Halloween Trick or Treat: Eating too much licorice can make you sick!

By | October 31, 2017
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Halloween Trick or Treat: Eating too much licorice can make you sick!

It’s Halloween (well at least it is if you’re reading this on October 31st). So, we’re going to give you a different kind of tip today… a health tip. Hey! It’s Halloween, we have to do something to shake things up a bit today right?

According to the U.S. FDA, eating too much licorice can land you in the hospital… and we’re not kidding.

Here’s what the FDA has to say:

…If you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.

FDA experts say black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice root. Glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall. When that happens, some people experience abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure.

FDA’s Linda Katz, M.D., says last year the agency received a report of a black licorice aficionado who had a problem after eating the candy. And several medical journals have linked black licorice to health problems in people over 40, some of whom had a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure.

Katz says potassium levels are usually restored with no permanent health problems when consumption of black licorice stops.Licorice, or liquorice, is a low-growing shrub mostly grown for commercial use in Greece, Turkey, and Asia. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says the plant’s root has a long history of use as a folk or traditional remedy in both Eastern and Western medicine. It has been used as a treatment for heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough and some infections caused by viruses, such as hepatitis; however, NIH says there are insufficient data available to determine if licorice is effective in treating any medical condition….

Luckily for those of us the USA – the land of artificial flavors & colors – the licorice you eat may not be licorice at all. The FDA says:

…Many “licorice” or “licorice flavor” products manufactured in the United States do not contain any licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which has the same smell and taste. Licorice root that is sold as a dietary supplement can be found with the glycyrrhizin removed, resulting in a product known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, NIH says….

So, how do you know if you have the real stuff or the USA fake licorice? Read the ingredients label.

The FDA offers the following advice if you gathered up a lot of real black licorice on your trick or treat adventures this year:

  • No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time.
  • If you have been eating a lot of black licorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
  • Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements. Consult a health care professional if you have questions about possible interactions with a drug or supplement you take.

If you’ve experienced any problems after eating licorice, contact the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

If you think we might be tricking you… you can read the entire warning published by the FDA right here.

This article appears on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page,  (updated on October 30, 2017) and features all the latest on FDA-regulated products… like licorice 😎

So this is where our tax dollars are going!

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3 thoughts on “Halloween Trick or Treat: Eating too much licorice can make you sick!

  1. melody

    Rats!!!!!!!! Black licorice is one of my most favorite treats to eat! I get serious cravings for the licorice cigars, and have from time to time made a pig of myself on them! Go figure! All the good stuff is Bad! 🙁 Thanks so much for the heads up though. This is important info!

  2. Terry

    Oh, say it isn’t so. I have two packages of the real stuff. I guess I will have to practice moderation. Thanks for the info.

    1. Muriel Schlecht

      I love licorice, too. I also have a couple of packages of the “real stuff” and I plan to “pig out” on it like I do every year. It says real licorice causes your potassium level to drop. No problem, I’ll just make sure I also eat a lot more stuff with lots of potassium during my licorice binge.

      I find it strange that the CDC doesn’t mention the dangers of eating the “fake” stuff since that’s what most of the stores sell. I bet that does a lot more harm.


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