Q. I understand that eating licorice lowers testosterone levels in men. Will it have the same impact on testosterone levels in women? Could this hormonal effect be a solution to eliminating unwanted facial hair in women?

A. An Italian study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (Oct. 7, 1999) suggests that men who eat licorice have lower circulating testosterone levels. Although this herb might also lower testosterone levels in women, the risks might be too great.

Licorice has a number of potential side effects, including high blood pressure, fatigue, mineral imbalance and loss of libido. A recent report in The Lancet (July 20, 2002) describes a Chinese man with muscle weakness and a serious shortage of potassium due to a licorice-containing medicine he was taking.

There are better options for controlling facial hair in women, but they require a doctor’s prescription. The diuretic spironolactone has long been used for this purpose. Vaniqa cream is also effective.

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