I’ve always loved black licorice. My family, who prefer chocolate, thinks my craving for the black, rubbery treat is odd, but being nice people, they often bring me licorice for birthdays and other celebrations. It turns out that licorice may be good for people with hepatitis C. My sweet tooth for the treat may have fended off the worst of the disease.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says there’s evidence that licorice root (the flavoring in most black licorice candies) may reduce liver damage in people who have hepatitis C. Glycyrrhizin, an acid that gives licorice its sweetness, may help prevent liver cancer, the department says in its website.
A study in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis that tested glycyrrhizin on patients with hepatitis C found significantly lower ALT levels and inflammation among test patients.
Veterans Affairs warns, though, that licorice root supplements may lead to high blood pressure and ascites (a build up of fluid in the abdomen), which can increase with cirrhosis. It can also be harmful to eat the candy. According to the Federal Drug Administration, eating two ounces of black licorice per day for two weeks straight can disrupt your heart beat and send you to the hospital.
If you are considering taking licorice root extract, first ask your doctor. As for me, on special occasions I still eat twisters.