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Licorice Affects Blood Pressure

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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.

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I'm astonished that you gave this question any credence at all and even more taken aback that you posted a picture of candy along with your answer. You either misunderstood the reader's question or you really don't understand what licorice is. Licorice is the root of a leguminous plant and has almost nothing to do with the candy of the same name. There is no such thing (in nature) as either red or black licorice; these are purely confectionary inventions.

What you are eating when you have the candy called licorice is corn syrup and food coloring. That's where any health danger lies. There is barely any extract of licorice in these products, if any at all, because the flavor is usually provided by adding aniseseed extract. Your photo that accompanies this question is of licorice allsorts or licorice whips - a far cry from the natural plant. Please see this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licorice

Answer to question is correct! Red licorice IS totally safe because it is flavored with anise oil instead of licorice extract which contains glycyrrizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid which are use to flavor BLACK licorice (anise oil is also sometimes used). The culprits, glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid ARE mentioned in the Wikipedia article so referenced by "astonished" Dean W in his 8-10-08 posting. Licorice extract can cause Pseudoaldosteronism. It inhibits the enzyme 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, which converts cortisol to cortisone. Cortisol binds to the aldosterone receptors in the kidney and mimics aldosterone which causes water and sodium retention along with loss of potassium leading to increased bloodpressure and hypokalemia which in turn lead to cardiac arrhythmias.

Oh dear so I better stop eating a 200g roll every week then!!!!

I am stunned Dean would post his misinformation. Even Hershey's website has the correct information about licorice products.

Steph if your eating that much you might want to look at why.

I had some loose leaf tea which contained licorice root, didn't only take one mug but two. Yep, the blood pressure hit the roof and I knew as soon as I felt rotten what I had done. For me I need to really avoid licorice for the blood pressure reason. What concerns me is that no doctor has ever told me this.

Did your blood pressure level go down? After how long?

Well jeez, that's good to know now! I had pre-eclampsia that came from nowhere. I have always had low blood pressure, never higher than 106/64, 128/68 during most of my pregnancy, then it shot up to 210/110.

Now that I look back, I see it coincided directly with my sudden craving for Dutch (real) black licorice. I ate pounds of that stuff. No one ever told me that could have been the cause. And after I had my son, I drank black licorice tea, and my blood pressure stayed through the roof. They told me it'd go down, but it didn't for months. Just now I realized I haven't been eating any black licorice since my blood pressure went back to normal. I never noticed the connection due to my pregnancy-hormone-addled brain. They should have to warn people when the products contain licorice root, and not merely anise.

The Problem is not with the packaged licorice that we are used to. It is the licorice that is made with licorice root, the kind you get in a specialty candy store. My wife was rushed to the hospital with what they said was a mini stroke. She first became dizzy, then she became slow of speech, then lost control of her arm and neck. After being released from the hospital and seeing several doctors and specialists, they said it was a migraine headache (even though she did not have a headache at the time), because the symptoms came one after the other and not all at once like a stroke.

She was put on many different drugs, none of which helped the problem. For about 3 weeks prior to the first so called "mini stroke" and all during the other 5 attacks, she had been eating black licorice imported from Australia, and not in excess, about 3 to 5 pieces a day. One day while looking for a recipe for black licorice (because she was so fond of it) I discovered that it could cause sudden spikes in your blood pressure and low potassium levels, (she had also been suffering from leg cramps).

She stopped eating the licorice and never had another attack. She is not taking any of the drugs the doctors gave her, she only stopped the licorice. We are sure that it was the licorice that cause these attacks.

I was trying to determine whether red licorice was a health risk as is black licorice; so was interested in some of these coments.

About twelve years ago, I experienced symptoms similar to stroke. I was taken to the hospital and studied for five days by specialists. The symptoms quickly resolved and have never reocurred. They finally diagnosed me as having atypical migraine. I never have headaches, although after that point in time have had auras - kaleidoscope lights. Licorice has never a suspect, even to this day. I continued to eat black licorice until recently when I made a firm commitment to discontinue it because of my hypertension. It'a too early to say for sure, but my frequent and excruciating leg cramping (all muscles - ankle, lateral, front of lower leg, etc) has seemed to have lessened.

Also, I was admitted to the hospital in 2/10 with what they thought was rhabdomyolysis, mainly based on a CPK of about 10,000 - 12,000. It was decided that I was one of the 1% of individuals reacting to Zocor, which I had been on for several years without problems. I noted in my research that black licorice can cause this condition. I am now wondering if it was the licorice rather than the Zocor that created this problem. I ate an excessive amount of black licorice continuously. I remained in the hospital until they flushed the Zocor from my system. I have now been started on Crestor, but only taking 5mg per week to observe my reaction. My CPK is normal and I continue to avoid black licorice.

If taking licorice root has caused my blood pressure to be high, how long can I expect to wait after discontinuing it for my blood pressure to go down? How long will it stay in my system and cause high blood pressure?

3 weeks ago I was diagnosed with High blood pressure - 225/119!
After taking 95grms of betaloc for 2 weeks, my blood pressure was 187/90.

I LOVE licorice and eat 4-6 'twists' per day. After reading about its effect on BP I haven't had any for 2 days. Today my BP was 170/90.

Symptoms are - top/forehead of my head feels 'thick / heavy and a racing heart.
My pulse seems pretty stable at around 60 - 64.

Prior to this discovery my BP has always been normal.
I am 5 ft 2inches, weigh 55 kg and have a BMI of 23.
I do zumba 4 or 5 times a week, rocknroll 1 - 2 times a week.

I eat 7 - 10 vegetables and fruit per day, always have home prepared fresh foods, rarely eat out but do enjoy a glass of white wine in the evening. I haven't smoked for 31 years and consider myself pretty healthy and fit for someone who has just turned 60 in October.

There is no history of heart troubles in my family so I am perplexed as to why my BP is suddenly dangerously high.

I have been taking licorice powder for 2 years and it has really helped me for hyper-acidity and migraine. I am going through menopause and my BP is raised to 90/150. I never had high BP before and I also feel swelling in my body. Is this all due to licorice?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: LICORICE CAN CAUSE FLUID RETENTION (SWELLING) AND HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. WE SUGGEST TAKING IT ONLY SHORT TERM UNDER SUPERVISION FROM A PROFESSIONAL FAMILIAR WITH ITS USE.

how are people to know whether red or black licorice is used in a blend with other ingredients in various supplements? I purchase supplements at times only to realize later that the product contains licorice?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: RED AND BLACK ARE COLORS OF LICORICE CANDY. RED NEVER CONTAINS ACTUAL LICORICE, DESPITE THE NAME; BLACK "LICORICE" CANDY MAY OR MAY NOT CONTAIN LICORICE FOR FLAVORING.

LICORICE IN SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD ALWAYS BE LISTED ON THE LABEL.

I also am having an episode of high blood pressure, because, I think, eating licorice candy. Only two servings, I did not know it was going to affect my blood presure 212/105. It has been 24 hours since I noticed it in my bp monitor. How long should I expect the effects to last? Should I double up on my meds? What can I do to help it go to safer levels right now. This is scarry!

I love the red and black licorice candy... its ingredients include licorice EXTRACT among other things... I have high blood pressure and I take medication for that... should I not be eating this candy? can it raise my B/P?

As a person who has gone through angioplasty and battled high blood pressure for an extended period I am always amazed at "expert" sounding opinions that quite often are not based on proper research. While it is true that red "licorice" may not contain any actual licorice extract, some do. I recently bought a bag of soft Australian red flavoured with Blueberry and Pomegranate. After eating the bag over a two week period, I decided to read the small print and was surprised to find licorice listed as an ingredient.

It is also true that some black licorice contains no actual licorice extract. Both anise and fennel will produce a licorice like flavour but to determine exactly which products contain flavouring other than actual licorice is not easy.

As a former "licorice freak", I am always searching for a safe alternative and so far all I have discovered is that producers are very reluctant to disclose exactly what they use for flavouring. One thing is sure though and that is European products such as Dutch salted licorice and cough suppressants such as Fisherman's Friend are extremely high in licorice extract.

This has been the scariest week of my life. I suddenly developed very high blood pressure and had to go the ER. 195/118. Really bad diastolic especially. Went to a doc who put me on hypertension medications. First a beta blocker that did nothing. Then an ACE inhibitor and water pill. The ACE inhibitor did nothing, but the water pill did. It brought my pressure down, but I had to take it for several days. Finally my pressure at resting was 87/63 which was too low. I stopped the water pill and now my pressure is back to normal.

I could not understand what was happening. I eat low fat, I'm not overweight. I don't smoke. I don't drink. It was the LICORICE and I'm certain of it now. I'm a busy student and was snacking on it a lot. I bought a ton of black licorice, and I mean the really good imported kind. I had been eating it daily and not realizing my blood pressure had begun to rise. It was when it felt like my heart was going to explode that I decided to check my blood pressure and found it was 175/110!

It freaked me out. My brother told me he thought it was from glycyrrizinic acid toxicity (licorice). I could not BELIEVE it could be so harmful. Those blood pressures can destroy the kidneys. Today, I took no water pill and my BP was fine all day and evening - 107/70. I'm never eating it again.

I love the black Wiley Wallaby Australian style liquorice manufactured by Kenny's Candy Co, Perham, Mn...there's nothing on the bag stating that it could be bad for people with high blood pressure and only has 45mg of sodium per serving (4 pieces). It's soft and chewy delicious. Sorry to hear it's bad for me.

I had that scary time but have discovered that some people with low blood pressure eat licorice in hope of raising their pressure. I've also learned that licorice normally only increases blood pressure by a few points. It's a problem for people with other pathologies that cause high blood pressure, such as myself.

