Licorice Side Effects

Although it seems like a harmless substance, licorice can cause potentially serious problems. The glycyrrhizin component is thought to cause these side effects. Notify your healthcare provider immediately if you develop any of these serious side effects while you are consuming real licorice, such as an irregular heart rhythm, muscle weakness, or allergic reactions.

Does Licorice Cause Side Effects?

Real licorice products (including some candies, beverages, supplements, and extracts) can cause significant side effects. However, many "licorice" products contain little or no real licorice. For instance, red licorice does not contain any real licorice, and some black licorice products contain anise flavoring instead of licorice.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with licorice. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)

Serious Side Effects of Licorice

Even though it seems like a harmless substance, licorice can cause some dangerous side effects. You should immediately report any of these side effects to your healthcare provider. These side effects include but are not limited to:
    • Water retention
    • Rapid weight gain
    • Swelling of the feet or hands
    • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood potassium (hypokalemia)
  • An irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Signs of hormonal changes, such as:
    • Missed periods (in women)
    • A low sex drive
    • Impotence (in men)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • Rash
    • Itching
    • Hives
    • Swelling of the mouth or throat
    • Wheezing
    • Difficulty breathing.
Many of the serious side effects of licorice are thought to be caused by one specific component of licorice, known as glycyrrhizin. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) products, which have had the glycyrrhizin component removed, may be less likely to cause these serious side effects.
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