Is black licorice bad for you?

Obviously black licorice is candy, which sort of precludes it from being a health food and I also seem to recall from my days working at the local medical school that if a person has dodgy kidneys too much black licorice can cause hypo or hyper proteinemia. Or maybe hypo or hyper natrimia. A bad one, anyway.

So that’s not my question - my question is for a normal person, with normal kidney function, is eating a normal amount of black licorice substantially worse than eating, say, ju-jubes? A bit of googling suggests that the stuff is toxic sludge that will kill you in a flash, but I’ve been enjoying it for 40 or so years and nothing much has happened yet. Am I slowly killing myself without even knowing it?

I think one potential side effect is hypertension, which Wikipedia seems to support.

"The FDA warns people age 40 and older not to eat 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks or more.

And that’s a conservative warning. The NIH has warned that it’s “possibly unsafe” to eat just 1 ounce of black licorice a day for several weeks. In addition to the FDA’s list of drastic possible too-much-licorice results, the NIH adds paralysis, brain damage, and erectile dysfunction.

And if you eat a lot of salt, if you have high blood pressure, or if you have heart or kidney disease, the NIH says as little as a sixth of an ounce of licorice a day could cause these problems."


"he NIH advises women NOT to eat black licorice while they are pregnant or breast feeding. People with hormone sensitive conditions, such as breast cancer or endometriosis, should avoid licorice.

And don’t eat licorice for at least two weeks before planned surgery. It can interfere with blood pressure during and after your procedure.

The NIH warns people taking Coumadin (warfarin) never to eat black licorice, as licorice makes the drug less effective. And the NIH says licorice also may interfere with digoxin, estrogens, furosemide, blood pressure drugs, steroid drugs, and diuretics (water pills). Also, licorice may alter the activity of drugs processed by the liver."

I think it’s the glycyrrhyzic acid component that gives kidneys trouble with handling sodium and potassium. The hypertension is of course secondary to the hypermineralocorticoidism–it essentially mimics hyperaldosteronism.

From here, e.g.
There is apparently a great individual variation in the susceptibility to glycyrrhizic acid. In the most sensitive individuals a regular daily intake of no more than about 100 mg glycyrrhizic acid, which corresponds to 50 g liquorice sweets (assuming a content of 0.2% glycyrrhizic acid), seems to be enough to produce adverse effects. Most individuals who consume 400 mg glycyrrhizic acid daily experience adverse effects. Considering that a regular intake of 100 mg glycyrrhizic acid/day is the lowest-observed-adverse-effect level and using a safety factor of 10, a daily intake of 10 mg glycyrrhizic acid would represent a safe dose for most healthy adults. A daily intake of 1-10 mg glycyrrhizic acid/person has been estimated for several countries. However, an uneven consumption pattern suggests that a considerable number of individuals who consume large amounts of liquorice sweets are exposed to the risk of developing adverse effects.

I myself have never seen it in my practice although we all learn about it in med school. If I recall, much of what is called “licorice” is some sort of black candy, but without the glycyrhhizic acid component…

Anyway, to your question, the answer is that it is extremely dependent upon the individual. If your blood pressure and electrolytes are normal, you are obviously tolerating it well. Enjoy. I certainly do.

Just to clarify, and having nothing whatsoever to do with the question at hand, licorice doesn’t come in any other color than black.

OTOH licorice root tea (with honey for more yum) is pretty good for sore throats. In fact a pre-induction gargle of licorice in water has reduce the severity of sore throats resulting from intubation during surgery (post operative sore throat - POST) and post-extubation cough (PEC).

Yes real licorice, not Twizzler. Whichisn’t actually black either.

As a (black) licorice lover, I agree with you.
Moreover, I’ve complained many times that blackish candy with the name “licorice” but without licorice root flavoring is not licorice either.
Unfortunately, the masses in North America have decided differently, and have extended the term “licorice” to any number of odd flavors for stringy confections the substrate of which I am convinced is plastic.


Damn those polloi. Under-washed and under-palated.

I for one like “red licorice”, but agree that it should not be called Licorice, since this is the name of a plant, not a cherry or strawberry flavored flour and corn syrup confection.

Dammit, now I want some salty licorice.

It turns my stool dark green. In fact, that is my favorite thing about it.

excess consumption may have a laxative effect.

Some licorice uses anise as flavoring. Do they mean black licorice flavored with anise, or licorice root? :confused:

Turns mine more of a kelly green. It’s quite cheerful.

I always assumed it was bad for me, because it tastes like freakin’ poison.

Agreed, just a whiff of the stuff make me want to spew my cookies. :eek: Obviously a self preservation response. :smiley:

So, here’s a follow up question - I wonder if the health woes are only associated with ‘authentic’ black licorice - personally I’m a fan of

[quote]”]Goodies - supposedly the ill effects are caused by a particular ingredient that flavours the licorice, but I wonder if the kind of psuedo stuff has that ingredient in it as well.

ETA - I know I can just look on the package - what I’m really wondering is if that ingredient is the only bad one, or if all black licorice, even the less than authentic stuff has the same ill effects.

On the other hand, this Australian article claims that active ingredients in liquorice can be useful to treat or prevent all sorts of illnesses:

Finns, Swedes, Danes and the Dutch eat black licorice all the time (and the rest of the world shakes their heads in disbelief), to no ill effect. Just last night I downed 5 oz. of the strongest Danish hot licorice drops in one sitting, as I’ve regularly done for the past 30 years. I’ve never heard of anyone actually having health problems due to black licorice, although the standard medical reasoning about high blood pressure etc. is well-known in the licorice-loving countries with a couple of million regular users, total.

I think maybe you’re talking about salt liquorice (salmiakki), which is flavoured with ammonium chloride. I’ve always been suspicious of the idea of ammonium chloride as food, and would be interested to know if it has any bad health effects.

Yeah, hibernicus, my bad. But my point still holds. Salty licorice, the stuff with ammonium chloride, has been regularly consumed by a couple million North European people for the past several decades, with little evidence of negative health consequences. Calling NH4Cl food is going a bit far, though. It’s only used as a minor ingredient in one type of candy.