Q. In the last four months or so, my blood pressure began to climb higher and higher, despite my daily dose of the blood pressure medicine, lisinopril. In the last month, I began to feel short of breath and weak, my ankles swelled and I craved bananas.
My doctor started me on furosemide, Pravachol and atenolol, to no avail. My blood pressure yesterday afternoon while resting was 213/91, and today it was 193/93. I was afraid I would go into kidney failure or have a heart attack.
This afternoon your book (The People’s Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies) arrived. The first thing I looked up was licorice.
I had been eating licorice twists every day for months. Your book alerted me to the cause of my symptoms. I’ve sworn off licorice and am hoping that my blood pressure will now come down.
A. Licorice may have contributed to your extremely high blood pressure. Now that you have stopped eating it, your blood pressure should begin to come down.
Candy seems like an innocent treat, but licorice, whether in candy, as tea or in capsules, can raise blood pressure and lower levels of potassium. (Maybe that’s why you were craving bananas, which are a good source of potassium.)
Side effects from a high dose or prolonged use of licorice (months of candy counts) can be serious, resulting in fluid retention, weakness or heart rhythm irregularities in some cases. Such high blood pressure is indeed dangerous and needs treatment. Getting to the cause of the problem and giving up licorice makes a great deal of sense. Not all licorice candy is flavored with natural licorice; some has only anise flavoring. But based on your response, your favorite treat was the real deal. It’s a really dangerous one for you.
We are glad you found our book helpful. We have only a handful of copies left in our store, and the publisher is taking it out of print.