Licorice: problems with long-term massive overdose.

Botanical name: 

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Licorice tea can be bad for your health
Date: 1 Dec 94 11:02:37 AST

>> Having ignorantly upset my whole endocrine system by habitually using Licorice Root tea for a number of years, I'd be CAREFUL with Labrador tea...check it carefully with the experts.... Gruff

>Gruff, would you elaborate on your comment about Licorice tea and the damage it's done to your endocrine system? I'd be interested in more details like, how much you were drinking, what systems did you have, etc.

I thought about sending this to you privately, but I think, since so many have helped me from the alt.folklore.herbs group, I'll post it for all to see. Please forgive me for using so much bandwidth....but this is IMPORTANT...

I was a "grandfather" member of the Alaska Mountain and Wilderness Guides Association for many years. Took youth groups out on wilderness canoe trips, and ran a summer camp. I also set up a trip over the Chilcoot Pass.

Early in those years, I found I was drinking too much coffee. One of the fellows in the AMWGA suggested I try Licorice Tea. It was NOT fattening, it had been of inestimable use in the mountain climbing business, particularly for instant energy. So, by 1974 or so, I was drinking it regularly.

I was also a teacher, and since I drank PRODIGIOUS quantities of coffee, particularly since I specialized in teaching the DIFFICULT students, I switched to a thermos a day of Licorice Root beat the stress with something more innocuous.

In the summers I was also mining, when I wasn't guiding. I was working so hard that I consumed about 12,000 calories a day of food. SO...I was in GOOD condition.

I played adult basketball in the winters...refereed for years, played for years. I was also an amateur javelin thrower, so I was in GREAT condition. OH...I also lifted weights, and taught weight lifting, for about 25 years. In fact, I taught and practiced AEROBIC weight lifting.

I quit teaching and ran my own business from 1980 - 1986. During that time my wife fixed me L.T daily, using a bail....and bulk licorice root.

In 1987 I had severe heart palpatations. Since I had quit teaching some years before and gotten into an intolerable job for myself, industrial sales....the doctor and my family concluded I was suffering stress. He gave me a simple over the counter vitamin that stabilized my heart quite a bit. He did note, after some testing, that my heart was EXTREMELY strong, and in EXTREMELY good shape.

Meanwhile, I continued using the tea.

Late in the summer of 1992, I was having pain in one breast. It had swelled up to about the size of a walnut. Since I was returning to teaching in Alaska, I had a physical. The doctor, new to me, accused me of smoking pot....he said, you have gynecomastea. I was FURIOUS....I don't smoke POT....He said, well, you have a PROBLEM, then. Went on to say, I'd better quit smoking pot. Over officious JERK....he did say, if it is NOT gynecomastea, I'd better get something done, because it could be cancer. The only hopeful thing was that it was severe on one side, and showing up ever so slightly on the other side.

So, it had gotten bad enough by October, that my wife left California early and joined me in Alaska. We knew by then this growth was NOT good. We went to an MD who specialized in Alternative Medicine. He is also on the state medical board. In case you're interested, he has NO problem curing cancers, ADD, aids, and the likes.

He gave me a physical WITH my wife in the room. I'll be frank. There was another problem. I had lost most of my sexual drive. I mean this guy was THOROUGH...he inspected me for testicular cancer....etc. He had me hold my hands out with my fingers FLEXED straight....and they were TREMBLING....and my wife said she had noticed that before. With her there, the doctor narrowed it quickly. He had me take a blood test....hormones.

We were stunned! Remember, this point, Licorice Tea was NEVER even mentioned.

Prolactin <5 ng/ml 0-20
Testosterone 383 ng/dl 225-900
Estrogen 100 pg/ml pre-pubertal

My testosterone was MARGINALLY Estrogen as an ADULT was nearly at the TOP of the acceptable scale.

