Licorice comes from the root of the legume plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra. While it is often thought of as a type of candy or flavoring, people also use it for medicinal purposes as well as in certain tobacco products. When taking or eating licorice, users should educate themselves on the potential side-effects. The relationship between licorice and blood pressure is a potentially hazardous one, as it can increase blood pressure levels if taken regularly for periods of time.
The compound glycyrrhizin is the basis of the adverse interaction between licorice and blood pressure. When a person eats or takes licorice daily for several weeks, excess glycyrrhizin builds up in the body. This may result in pseudoaldosteronism, a condition that leads to a number of health problems, including elevated blood pressure levels, or hypertension. Once the consumption of licorice stops, blood pressure most often returns to normal within weeks.
Medicinal licorice comes in several different forms, such as the dried root, licorice extracts, or in pill form. They may be useful in treating ailments such as colds, asthma, indigestion and stomach ulcers. Taking 0.11 ounces (about 0.31 grams) a day is generally safe for adults, however, problems with medicinal licorice and blood pressure arise with long-term usage for those who take one ounce (about 28 grams) or more a day. People who currently suffer from hypertension may experience an increase in their blood pressure when taking 0.18 ounces (about 5 grams) a day. In addition, other related problems may arise, such as headaches and an increased risk of heart disease.
Black licorice is a candy that sold in most grocery and candy stores. The relationship between black licorice and blood pressure is also a negative and potentially dangerous one, particularly for people who have pre-existing hypertension and are middle-aged. Eating large amounts on a daily basis can result in increasing blood pressure in people who consume this candy for longer than one week.
People who are taking certain medications such as Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or diuretics should not take licorice in order to avoid negative interactions, including problems with elevated blood pressure. Women who are using oral contraceptives may also develop high blood pressure if taking licorice for prolonged periods. When undergoing surgery, licorice supplements can increase the risk of blood pressure-related problems. For planned surgeries, licorice intake should stop two weeks prior to the date of surgery or sooner if advised by the surgeon.