A herb native to the Mediterranean, southern and central parts of Russia, and Asia, the licorice root has several benefits. But consuming it daily for several weeks has been linked to severe side effects – including paralysis and even brain damage in extreme cases. This post covers more about the other side effects, and more importantly, what you can do to avoid them. Keep reading.
What Are The Side Effects Of Licorice Root Extract?
1. Elevates Blood Pressure Levels
There are several studies that speak of this. Some reports even recommend individuals with high blood pressure to avoid licorice root extract. It is often linked to salt and water retention as it suppresses aldosterone – which is a hormone responsible for controlling sodium levels in the body. One study states how licorice tea had caused hypertension in patients, and quitting it had resolved the condition (1). Licorice was also identified as a root cause of secondary hypertension. The root contains glycyrrhizic acid, which contributes to its pro-hypertensive properties (2).
2. Might Cause Constipation
Excess amounts of licorice root extract can lead to hypokalemia (low levels of potassium), with constipation being one of its symptoms. Also, people with certain bowel issues can react negatively to licorice. This can also lead to diarrhea (or, in extreme cases, irritable bowel syndrome) in some individuals.
3. Licorice Root Can Lead To Headaches
The glycyrrhizin is the culprit, again. It is known to trigger headaches. One Massachusetts study had found that excessive consumption of the extract can lead to the constriction and dilation of cerebral arteries, often leading to thunderclap headaches. And in rare cases, it is complicated by hemorrhagic strokes (3). Though the condition is reversible, the symptoms can be severe.
4. Can Lead To Dizziness And Fatigue
One report published in the American Journal of Nephrology states that the hypertension caused by licorice can cause dizziness. Called hypertensive encephalopathy, this form of hypertension is accompanied by nausea, dizziness, headaches, and visual problems.
5. Can Cause Weight Gain
Though there is less research on this, some sources say that licorice can affect the hormones related to metabolism, and this can lead to unhealthy weight gain.
6. Might Harm The Liver
Some credible sources suggest that individuals with liver disease must stay away from licorice. However, we need more research on this before we can arrive at a conclusion.
7. Causes Hormonal Imbalances
One major reported side effect of licorice root is reduced levels of testosterone in men and an increase in estrogen and prolactin levels in women.
Studies have also shown how iso, a compound in licorice, interferes with the sex hormones in the ovary. It disrupts the production of sex hormones (4).
8. Licorice Root Can Be Harmful To The Baby During Pregnancy
Licorice can mimic the effects of estrogen (the female sex hormone) and induce premature labor in pregnant females. Which is why pregnant women must stay away from any form of licorice. And the same goes for breastfeeding women too, as the effects of licorice on them haven’t been extensively studied yet.
The estrogen-like effects of licorice root extract can also cause other fetal complications. And since the root has a reputation of altering hormones, it can cause miscarriage as well.
Studies had also shown that youths exposed to large amounts of licorice when in the womb performed less well in cognitive tests (5).
9. Can Cause Allergic Reactions
People who are allergic to peas or legumes might also develop similar allergies to licorice. Although it is mostly anecdotal evidence that we have in this aspect, it is better if susceptible individuals avoid licorice.
No doubt, the root comes with benefits – but that doesn’t make it quite safe if taken in excess quantities for long periods. Keep the intake in control, and you are good to go.
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1. “Hypertension induced by liquorice tea”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Can licorice cause high blood pressure?”. West Texas A&M University.
3. “Licorice-associated reversible…”. US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Licorice compound interferes with…”. ScienceDaily.
5. “Pregnant women should avoid licorice”. ScienceDaily.
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