Q. I have read your articles on licorice raising blood pressure, but you don’t state if it is black licorice or both red and black licorice.

I have never suffered from high blood pressure and I enjoy red licorice once in a while. I don’t notice any side effects from eating it. Is it safe?

A. Red licorice is totally safe. It doesn’t contain the ingredient (glycyrrhizin) found in black licorice that may raise blood pressure.

Join Over 54,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Sandra W.
    Reply

    I drink two cups of fruit tea every day and have now discovered that they contain liquorice! As I take amlodipine for hypertension should I continue to drink these fruit teas?
    People’s Pharmacy response: It probably would be wise to cut back.

  2. Judi
    Reply

    LD,
    I’m happy I could shed some light on the situation. When I first posted, I was hoping someone would do that for me, too.
    It seems to take forever to get through the effects of Licorice Root on blood pressure.. to the point where you wonder if you will have to live with it forever. It was really scary for me since strokes run on both sides of my family and my fear was that I would have a stroke.
    Today is March 19th and I would say that I’m fully back to normal now and put my blood pressure monitor away, finally. But, I can tell you that from now on out, I will be reading ingredients and researching the ones I don’t know – more than ever before. This was a scary way to learn a lesson, but it sure has been learned.
    I do really like licorice candy but if I ever dare to eat it again, I will make sure that it is flavored with Anise and not Licorice Root. Anise is safe.
    Whew!
    Hang in there anyone who is suffering. Educate your doctor if they don’t know about this problem and then be your own advocate as powerfully as you need to be until you are out of the woods. I got lucky twice.. that I was able to figure out what was wrong.. and that I have a great doctor who was knowledgeable enough to be able to help me.
    Have a better day.
    Judi :-)

  3. Ld
    Reply

    Hi Judi. Thanks for responding.
    I went back to the dr today and she increased my meds once again. This time 10mg of ramipril and 5mg of amlodipine. My blood pressure was 140/85 but she wants it back to where it was at 120+/80. It will be two weeks this Thursday that I had the 7 or 8 sticks of licorice so I hope it’s out of my system soon if that’s indeed the cause of the spike but I find it too coincidental after years of being on 2.5 mg of ramipril.
    Hopefully this does the trick and then I can go back to a normal dosage of ramipril.
    Thanks
    Ld

  4. jls
    Reply

    Hi,LD!
    I posted here January 29th and it took until February 27th for me to start back to normal again. It seemed like forever. I’m still not back where I started, yet.
    In addition to the Licorice Root in the supplement, I also was drinking a protein drink which had Eleutherococcus Extract (root) and Ashwagandha Extract (root) in it. Since having the problem with the Licorice Root, I decided to research them, also, and found that Eleutherococcus is not recommended for anyone with hypertension and Ashwagandha is counterindicated for anyone taking thyroid supplments. That was double trouble as I DO have hypertension and I DO take thyroid meds. It’s fair to say that I was a real mess for a while.
    The blood pressure cuff I was using didn’t give me accurate or consistent readings so I bought a Panasonic Digital one and it seems to be accurate. So, I tracked my BP readings and watched them come down, but still erratic, to the teens.
    When it got down to around 115/77, I cut the pills in half and put myself on 30 mg a day of Enalapril to replace the 40 mg a day. And I felt a lot better and stopped being anxious and fearful of a possible stroke, since stroke runs in both sides of my family. The headaches were still present even after the BP came down, but then I realized there was a lot of pollen in the air, so I think that I had the headaches both from the high BP and from the sinus irritation from the pollen.
    I saw my doctor last week and he said I did the right thing by reducing the meds to 30 mg a day. Right before this happened I had lost a few pounds and my BP had gotten into the 110/66 range so he had changed my meds to 20 mg a day of Enalapril. I am hoping that I can get back to that next.
    This has been a really scary journey and I had wondered if it would ever end. I was still drinking the protein drink for about 4 days before realizing it was contributing to the problems. From now on I don’t take anything without doing my research. Thanks to the People’s Pharmacy radio program years ago on NPR I learned about grapefruit and how it can affect medications. We have to be our own advocates to protect our health.
    I hope this helps you and anyone else who is reading this thread.
    Good luck.
    Judi :-)

  5. Ld
    Reply

    Hi jls. I have been on blood pressure medication for about 5 years. I was ion a low dose of 2.5 mg of ramipril. Over the last two weeks I started to have a treat of black licorice everyday after lunch. About 3 to 4 sticks and last Thursday had about 7 or 8 sticks.
    I had noticed my fingers and ankles swelling, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, and headaches. My blood pressure normally was 130/80 and when I went to the dr. It was 190/90. Scary, very scary. My dr. Upped the dosage of my ramipril and gave me an ace inhibitor. I’ve been on the increased dosage for a few days and my blood pressure is around 160/90.
    How long did it take you to return your blood pressure to normal and start feeling better? My dr. Had never heard of licorice affecting blood pressure. I had blood tests which came back negative. I just want to feel better and have the blood pressure come down. If you could tell me how long you waited to feel better I would appreciate it. Thanks!

