Black Licorice Is Tasty, But Don’t Overdo It, Says FDA

If black licorice is on your Halloween shopping list, this update from the Federal Drug Administration warns that a little is better than a lot. Indeed, too much can kill you.

Licorice root black liquorice contains a substance called glycyrrhizin. Too much glycyrrhizin can cause the body’s potassium levels to drop. This drop in potassium can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure. This can lead to heart failure, especially in people over 40 years of age.

A Massachusetts man collapsed and died last year after eating a bag and a half of black liquorice a day for several weeks, according to an AP press release. And in May 2019, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an article about an 84-year-old man who was hospitalized with high blood pressure after drinking licorice root tea every day for two weeks.

Licorice root is mainly grown in Europe and Asia and has been used to treat diseases since ancient times.

Today, licorice root is used by some people as a supplement for various medical conditions and is found in lozenges, gargles, and skin products, according to the National Center for Complementary and Inclusive Health. However, the NCCIH states that studies have not provided enough good data to support the recommendation of licorice root for a disease.

Take them home

If your sweet tooth or a sore throat is causing you to reach for a liquorice drop, here are tips provided by the FDA:

  • Limit the amount of black liquorice that you eat at one time. The FDA says eating just 2 ounces of black liquorice a day for 2 weeks can lead to abnormal heart rhythms.
  • If you have an abnormal heart rhythm or feel weak after consuming black licorice, stop eating the licorice and contact your doctor right away.
  • If you eat black licorice, tell your doctor. Licorice root is known to interact with some medicines, as well as herbs and other nutritional supplements.

The good news is that many “licorice” products sold in the US do not contain licorice root. The list of ingredients may include anise oil, which tastes and smells like licorice.

Cindy Blye is a freelance health writer based in North Carolina. Cindy lives with her husband, has three grown children, and enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, cycling, reading, and spending time with her family.