I did not know this about myself when posting my original post. Since then, it has been discovered that I have mild kidney disease. So the licorice made things worse, but it was not the problem. Still, for me personally, I am not eating it again.

Disappointing because I love the stuff!

Hi all, I went to the Dentist the other day, and they wouldn't work on me because my blood pressure was so high, and we tried everything from rest to Oxygen, and nothing worked to lower it. It has always been low. And yesterday I was having cramps in my hands. I have been eating Panda black Licorice from Finland, which is full of Extract.

I have been throwing away whole packages just because I have been working out and trying to loose weight, and I was tossing the licorice and the sugar AW Root beer away, and then buying it again and just trying to eat less, just because I couldn't stop eating the licorice or drinking root beer, and it is so fattening.

I made a special trip to the Health food store today just to buy more Black Panda Licorice, and then I thought they ate Licorice in Egypt 5,000 years ago as a medicine. I then decided to bring it up on the computer, and then I read your stuff, and I will never buy that again either, but I did make a side trip for more root beer, but I only bought a small bottle, being that they didn't carry the large ones. Good luck all.

I recently experienced high blood pressure, dizziness blackout numbness in my hands and feet plus swelling. Severe muscle pain in my joints and headache chest pain arm numbness. I went to the doctor and they could not tell me what was wrong. All of my blood work came back perfect. The doctor gave me a water pill to reduce my blood pressure and swelling. I am a healthy 35 year old.

I had a massage and asked the massage therapist if there was another way to lower my blood pressure and she gave me a sheet of paper and the last sentence on the page was avoid licorice. Wow I was shocked too see this. When I got home I google side effects of licorice and found this site. It has been two weeks now and my blood pressure is back to normal. But my body is still achy. What a life changing experience. I will never eat licorice again!

Would it be alright to drink Stash licorice spice tea with licorice root, cinnamon, orange peel, anise, sarsaparilla, orange oil and cardamom oil? Daily or only occasionally in order to avoid any of the licorice side affects?

Had severe stomach pains for 36 hours , thought I would go to a Dr. but backtracked, and had eaten licorice, decided that was the real problem as all is well now.

Went to the doctor this weekend; my usually low BP was 162/87. I have been 3-6 sticks of licorice everyday for the last 2 wks. Went off licorice on Sunday night. This is Tues and BP isn't back to my normal but is 128/78. I know its just anecdotal evidence, but I will definitely cut back on the licorice intake.

"Red licorice" isn't licorice at all. It's flavoured rubber. REAL licorice can be found in the Netherlands and Germany, and is salty and VERY GOOD. However, one should try not to eat bags at a time.

For the last month I have been using Licorice Soap on my body. My blood pressure, (which was already high), skyrocketed. I initially thought that if I bathed with the soap it would be o.k. Was I wrong.... what can I do to get the licorice out of my system sooner? Please help.... my heart feels like it is coming out of my chest sometimes. Thanks for your help.

I have been taking the antidepressant Lexapro for about a month now. I felt great at first, the happiest I had ever been. I read about licorice root being able to help with side effects of a disease I have called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I picked up some licorice root tablets and popped a couple. That day my anxiety skyrocketed, I had panic attacks, and depersonalization/derealization. I have been this way for two weeks now. My heart has been pounding. Reading this, I think it's the licorice root... I just want it to end.... =/

So glad to learn of others' experiences. I'm convinced that my rapid heartbeat, "heavy" head, and swollen ankles resulted from intermittently drinking 5 to 7 cups of a popular herbal tea, which declares in bold lettering "Contains Licorice" below listed ingredients (but I never noticed it until yesterday).

The same symptoms occurred until 3 years ago, when it became difficult to find that tea locally. But, I recently discovered an online merchant to deliver teas in bulk -- I bought them and had a near festival drinking up to 10 cups per day!

I am stopping today!! I had gone to many doctors and cardiologists up to 3 years ago, having nuclear tests, sonograms, etc. etc., and regret the dollars expended by me and health insurances, likely for nothing.

It's now mid-day, and I feel better already.

Went to the doctors the other day and when he took my blood pressure he nearly hospitalised me! 180/92. So he put me on a ACE and said come back in a couple of days. Now I know my blood pressure was in the 120-130 range the last time I took it a week or two ago but since then had consumed licorice which does have Licorice Extract in the ingredients.

In truth I probably indulged a little more than I should of (a large Ricci's bag over 4-5 days) But not realizing the threat that licorice posed didn't have any concerns other than maybe a little too much sugar. So now after a little net-investigation have discovered that Licorice isn't as nice as I though it was and can be very dangerous!!!

I had a heavy weekend, drinking and eating junk. On the Sunday night i chewed on a liquorice root and later on I had a massive thunderclap headache. I ended up in accident and emergency!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 :-)

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

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 :-)

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.

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