Is Licorice Dangerous?

Specific Licorice Safety Precautions and Warnings

Some of the warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of licorice include the following:
  • Licorice can cause high blood pressure, low blood potassium, and fluid and sodium retention (which can increase the risk of congestive heart failure). These effects are quite real and can even occur by consuming licorice candies or beverages, not just with licorice supplements or extracts. If you have heart problems of any kind, you should avoid real licorice products. Keep in mind that many licorice products and candies sold in the United States actually have little or no real licorice (many contain anise flavoring instead).
  • Licorice can have estrogen-like properties, although sometimes it has anti-estrogen effects, too. If you have an estrogen-sensitive cancer (or have a history of it), such as many breast cancers, you should not take licorice without your healthcare provider's approval. It is possible that licorice could aggravate some hormone-sensitive cancers.
  • Licorice can make kidney function worse in people with kidney disease. Therefore, if you have kidney disease, do not take licorice without your healthcare provider's approval.
  • Licorice can make sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and a low sex drive, worse.
  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) products, which have had the glycyrrhizin component removed, may be less likely to cause serious side effects. However, it is still a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before taking such products.
  • As dietary supplements, licorice supplements and extracts are not as closely regulated as prescription and non-prescription drugs. This means that they can be marketed without any proof that they are either safe or effective. Do not assume that just because a product is sold in the United States, it is safe or effective. Be sure to look for licorice supplements from a reputable manufacturer. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are the most reputable.
  • Licorice may potentially interact with some medications (see Licorice Drug Interactions).
  • It is not known if licorice is safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women (see Licorice and Pregnancy and Licorice and Breastfeeding).
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