Black licorice health hazards
It’s coming up on Halloween and I know lots of people who love to decorate with black licorice candies. They even like the taste (which I definitely do not!).
But every year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes a public safety message about the possible health hazards of black licorice.
Why is it unhealthy? And which products should be avoided?
Licorice comes from a root and contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin. In large enough doses it can cause fluid retention and lower potassium levels. This can lead to high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms, or arrhythmias.
The FDA says eating 2 ounces a day for 2 weeks is enough to cause heart problems.
In an abundance of safety, if you have any of the following conditions, talk to your health care provider before eating black licorice:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- irregular heart beat
- kidney disease
Black licorice candies
I went on Amazon to get an idea of how many licorice candies were out there, and I was surprised at the number! Obviously, black licorice is a much-loved flavor.
Regardless, know what you are buying and read the labels. Some licorice candies don’t contain actual licorice root or extract, but use anise oil to get the same flavor. Others use a combination of extract and anise oil.
The most artificial black licorice doesn’t even have anise oil, only black food coloring.
Related post: Halloween safety tips
Unfortunately, because licorice is a food, the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to list the amounts of ingredients, so it is impossible to know how much glycyrrhizin is in each serving.
Black licorice supplements
Licorice is an herb, and it has been used medicinally for centuries.
Today licorice supplements are mostly marketed to treat heartburn and stomach ulcers. Does it work? According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health,
A number of studies of licorice root in people have been published, but not enough to support the use for any specific health condition.
Black licorice is also sold for adrenal support (whatever that is), and in lozenge form as a cough suppressant.
Again, read the labels!
Some supplements use DGL, or de-glycyrrhizinated licorice. These products are safer than those with “whole” licorice. That doesn’t mean they are worth spending money on, however.
Like candy, the manufacturers of licorice supplements don’t have to prove their products are safe or effective. Use at your own risk.
Bottom line: A small amount of black licorice is probably safe for most people. If in doubt, talk to your doctor.