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Glycyrrhiza glabra is a varieties native come Eurasia and also North Africa from which most confectionery licorice is produced. Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler"s Medizinal-Pflanzen via Wikimedia Commons

Licorice is a flowering plant indigenous to components of Europe and also Asia. Its scientific name, Glycyrrhiza, is obtained from the Greek words “glykos” (sweet) and also “rhiza” (root). The aromatic and also sweet extract native its root has long been supplied as an organic remedy because that a wide selection of health and wellness maladies, from heartburn and also stomach concerns to ill throats and cough. However, there is insufficient proof to assistance that licorice is efficient in treating any type of medical condition.

Glycyrrhizin (also referred to as glycyrrhizic acid) is the chemical in black color licorice that provides the candy its signature flavor, however it likewise leads to its toxicity effects.

Glycyrrhizin mimics the hormone aldosterone, which is made by the adrenal glands as soon as the body needs to maintain sodium and also excrete potassium. Sodium and potassium occupational together together a sort of moving battery that drives communication in between nerves and also the contraction of muscles. Too much glycyrrhizin upsets the balance of these electrolytes, which can raise blood pressure and disturb the heart’s rhythm. Various other symptoms of extreme licorice intake incorporate swelling, muscle pain, numbness and also headache. Check of the man who died from spend too lot licorice revealed that he had actually dangerously short levels that potassium, continuous with glycyrrhizin toxicity.

It should be detailed that a number of licorice-based foods items do not contain real licorice, yet use a flavoring substitute called anise oil, which does not pose the risks discussed here. In addition, regardless of its name, red licorice rarely includes licorice extract. Instead, red licorice is infused with chemicals that impart that cherry or strawberry flavor.

Products that contain actual licorice are usually labeled as such, and list licorice extract or glycyrrhizic acid among the ingredients. Be advised that part products, together as black jelly beans or good & Plenty, are mixtures of various candies that contain both anise oil and also licorice extract.


Red licorice is sickly sweet but safe to eat. Darren Boucher/Getty pictures

Hidden threats that rise risk

Glycyrrhizin has the distinctive licorice flavor and is 50 times sweeter than sugar and has been used in other types of candy, soft drinks, tea, Belgian beers, throat lozenges and tobacco. This deserve to make it daunting to store track of exactly how much glycyrrhizin has actually been consumed, and also a mix of these products could create adverse effects.

Some world take diet or health supplements that already contain licorice, which boosts the threat of toxic impacts from eating black color licorice candy. Particular medications such as hydrochlorothiazide space diuretics that reason increased urination, which have the right to lower potassium levels in the body. Glycyrrhizin additionally lowers potassium levels, more disrupting the balance of electrolytes, which can produce muscle cramps and irregular love rhythms.

People with details preexisting conditions are an ext susceptible to black licorice overdose.

For example, patients who currently have short potassium level (hypokalemia), high blood push or love arrhythmia are likely to have higher sensitivity to the impacts of extreme licorice. Those through liver or kidney deficiencies will likewise retain glycyrrhizin in their bloodstream for much longer times, enhancing their risk of enduring its adverse effects.

What to do?

If you’re a fan of black color licorice, over there is no have to ban it from her pantry. Eaten in tiny quantities indigenous time to time, licorice poses no significant threat to otherwise healthy and balanced adults and children. But it is advisable to monitor her intake.

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With Halloween approaching, be certain to repeat your youngsters that candy is a “sometimes food,” especially the black licorice. The FDA has actually issued warnings about the rare however serious impacts of too lot black licorice, advising that civilization avoid eating an ext than 2 ounces of black color licorice a day for 2 weeks or longer. The firm states that if you have been eating a most black licorice and experience one irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, avoid eating it immediately and contact your health treatment provider.

Some researchers have additional cautioned against the regime use the licorice in the type of a dietary supplement or tea because that its alleged health benefits. A review article from 2012 warned the “the daily consumption of licorice is never justified since its benefits are minor compared to the disadvantage outcomes the chronic consumption.”