When a 54-year-old construction worker in Massachusetts collapsed, EMS arrived within minutes yet he died a day later. The cause? When doctors spoke to his family they learned he had been eating one to two large packs of licorice flavored candy daily for three weeks. The man had no idea eating that much licorice would stop his heart.
Licorice is an herb and its root has been used since ancient times by various peoples from the Egyptians to the Chinese. They used it to treat everything from respiratory to gastrointestinal issues. In the sixteenth century, English monks introduced licorice and a local chemist added sugar so that licorice candy popped up all over England.
A compound in licorice called glycyrrhizic acid gives the black candy its distinctive flavor. In the body, it converts to glycyrrhetinic acid or GA which mimics a hormone called aldosterone. If someone eats too much licorice the GA can increase blood pressure and disrupt the heart rhythm by interfering with the balance of electrolytes, sodium and potassium. Even when they stop eating the candy, licorice stays in their systems for weeks, especially people over the age of forty with a heart, kidney or liver problem.
The FDA has issued an advisory about the toxic treat which I'm sure a number of people are obviously unaware of. So, if you like licorice, stick to the red ones or eat the black ones but as a rare treat.
For more information…
Case 30-2020: A 54-Year-Old Man with Sudden Cardiac Arrest
r. Jacqueline B. Henson (Medicine): A 54-year-old man was evaluated at this hospital after cardiac arrest associated with ventricular fibrillation.
A history of the therapeutic use of liquorice in Europe
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Liquorice root has been used in Europe since prehistoric times, and is well documented in written form starting with the ancient Greeks. In this review we compare the independent development of medical uses of this botanical drug in several ancient cultures, attempting to show the rationality of specific indications across different ethnic groups with different cultural backgrounds. ..
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