Licorice side effects debunked.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Re: Yogi Tea Company N-R-G tea
From: (Paul Iannone)
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 95 22:13:45 PST

Hi Mark. I'm taking the liberty of reposting my reply to this thread, which was running simulataneously in

Emer wrote:
: From Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs:
: "The chief component of licorice, constituting 5 to 20 percent of the plant, is a saponinlike glycoside called glycyrrhizin..."

Chief here would seem to be meant to demean the remainder of the herbal. What is meant is 'predominant.' There are 14 pages dedicated to chemical listings (with structure) for licorice in my reference, including the first cis flavanonol found in nature (Folerogenin).

: "In healthy people this licorice constituent can cause headache, lethargy, water and salt retention, potassium secretion, raised blood pressure, and even cardiac arrest..."

This extracted constituent (not the whole herbal) could cause these problems if consumed in large doses for a considerable while. The effect disappears entirely when the extract is discontinued. "Glycyrrhetic acid showed mineralocorticoid-like effects. The direct mineralocorticoid effect of Glycyrrhiza root is probably due to the affinity of glycyrrhetic acid for kidney aldosterone receptors. The relative low affinity of glycyrrhetic acid for mineralocorticoid receptors is in good agreement with the high doses of Glycyrrhiza root required for the development of hypertension." (Tang, Eisenbrand, Chinese Drugs of Plant Origin, Springer-Verlag, 1992.)

: "The cortisonelike component of glycyrrhizin increases the retention of salt and water in the body. This causes dangerous side effects,

Which are immediately reversible.

: including abnormal heart action and kidney failure, triggered by potassium depletion.

Which nonetheless hasn't been reported in the literature for use of the whole herbal, just for the candy that contains the extract.

: Licorice should be avoided by cardiac patients and those who suffer from hypertension, kidney complaints or obesity.

Obesity? That is an additional caution that is not usually seen. In any case, any problem will be accompanied by edema, an obvious sign of something wrong.

: Pregnant women, who are especially subject to edema, should also avoid it.

They should avoid excessive quantities of it, and should avoid extracts altogether. In moderate doses, licorice does NOT cause edema, even in pregnant women. The claim is absurd.

: "In addition, some people are allergic to licorice, even in modest quantities.

Some people are allergic to almost anything. So what?

: Cases of toxicity have been reported from less than a gram of glycyrrhizin in chewing tobacco.

A gram of extract is a lot. Tobacco is quite bitter. You aren't going to get anywhere near this dose in tea (by at least two factors of ten). No reports for human toxicity from the whole herbal are to be found in the literature.

: Licorice has caused paralysis of the limbs, electrolyte imbalance, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath."


Extract of glycerrhizin has caused this in people who have idiotically consumed huge amounts of licorice candy. The whole herbal has NEVER been reported to cause these problems, especially because licorice is only very rarely a major component of any herbal combination or formula. Licorice extract in fact is used to _treat_ asthma.

If you can get yourself in trouble only by drinking 5 gallons of this Yogi Tea product at a sitting, I don't suppose the manufacturer is much to blame. Do you?

BASED ON THIS EVIDENCE, I would say it is a good bet the Rodale book is solidly in the Tyler tradition of trumping up dangers in order to create the illusion of being needed. (Btw, how are their references?)