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Licorice side effects.

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Let's get sane about herbal side effects, mmkay?

A note on the medicinal herblist, in June 2004:

> Here is the article that prompted me to try the DGL: "Deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice: ...
One chemical in licorice, carboxenoxolone cimetidine, is associated with numerous side effects including edema (fluid retention, swelling), high blood pressure, and lowered potassium levels. ..."

My reply to that:

Repeat after me:

The single constituent is not the herb.

Now find me real live people who actually have had all those "numerous side effects" from taking licorice root the herb, in tea or tincture.

You'll find that even most of the "licorice causes hypertension" reports in medline are about licorice the candy ... which again, is not the herb: it's either

  • salt, sugar, flour and anise oil, or
  • made from licorice concentrate, salt, and other things.

And it's very easy, for people who like licorice candy, to eat half a kg (a pound) a day, or more. More salt, anybody? It's difficult to eat those amounts of licorice root.

Very many people get hypertension from eating loads of licorice candy. Which may never even have seen licorice.

Very few people get any side effects at all from licorice the herb, including the all-too-often repeated "but it causes hypertension!".

Yes, licorice root can, in very few susceptible individuals, cause hypertension. It's however rare.
If you're one of the very few unlucky ones, use your common sense and stop using licorice root.

If you're not, well, it's good for your lungs, your adrenals, your gut, and it tastes good - and you stop doing it because somebody who has no clue about herbs tells you it has a single constituent that's been causing whatever in rats?

Get sane.

If you follow that paradigm you can't eat anything at all. Because in that world, butter causes cancer, carrots do your liver in, potatoes are outright toxic, and don't let me get started on cabbage - I could, if I so liked, come up with one "it's dangerous, dangerous I tell you" study for every food there is, including water.


Hear hear! thanks for that one! I always try to let poeple know what the POTENTIAL effects of herbs are, but that it is completely different taking whole herb preps than a pill, and that yes, even WATER can be dangerous in large enough quantities. So relax already!
People hear about ephedrine pills and get all antsy when i say mormon tea/ephedra....cripes! All in moderation my friends....

Side-effects are very, very rare and this is attested to by those in the know. And of those very, very few, most (if not all) will be highly reactive to ordinary salt. This makes prediction simple. Even then, Glycyrrhiza is still valuable. I add Tarax folia, and the combination works well.
Populist usage and medical herbalist usage, quite rightly, differs. Herbs are simply tools and deft usage varies from idiot medicos through to Naturopaths to populist to experienced herbalist.

I solve the problem by not eating licorice candy.

Awful stuff, if you ask me.

Several years ago when I was first getting interested in herbs, specifically chinese herbs and adaptogens, I bought a sack of licorice root at a local chinese herbalist/accupuncturist. I started making and drinking very strong licorice tea and adding it to other teas, and within a short time got huge, puffy ankles and a puffy face from the resulting edema. I stopped my licorice use right away and, after a few days, the edema subsided. It was a good lesson for me in the power of herbs, even the seeming innocuous ones like licorice. (the herbalist still thinks of me as the licorice guy)

I am living testimony to the side effects of the herb. I was out of work on sick leave for a week after trying licorice root one day at a fair. I had numerous symptoms for example high blood pressure (I went to see the Dr.), unnatural bowel movements, heightened anxiety (could not sit still, unless on a toilet, for 2 days)...if you want herb, smoke weed, if you wanna be healthy, dont eat at Mc Donalds...its that simple...

SickOne: So you're one of the few who are sensitive to licorice (in fact, you're one of the very very few who are severely reactive to licorice) and you say that all herbs are bad? And you smoke weed. Way to go, kiddo.

