The Surprising Link Between Licorice and Arterial Hypertension

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Written By Dr. Adam Mueller

Written and medically verified by Dr. Adam Mueller, a board-certified internal medicine and cardiology expert. His career is focused on the study and promotion of health and preventive care.

Licorice, a common flavoring agent in candies and traditional medicines, hides a lesser-known side that can significantly impact our health, particularly concerning arterial hypertension or high blood pressure. Understanding this connection is important, especially for those managing hypertension or at risk of developing it.

What is Licorice?

Licorice root, derived from the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra, has been used for centuries in various cultures for its sweet flavor and medicinal properties. However, the active compound in licorice, glycyrrhizin, can have potent effects on the body.

The Impact of Licorice on Blood Pressure

The relationship between licorice and blood pressure lies in the biochemistry of glycyrrhizin. This compound can mimic the hormone aldosterone, which regulates salt and water balance in the body. Excessive consumption of licorice leads to increased retention of sodium and water, while potassium levels drop. This imbalance can result in increased blood volume and elevated blood pressure, known as licorice-induced hypertension.

Studies and Research

Numerous studies have highlighted this concern. For instance, research published in the Journal of Human Hypertension1 and other medical journals has documented cases2 where individuals consuming large amounts of licorice experienced significant increases in blood pressure. These effects were reversible upon cessation of licorice intake.

Who is at Risk?

While occasional consumption of licorice is generally safe for most people, certain groups are more susceptible to its hypertensive effects:

  • Individuals with Existing Hypertension: Those already managing high blood pressure should be particularly cautious, as licorice can exacerbate their condition.
  • Heart Disease Patients: Patients with heart disease or those at risk should avoid excessive licorice, as hypertension is a known risk factor for heart-related complications.
  • Pregnant Women: Elevated blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to complications; hence, pregnant women are advised to limit licorice intake.

How Much is Too Much?

The European Commission suggests that consuming more than 100 mg of glycyrrhizin daily (approximately 50 grams of licorice) can lead to these adverse effects. However, sensitivity varies, and some may experience problems with smaller amounts.

Recognizing Symptoms

If you consume licorice regularly, be aware of symptoms like swelling, elevated blood pressure, lethargy, and even heart palpitations (abnormal heart rhythm, arrhythmia). These could indicate licorice-induced hypertension. Other possible consequences of licorice overconsumption may be low blood potassium levels (hypokalemia) which may manifest as weakness and fatigue, feeling tired or muscle cramps.

A Word on Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL)

DGL is a processed form of licorice with glycyrrhizin removed, significantly reducing the risk of increasing blood pressure. It’s often used in dietary supplements and is a safer alternative for those concerned about hypertension.

The Takeaway

While licorice offers many benefits, its potential impact on blood pressure cannot be overlooked. Moderation is key, and those with hypertension or heart disease should be particularly cautious. Always consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating licorice into your diet, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.


  1. Sigurjónsdóttir HA et al. “Liquorice-induced rise in blood pressure: a linear dose-response relationship.” Journal of human hypertension vol. 15,8 (2001): 549-52. doi:10.1038/sj.jhh.1001215 ↩︎
  2. Bangert, Katrin et al. “Life-Threatening Complications of Excessive Licorice Consumption.” Deutsches Arzteblatt international vol. 118,51-52 (2021): 890-891. doi:10.3238/arztebl.m2021.0390 ↩︎