  6. JLS
    Reply

    As a follow-up…
    After fighting this on my own for ten days, and with a weekend staring me in the face, I finally broke down and went to see my doctor. I was highly anxious thinking that I would have to educate him if there was any chance that he could treat me, so I brought all my research papers with me.
    When the nurse took my BP it was 180/112. That was terrifying!!
    To my utter amazement he was very knowledgeable on the topic and said he was forced to study such subjects in school, so he understood it well. He said that my diastolic BP of 112 demonstrated what a good heart I have, which was good to hear. He also said, what I already knew, that fooling around with increasing potassium was dangerous. So, he increased my Enalapril from 30 mg a day to 40 mg a day, which is the max I can take. He said that he would opt for a channel blocker, but I’ve had a bad experience in the past with that so it was out of the question.
    He said to monitor my BP every day and it should come down very gradually. Just being with him and feeling safer, it came down to 150/100 in the office.
    From the research, it says that the effects of Licorice Root are complex and deal with reducing potassium, increasing cortisol, and other effects related to hormones. I’m sure that the cortisol is what caused the difference between 180/112 and 150/100… I was very scared until I realized he knows what he’s doing. I’m very lucky there because when I went to the pharmacy to fill the Rx for the higher dose of Enalapril, I mentioned the licorice problem to the pharmacist and he didn’t know what I was talking about.
    My doctor suggested that I look up the “Half Life” for Licorice by Googling “LD 50 Licorice Root,” but I didn’t find anything useful. I think that it makes so many changes in the body that how quickly it leaves the body is not the real issue, but how quickly the negative changes it makes can be rebalanced by the body that really counts.
    I’m leaving this update because no one else answered the questions about how long it takes to get “normal” again and I didn’t want to be guilty of the same lack of follow-through. I hope this helps someone.
    Having an excellent doctor who knows what he’s doing here is a huge lifeline for me to hang onto until “Mother Nature” finally restores “homeostasis,” (balance) and things go back to normal for me.
    BTW: He also told me that FAVA BEANS are equally as dangerous and never to eat them! (I’m putting that on my list with rattle snake, beetles, eel, and some other “non-food-for-humans” items!)
    Thanks.

  7. JLS
    Reply

    I’m so grateful to have found this forum, and especially to see it on the site of People’s Pharmacy, as I’ve listened to their program for years on NPR and learned about the dangers of grapefruit interaction from them.
    A week ago Tuesday (today is the next week on Wednesday), at the direction of a healthcare professional I took a prescribed antifungal to treat Candida. It was prescribed for 2 capsules on arising and 2 before lunch and then again 2 before bedtime, on an empty stomach. I saw the “Licorice Root” 25 mg on the label and hesitated because I had a vague recollection of hearing many years ago that licorice could raise blood pressure, but I figured that a health care professional would take that into consideration, so maybe 25 mg was a low enough dose that it would be okay.
    After the 2 capsules before noon I was hit with a bad headache and when I finally had the courage to take my BP reading it was 180/100 and scared the heck out of me. Since then it’s been as high as 190/102, which scared me even more.
    My regular doctor had reduced my BP meds from 30 mg to 20 mg a day just a few days before this because I had lost weight and my reading had been 120/68. He had also previously given me a Rx for an anti-anxiety drug for times when stress shot my BP up. So, trying to combat this sudden spike in reading and the bad, unrelenting headaches, I increased my meds to 30 mg again, took aspirin, and began to take first half an anti-anxiety pill and then a whole one. NOTHING HAS HELPED!
    After reading the posts here, I see no point in going to see my regular doctor because he would be clueless and would have done what I’ve already done.. which has been to no avail.
    The question several posters have asked, and no one has answered, is how long does it take for this darn licorice and its effects to leave the body and the body to return to normal?
    For me it’s now been a week and a day. I’m too scared to take my BP reading again until the headaches go away. Just the anxiety will drive up the reading. That much I do know. I also took a couple of sports electrolyte tablets hoping to increase the potassium since I’m taking an Ace Inhibitor BP med and I know it’s “potassium sparing.”
    Can someone please indicate how long it took them to get back to normal or what might have helped them to overcome? It would help many of us who have asked.
    Thank you.

  8. EM
    Reply

    I just bought Twinings Black currant and Vanilla Tea and find one of the ingredients listed is licorice root along with hibiscus, rose hips, orange peel, ginseng etc. I am diabetic and on BP meds. Is it harmful to use this? I’ve just heard licorice root is harmful for hypertensives. Should I just avoid it altogether?
    People’s Pharmacy response: You’ll have to monitor your reaction to it in readings of both blood pressure and blood sugar. One cup once in a while may not be dangerous, but you’ll have to see how you respond. Regular intake of several cups daily might indeed be risky.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.