Alex: smart move, stopping to take licorice after you got problems from it.

well my experience with licorice root is that yes it can be stimulating. Perhaps if you ate the whole herb you'd get GI distress. I know several people who have used it to quit smoking. It may be quite effective in this regard. As there is much problem oriented stuff in the NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) therapies. The small thin dried roots are chewed/sucked and the juice is swallowed but not the root itself.

let me join ur nice usefull herbal blog ..i'm an egyptian herbalist (very rare here) i'm pharmaclogist in study ..and concerning liqurice i used it more than thousand times in many herbal recipes does very well no one at all had any complaints about it specially those who use it in GIT upset an ulcers it does great ..and i'm waiting for one complaints and i'll tell you all about ...i believe in the rule (the whole herb isnt the isolated active const. of it)

I was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid. I refused to take the prescription meds. I got on the internet and researched for natural treatments. By this I found a doctor's website from California that was on Chelation therapy. He suggested if you couldn't afford the therapy to take licorice root. He said it has some of the properties that is in the IV chelation. So I started taking licorice and walah I stopped hurting after being mostly in a convalescent state for 6 months. I have had no side effects. I thank the Lord for this healing because in praying and expecting him to give an answer I believe he led me to this Dr. I HAVE MY LIFE BACK BECAUSE OF THIS SO CALLED BAD HERB!

Good show.

I enjoyed reading about licorice. I love licorice and when I'm dieting, it's a candy I can have without a problem. Several people tell me, Oh, don't eat that it will raise your blood preasure, it's this, it's that, etc etc.

Re-read the post: licorice the candy is flour, sugar, and one or the other essential oil, in most countries. It's not good for you, especially if you're dieting.

Henriette well, perhaps she was saying because it is sweet and has an interesting flavor it is like a candy with no bad side effects (like lots of candy does (also i dont know how peoplw like the taste of that crap)). personally licorice has been a great ally to me, (mostly in teas and as a chew stick) but does anyone know just how bad it is to smoke it? ive tryed it lately and the taste is better than that of a ciggarette and it doesnt leave the bad smell, but i know some stuff is REALLY toxic in smoke form. if anyone has an answer you can get me at

About licorice as candy: that's true, Alan.

I found that my hair definitely thickened by 100% since having licorice. Does anyone else have data on this?

This may be a stupid question, but my husband is diabetic. He loves tea. Recently, I purchased some licorice tea and he loved it, however is concerned because it tastes so "sweet" to him. The ingredients do not list it as having "sugar".
but was wondering if someone could help calm my concerns. Is it ok for diabetics to drink licorice tea. (it was purchased at the health store, and is in tea bag form. I think it was egyptian licorice tea... In other words, I didn't buy licorice "root" and make it myself. Any reply would be appreciated... I have looked everywhere to find out this information, and can't seem to find any anywhere regarding this. Thanks to anyone.

Licorice, the root, is a few hundred times sweeter than sugar. However, there is no sugar in the root.

So licorice root is sweeter than table sugar but contains no actual sugars? Then my question is, will it raise my blood glucose levels or not? I can't seem to get an answer. There is no nutritional info, ie. sugars/carbs on the licorice tea box. I have very low blood pressure (70/40), and heard licorice tea would help. But I am also a diabetic. If anyone has any helpful information I would greatly appreciate it. How many cups a day should I have? It is caffeine free, which is great, as caffeine is not good for diabetics. Help with the sugar content please!

Licorice, the root, contains no sugar. Licorice, the candy, is loaded with sugar.
If you're diabetic then you should have a glucose meter. Give licorice a try and check your sugar readings before and after.

Liquorice + shatavari is ayurvedic gold for diabetes. The 'sweet but not sugar' herbs are very good for diabetics (including stevia), the sweetness is different from sugar if you notice - different tastebuds notice the taste as sweet-. If he likes liquorice it's good for him! Make sure to keep potassium levels up and drink the tea in moderation - 2 cups a day or so tops. Liquorice is a harmless tonifying herb - just don't consume unearthly quantities - a cup of tea a day, a stick or two of candy, a liquorice chew once a week or so.

- Qualifications - my herbalist told me so.

I have been taking licorice in a capsule form. for about a month. The "Directions" says that we can take two capsules two or three times a day. I take one capsules a day.That's enough to make me go to the bathroom quite often during the day. I don't know if that's normal. I read that is highly beneficial for my blood type however the tea is recommended not the herb. I read that the plant can cause retainson of sodium in blood, which can lead to increase in blood pressure.
In a tea form is medicin. What about the capsules?

