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Black Licorice

Black licorice consumption has been associated with affecting clotting and potassium levels. Read more...



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What is black licorice?

Black licorice is a candy made from the root of the plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra. The candy itself is usually composed of sugar, a base such as gelatin or starch, and licorice extract. Licorice extract contains glycyrrhizin, known to be much sweeter than sugar. The extract actually creates the black color associated with black licorice. Remember, red licorice does not usually contain licorice extract and is flavored with other flavoring agents. Because it lacks licorice extract, it does not tend to have the same health concerns as black licorice.

Are there any health effects associated with black licorice?

Glycyrrhizin found in black licorice has been found to inhibit a liver enzyme system called cytochrome P450. This complex is required to metabolize certain drugs and factors in the body. Medications metabolized by this complex can be affected by black licorice consumption. Examples of medications metabolized by this enzyme are:

  • ACE inhibitors

  • Warfarin

  • Oral contraceptives

  • Corticosteroids

  • MAO inhibitors

  • Insulin

  • Laxatives

  • Digoxin

  • Thiazides

  • Spironolactone

By inhibiting this enzyme, black licorice consumption could lead to increased levels of these medications in your body. This means that blood pressure medications not metabolized could have increased activity resulting in impacting blood pressure, warfarin not metabolized could result in higher bleeding tendencies and an increase in the effect of steroids on our body for example.

Aside from the impact on medications, black licorice consumption alone has been linked to increased blood pressure and decreased potassium levels. The lowered potassium levels led to the FDA issuing a warning on excess consumption of black licorice.



What would be considered "excess" black licorice consumption?

Excess consumption has been defined as ingesting 2 ounces of black licorice daily for 2 weeks. This can affect heart rhythms.

Are there any health benefits noted by the consumption of black licorice?

A positive effect of black licorice has been noted to be a protection of gastric mucosa and possibly treating stomach ulcers.

How about topical black licorice? It is found in some skincare products. What does it do?

Topical use of licorice extract has noted anti-inflammatory effects.

A study evaluating components of licorice extract to manage atopic dermatitis did show benefits over a placebo.

Another study demonstrated that a licorice extract-containing product had similar effectiveness to hydrocortisone 1% cream to reduce redness associated with UV exposure.

Antiviral activity was shown in this study with regard to managing herpes simplex virus outbreaks.

It can inhibit the enzyme tyrosine kinase in the skin reducing pigmentation associated with UV exposure.

Another component of licorice root called licochalcone A has been shown to reduce redness associated with rosacea.


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