Conclusion? VERY difficult. I might have a brain tumor. That would explain the shaking, and it would explain the pituitary gland putting out these TERRIBLE values. OR - I might have Male Breast Cancer, which it looked like, and my endocrine system was normal but MARGINAL.

The doctor dealt with it as if it were BOTH. As he said, having such a large breast growth would mean I was a "Dead Man." So, he put me on a PRODIGIOUS quantity of Vitamin C, and some other stuff.

I went home....and the growth slowed almost to a stop. BUT....I was still using Licorice Tea, a bag a day, ordinarily. This went on for 2 years. We were in touch with people about cancer, the use of vitamin C, etc.

Last summer, it began getting worse. I began taking hydrogen peroxide, and the treatment August, I would wake up in the night shaking like a LEAF....COLD tremors. I mean to tell you, it scared the whoopee out of me. My heart was beating STRONG, but my chest cavity was shaking. My heart was racing at times, yet, when I breathed deeply, and really got warm, it subsided.

I noticed something new. I used to be trained in Karate....not the sport kind...the other kind. Leave it at that. Last year, I was in a very UNFAVORABLE position on the job, and whenever my stress went UP, the growth enlargened. I couldn't handle confrontations!!!

Late this summer, I was going to my job site, and SHAKING LIKE A LEAF. I couldn't believe it. So, we opted to quit the job. There was definitely something WRONG, and if I moved to California, I could treat it.....more access to alternative medicine like I had used in Alaska. I retired.

Before I left I was talking to a very dear friend who had liver cancer for 3 years and was controlling it using the Gerson method and hydrogen peroxide....she asked me if I drank coffee, and I mentioned that I drank coffee, but actually much MORE Licorice Tea. She said...OH NO... that stuff is POISON!


I just shucked that information. She didn't know, said I. I was the old wilderness guide....the stuff was fine. I even told her so.

Then I met you folks....and popped the question. The rest is history.

So, the growth is about the size of a half a lemon. It enlarges, and it decreases. I have since found that the shaking is SEVERE adrenalin RUSHES....usually they happen at night. My wife and I now go on walks at 3 in the morning to burn it off.

The capstone was this: Thanksgiving day, a friend said, try this. It was Licorice Liquor. Just a "tad." My wife looked over and said, "after what you've heard, maybe you better not." So I did. By 3 in the morning, I was shaking like a LEAF. I was in BAD shape the next day.

So...the jury is in. As one person said to me, YOU HAVE POISONED YOURSELF FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS. The damage is great.

Since my system is SO terribly upset, I've begun taking Milk Thistle, and am, just to be safe, going to use Essiac Tea, as well. I am also taking Siberian Ginseng.

I am feeling BETTER already.

I know I am chewing up YOUR bandwidth, but this is IMPORTANT. Licorice Tea is DEFINITELY dangerous. Had I not been in the physical condition I am in, I really think my heart might have gone into trauma. I KNOW the added Oxygen in my body these last 6 months has helped.

I also know, had I not had MY wife of 1/3 of a century this month (33 1/3 years)....who kept me in night "toddies" to get me to sleep, and encouraged me as I quit for a month each year....and put up with the TERRIBLE maliase in our personal life for all these years... This could have been MUCH worse.

I hope I have answered your questions. If I were Mr. Richter, and others, I would put even more STERN warnings on Licorice Tea.....don't use it for recreational drinking....I am CERTAIN that on the side of Mt. McKinley, or Everest, as my old friend Ray Genet (now frozen somewhere on Everest) would say, Licorice Tea enemas can be the difference between life and death when it comes to hypothermia....guess he didn't have his with him, HUH. Anyway.....NOT EVERY DAY....

AND...since it DEFINITELY has upset my pituitary and adrenal cortex, I'd say to women that hope to use it for an alternate source of estrogen, particularly those who have had a complete hysterectomy, DON'T do it... you might get your ESTROIL....but you might have a HEART FAILURE.

Thanks to everyone for the input....Peace to all...
Glacier Gruff