How much is too much? | Licorice Tea Edition

How much is too much? | Licorice Tea Edition

I probably drink more tea than the average person. Black tea in the morning, green tea in the afternoon, and herbal teas in the evening. It has never crossed my mind that I am drinking too much tea, or that drinking too much tea could possibly cause harm. But here I am, reading an article that states that a man has landed in the ER due to drinking too much licorice tea. Please keep in mind, this was licorice tea. Not all teas will cause issues/most will be 100% okay. Nevertheless, I want to take the time and break down what happened, and why it did.

The Story: Summary

Recently, an 84-year-old Canadian man went to the ER after taking his blood pressure and seeing that the results were dangerously high (200 mm Hg!!). In addition, he had symptoms of headaches, light sensitivity, chest pain, fatigue, and swelling of the calves. It was reported that he had been drinking licorice tea for the last two weeks, twice a day. Once admitted into the ER, he showed low potassium levels. After being in a controlled environment (with the absence of the licorice root extract), his blood pressure ended up returning to normal levels. It was determined that the licorice tea was the culprit of the high blood pressure.

Why Licorice Tea?

The real questions are why did licorice tea/root extract cause such issues? Can it happen to anyone? Why licorice specifically? Licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin. This compound can cause low potassium levels which in turn can cause high blood pressure, swelling, and abnormal heart rhythms. It is recommended that consumers avoid large doses of licorice due to these effects and be aware that licorice could affect the effectiveness of other medicines and supplements. However, it is interesting to note that in the US many licorice flavors are actually anise oil instead of true licorice.

Licorice has been used for many centuries to treat a multitude of health issues (keep in mind, modern medicine has not confirmed the actual benefits of using licorice). The health issues treated are heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, cough, sore throat, and some viral infections. There is still a way, however, to safely use licorice as a medical supplement. Licorice diet supplements have versions where glycyrrhizin is removed.

Is there a danger in using herbal medicine?

There will be lovers and there will be haters. Some people 100% believe in the applications of herbal medicine and tea and the positive impact it can have on those who suffer from medical conditions. If you are up for some reading, you can find some interesting material here (two pro-tea as medicine and one arguing tea as a medicine): Herbal Tea Remedies for Common Ailments, Medicinal Herbs for Autoimmune Disease, and Woman Dies after Drinking Poisonous Herbal Tea. Obviously, there are circumstances in each case which can promote or go against common belief. But interesting cases anyways.

I am planning on doing a full post on using tea as holistic remedies and the medicinal properties of tea. I do fully believe that tea can offer remedies and assist people in their ailments. However, I am not a health professional. And there is a limit to everything. Doctors know a lot more than I do, and there are doctors who take more holistic approaches to medicine as well. Ask your doctor before taking supplements, keep them in the loop. While the internet may say that licorice can solve a multitude of problems, maybe you did not see the information warning you against taking licorice (with the harmful compound) as a supplement. As I am currently trialing a herbal tea tonic (do not worry, no licorice there!), I am trying to actively write down any changes in my body to discuss with my doctor if the need arises.


Well, there we are. This was a very interesting article that was brought to my attention from my dad this morning. I really hope you guys found it interesting as well and we all can be thankful that the man was okay in the end! Until next time, Happy Brewing!

-Danielle

Resources:

“Canadian Man Lands in ER after ‘Overdosing’ on Licorice Tea.” 1010 WCSI, 28 May 2019, 1010wcsi.com/fox-health/canadian-man-lands-in-er-after-overdosing-on-licorice-tea/.

Falet, Jean-Pierre, et al. “Hypertensive Emergency Induced by Licorice Tea.” CMAJ, CMAJ, 27 May 2019, www.cmaj.ca/content/191/21/E581.

Commissioner, Office of the. “Black Licorice: Trick or Treat?” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 11 Nov. 2017, www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/black-licorice-trick-or-treat.

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