Black licorice, a trick or a treat?
The FDA released its annual pre-Halloween public service announcement on Oct. 30, discouraging the impossible task of over-consuming black licorice. The announcement serves more as a reminder to eat candy in moderation and especially avoid eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day (as if someone would do such a thing!).
But, it's interesting to know the whys: Black licorice could cause heart arrhythmia, especially if you're 40 or older because it contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which gives licorice roots its sweet flavor.
Glycyrrhizin can lower potassium levels in the body, causing abnormal heart rates, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy and congestive heart failure, according to the FDA.
Dr. Linda Katz from the FDA recalled a report of a black licorice aficionado who experienced health problems after eating the candy. Several medical journals also link black licorice to health problems in adults over 40. Luckily, potassium levels will be restored without health problems when licorice consumption stops.
Licorice consumption extends beyond Halloween (as a marginal candy). It's used in flavoring, but many licorice-flavored products do not actually contain any licorice. Anise oil, which has the same taste and smell, is usually used as a substitute.
In Eastern and Western medicine, licorice has been used as a remedy for heartburn, stomach ulcers, sore throat and even hepatitis. The NIH says there is no sufficient data available to determine if licorice is effective as a medical treatment, so licorice will carry on as unwanted Halloween candy surplus.
In keeping with the Halloween spirit, the FDA tweeted a festive PSA announcement warning of the harmful effects of over-consuming black licorice. The takeaway: Don't eat black licorice all in one go and if you already have, seek a healthcare professional.
Announcement aside, a big thank-you to the FDA: We didn't need one, but now you've given us another reason to chuck licorice into the garbage this Halloween. And to those few but concerned licorice fans -- "deglycyrrhizinated licorice" exists; same taste, but sans glycyrrhizin compound.