PSA: It’s Possible To Overdose On Black Liquorice

There is a balance in the universe. Most people hate black liquorice, and so when they receive some in their trick-or-treat bags, or when they find black jelly beans amongst their Easter loot, they can pass it along to their grandpas and other weirdos who actually like the stuff. But these weirdos should be careful.

Full disclosure, I am one of the weirdos. I always hated black liquorice, until one day I didn’t. If I buy a bag of black liquorice, I have to pace myself—just a few pieces a day—the way some people do with chocolate. Invite me to your Halloween parties. I’ll take your liquorices and you can have my Hershey bars.

But eating large amounts of liquorice has to have some downside, and U.S. health authority the FDA has confirmed: enough glycyrrhizin (its tasty component) can reduce potassium levels in the body, which occasionally results in “abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy and congestive heart failure.” The risk seems to only be in people over 40.

How much liquorice is too much?

First, check if you’re actually eating real liquorice. If your candy is flavoured with anise oil, you’re in the clear. If it includes actual liquorice root (fun fact: liquorice is a plant), keep reading.

The UK’s National Health Service writes that eating “more than 57g of black liquorice a day for at least 2 weeks could lead to potentially serious health problems.”

So if you are the black liquorice eater in your family, and you are over 40, consider rationing your haul so you don’t eat tons of it for weeks straight. Even though you really want to.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

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