Do you patiently wait for Halloween to satisfy your black licorice cravings? Beware black licorice enthusiasts – too much of it can cause serious harm! If you are over the age of 40 and consume multiple 2 oz bags (roughly 40-50 grams each) of black licorice a day for at least two weeks you could be at risk for heart arrhythmias.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration received a recent report describing adverse events linked to black licorice consumption. Similar reports have been published in a number of medical journals connecting black licorice consumption to adverse events in individuals over the age of 40, some of whom have a history of underlying heart disease and/or hypertension.
Further research by the FDA has found that black licorice contains a naturally present ingredient, glycyrrhizin, that may cause kidneys to release potassium, a mineral which is essential for the normal activity of the heart. Consuming multiple 2 oz bags (roughly 40-50 grams each) of black licorice a day for an extended period of time (14 days or longer) can result in dangerously low levels of potassium, and in some individuals this can produce abnormal heart rhythms, as well as hypertension, edema, lethargy, and congestive heart failure.
Usually potassium levels are restored with no permanent adverse health effects once consumption stops. If you have been eating black licorice and experience an irregular hearth rhythm or muscle weakness, you should stop eating black licorice immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
The FDA advises consumers, regardless of their age or health status, to avoid consuming large amounts of black licorice in concentrated time periods.
To report an adverse event please visit the Consumer Complaint Coordinators page at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm.