July 17, 2018

Black Licorice: Trick or Treat?

Just before Halloween, the Food and Drug Administration is reporting that black licorice should be eaten in moderation if you’re at least 40 years old. Eating more than 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks or more could cause irregular heart rhythm.

warning recall signBlack licorice contains glycyrrhizin, the sweetener from licorice root, that can decrease potassium levels in the body. When that happens, some people experience arrhythmia, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure. Several medical journals have linked black licorice consumption to health problems in people over the age of 40. When you stop eating the candy, potassium levels are usually restored back to normal.

Licorice can also cause pseudoaldosteronism, which causes a person to become overly sensitive to an adrenal hormone. That can cause headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Anyone with heart disease, heart failure, hormone-sensitive cancers, fluid retention, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, low potassium, and pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take licorice supplements. If you take ACE inhibitors, insulin, laxatives, MAO inhibitors, oral contraceptives, Warfarin, digoxin, and meds processed by the liver should not take licorice supplements.

Licorice root has been used as a folk remedy for centuries. The root is used to treat heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough, and infections. But there is insufficient data to determine if licorice is effective at treating any ailments, according to the National Institutes of Health.

If you like black licorice, don’t eat large amounts of it at one time. If you have eaten a lot of the candy and develop irregular heart beats, stop eating it and see a health care provider immediately. In addition, black licorice can interact with medications, herbs, and dietary supplements. If you experience health issues after eating black licorice, contact the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

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