Any licorice product, including candies, beverages, supplements and extracts, that contains real licorice ingredients can give rise to licorice side effects. They usually can be attributed to the licorice component glycyrrhizin, which is present in many licorice products but is not present in candy that is known as "red licorice." Licorice side effects can seem harmless, but they also can be similar to extreme health problems such as congestive heart failure.
Some common licorice side effects include headaches, high blood pressure, hypertension, upset stomach, diarrhea, lethargy, facial puffiness, ankle swelling, fluid retention, muscle weakness, muscle pain, arrhythmia and grogginess. The body's electrolyte balance also can be effected, because licorice can cause the body to deplete its storage of potassium but retain sodium. When taking licorice, users should consider increasing their intakes of potassium, monitoring blood pressure and regularly checking electrolytes for imbalances.
The side effects of licorice can be similar to other diseases or disorders such as congestive heart failure, hormonal imbalances and allergic reactions. Users can experience symptoms that resemble congestive heart failure, such as water retention, weight gain, swelling of the hands or feet and shortness of breath. Hormonal symptoms such as skipped menstrual periods, low libido and impotence can be effects of licorice consumption. Rashes, itches, hives, wheezing, breathing difficulties and swelling of the mouth or throat might be suffered as well.
People who have histories of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, edema, glaucoma, kidney or liver diseases, menstrual problems or strokes should not take licorice. Licorice should not be used during pregnancy, because it can increase blood pressure and levels of the hormone aldosterone. It also can result in premature delivery. Women who experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) should avoid taking licorice root, because it can compound PMS symptoms such as fluid retention and bloating.
Though different from licorice root, licorice candy also can cause side effects. It's not uncommon for someone who ingests licorice candy to experience an increase in blood pressure. All licorice side effects should be considered serious and should be reported to a health care professional if they are experienced.
To avoid suffering from licorice side effects, users should avoid taking it for more than a week. Licorice is best consumed under the supervision of a physician. The best physicians to oversee licorice consumption are, arguably, those who have been trained in botanical medicine or natural remedies. These physicians are more likely to be familiar with the medicinal uses of licorice and its side effects. Consumers who want to reduce their risk of experiencing side effects should seek to purchase licorice products that are deglycyrrhizinated, which means that they have had the glycyrrhizin removed from them.