I wouldn't have a clue. Licorice tastes so nice that I've never even contemplated putting it into capsules. Nor will I. Teas, mmm.

We've been enjoying organic licorice root, gently simmered for a few minutes with various leafy, food flavored herbs added and steeped. Try peppermint, spearmint, lemongrass, pau d'arco, chamomile, etc. . . especially nice in the evening, as "dessert" after dinner.

The problem with hypertension is that many people who don't check their blood pressure reguarly can have it and not know. When I started the licorice root capsules last week I checked my blood pressure at 109/68. During the week it elevated every day. Finally this morning it was 155/95 so I had to discontinue it. I will probably wait a week, check the blood pressure and start it at a lower dose. I took 9 capsules per day, per instructions on the bottle. I guess they want you to use up the product quickly. I didn't use my own good sense and start at 1/3 of the recommended dose and build up if there wasn't any side effects.

Does anyone know how long it takes for the side effects (high blood pressure) of way too much licorice (candy) to go? My husband's blood pressure has been very high lately and we've only just made the connection with the large amount of licorice he eats. Of course he's stopped eating it but how long will it take for the blood pressure to come down?

Recently I purchased licorice tea in addition to a women's tea whose top ingredient is licorice and started drinking tea all day. Yesterday I noticed my blood pressure had shot up to 165/99 - my typical blood pressure is 116/72. My muscles were sore, I felt bloated and was fatigues. I became really concerned about my health. Then, my husband read the WARNING on the licorice tea: "do not take this product if you have heart disease or high blood pressure." Then I started researching and found that I had a toxic reaction to the licorice tea. It was not the candy - it was licorice tea. Article of interest:
(second URL gives "site not found", sorry.)
The second article above indicates that "Blood pressure and serum potassium normalized about 2 months after she stopped drinking liquorice tea."

However, the fact that you're sensitive to licorice (the tea) doensn't mean that it's dangerous on a general level.

though you're right that in mouse studies even water can cause cancer one does not want to have elevetaed blood pressure or be dead because of licorice. Even if the reaction is rare the warning should be taken seriously!

I have high blood pressure but decided to try chewing licorice sticks to help with my teeth and inflammation. I plan to watch my blood pressure and see what happens. I have also decided to limit myself to one small stick a day. I have rheumatoid arthritis and hope that I do not react to the licorice.

I hear water is really bad for you! Yeah. It can kill you if you drink too much. Drinking too much can also deplete your electrolytes. Ok now that we have gotten that all out, PASS THE LICORICE PLEASE!

I have been hospitalized after excessive consumption of licorice tea that left my potassium dangerously low (2.5) and my bicarbs all to pot. HOWEVER: this really was excessive consumption (about 10 cups per day). I still drink in moderation. Far too nice not to!

I am a living example that the warnings regarding licorice are very valid. I was just recently prescribed a licorice supplement for adrenal fatigue. I have a lifetime of healthy eating, normal stable weight and low blood pressure (runs in my family), non smoker non drinker and boy did I ever react to licorice! My face was puffed like a pastry! My ankles were so swollen that I could see my finger marks on them like they were playdough and my blood pressure went way up. It is 5 days on from discontinuing and my eyes are still puffy. I have eaten black licorice my whole life (the good brands), I love it, not to mention I am a regular drinker of licorice tea, so this came as a surprise. I took no more than what was suggested on the bottle. I also tried a second brand for adrenal fatigue and had the same reaction Metagenics and Cortrex) It is no myth, it can happen, and it is scary. As with anything proceed with caution and don't dismiss the warnings.

How are you feeling now
I too have a similar example of licorice toxicity. After about 3 months of eating true licorice(a few to a handful of slices per day) from Australia and Europe I started having fluid retention HBP and head felt like it was heated. Anyway, It has been 10 days since I stopped all licorice and I still have ups and downs with high BP and when I eat something salty my BP goes through the roof. I have always had normal pressure and have been generally healthy.

I just want to know how long it will take to get back to normal status. The half life of licorice is chemical is about 5 hours and after 50 hours should be all gone?
Thanks for the help