. While licorice lovers might want to think twice before taking their medications and munching on a stick, chemistry warned them that this precaution was necessary. Works Cited Ehrenberg, Rachel. “Licorice May Interfere With Certain Drugs.” Science News. 25 March 2009. 3 May 2009.