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Licorice

What is it?

Licorice is an herbal medicine used to treat bronchitis, cancer, chronic gastritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cough, hepatitis, and ulcers.

Other names for licorice include: Glycyrrhiza, Sweet root, and Licorice root.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you need more information about this medicine or if any information in this leaflet concerns you.

Before Using:

Tell your doctor if you

  • are taking medicine or are allergic to any medicine (prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) or dietary supplement)
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine
  • are breastfeeding
  • have any other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease

Dosage:

Talk with your caregiver about how much licorice you should take. The amount depends on the strength of the medicine and the reason you are taking licorice. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the medicine bottle. Do not take more licorice or take it more often than what is written on the directions.

To store this medicine:

Keep all medicine locked up and away from children. Store medicine away from heat and direct light. Do not store your medicine in the bathroom, near the kitchen sink, or in other damp places. Heat or moisture may cause the medicine to break down and not work the way it should work. Throw away medicine that is out of date or that you do not need. Never share your medicine with others.

Drug and Food Interactions:

Do not take licorice without talking to your doctor first if you are taking:

  • Hormones (examples: testosterone, estrogens, birth control pills)
  • Medicines for diabetes or to control blood sugar (examples: insulin (Humalog(R), Humulin(R), Lantus(R), Novolin(R)), metformin (Glucophage(R)), glyburide (Diabeta(R) Glynase(R), Micronase(R)), and glipizide (Glucotrol(R)))
  • Corticosteroid medicine (examples: cortisone, hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, prednisone, triamcinolone)
  • Water pills (diuretics, examples: furosemide Lasix(R)), hydrochlorothiazide Microzide(R)), spironolactone (Aldactone(R)))
  • Laxatives (examples: senna, cascara, docusate Colace(R)), psyllium (Metamucil(R) Fiberall(R)), bisacodyl (Dulcolax(R)))
  • Linezolid (Zyvox(R)) (17)
  • Heart medicine (examples: digoxin (Lanoxin(R)), amiodarone (Cordarone(R)), disopyramide (Norpace(R)), encainide (Enkaid(R)), flecainide (Tambocor(R)), mexiletine (Mexitil(R)))
  • Procainamide (Procan SR(R), Pronestyl(R)), propafenone (Rhythmol(R)), quinidine (Cardioquin(R), Quinaglute Dura-Tabs(R)), tocainide (Tonocard(R)))
  • Potassium supplements (examples: KDur(R), Klor-Con(R)))
  • Medicines used for depression or Parkinson's disease (examples: phenelzine (Nardil(R)), selegiline (Deprenyl(R)), tranylcypromine (Parnate(R)))
  • High blood pressure medicines (examples: acebutolol (Sectral(R)); atenolol (Tenormin(R)), benazepril (Lotensin(R)), betaxolol (Kerlone(R)), bisoprolol (Zebeta(R)), candesartan (Atacand(R)), captopril (Capoten(R)), carteolol (Cartrol(R)),doxazosin (Cardura(R)), enalapril (Vasotec(R)), eprosartan (Teveten(R)), fosinopril ,(Monopril(R)), irbesartan (Avapro(R)), labetalol (Normodyne(R), Trandate(R)), lisinopril (Prinivil(R), Zestril(R)), losartan (Cozaar(R)), metoprolol (Lopressor(R), Toprol XL(R)), moexipril (Univasc(R)), nadolol (Corgard(R)), olmesartan (Benicar(R)), penbutolol (Levatol(R)), phenoxybenzamine, (Dibenzyline(R)), pindolol (Visken(R)), prazosin (Minipress(R)), propranolol (Inderal(R)), quinapril (Accupril(R)), ramipril (Altace(R)), sotalol (Betapace(R)), telmisartan (Micardis(R)), terazosin (Hytrin(R)), timolol (Betimol(R), Blocadren(R)), trandolapril (Tarka(R)), valsartan (Diovan(R)))
  • Blood thinning medicine (examples: warfarin (Coumadin(R)), clopidogrel (Plavix(R)), aspirin, enoxaparin (Lovenox(R)), dalteparin (Fragmin(R)))

Warnings:

  • Before taking licorice, tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Do not take licorice if you have: heart disease, diabetes (high blood sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure), liver disease, too much muscle tension, low potassium, or renal insufficiency (severe kidney problems)
  • Do not use in large amounts or for a long time without talking to your doctor

Side Effects:

Stop taking your medicine right away and talk to your doctor if you have any of the following side effects.

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing, or rash.
  • You may have sodium retention (body holding onto sodium), swelling of the hands and feet, high blood pressure, low potassium, urinating more than usual, tiredness, numbness or tingling, muscle cramps and spasms, or headaches.
  • Feel restless or anxious, trouble thinking (17)

References:

1. Armanini D, Bonanni G & Palermo M: Reduction of serum testosterone in men by licorice. N Engl J Med 1999; 341(15):1158.

2. Armanini D, Lewicka S, Pratesi C et al: Further studies on the mechanism of the mineralocorticoid action of licorice in humans. J Endocrinol Invest 1996; 19:624-629.

3. Bisset NG & Wichtl M (eds): Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Medpharm Scientific Publishers, CRC Press, Stuttgart, Germany; 1994.

4. Blumenthal M (ed): The Complete German Commission E Monographs. The American Botanical Council, Integrative Medicine Communications, Boston, MA; 1998.

5. Bradley PR (ed): British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. British Herbal Medicine Association. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK; 1992.

6. Eriksson JW, Carlberg B & Hillorn V: Life-threatening ventricular tachycardia due to liquorice-induced hypokalemia. J Int Med 1999; 245:307-310.

7. Kageyama K, Watanobe H, Nishie M et al: A case of pseudoaldosteronism induced by a mouth refresher containing licorice. Endocr J 1997; 44(4): 631-632.

8. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R et al (eds): Botanical Safety Handbook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL; 1997.

9. Newall C, Anderson L & Phillipson J: Liquorice. In: Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. The Pharmaceutical Press, London, UK; 1996.

10. Norred CL & Brinker F: Potential coagulation effects of preoperative complementary and alternative medicines. Alt Ther 2001; 7(6):58-67.

11. Shintani S, Murase H, Tsukagoshi H et al: Glycyrrhizin (licorice)-induced hypokalemic myopathy. Eur Neurol 1992; 32: 44-51.

12. Sigurjonsdottir HA, Manhem K, Axelson M et al: Subjects with essential hypertension are more sensitive to the inhibition of 11 beta-HSD by liquorice. J Hum Hypertens 2003; 17(2):125-131.

13. Sigurjonsdottir HA, Franzson L, Manhem K et al: Liquorice-induced rise in blood pressure: a linear dose-response relationship. J Hum Hypertens 2001; 15(8):549-552.

14. vanUum SHM, Hermus ARMM, Smits P et al: The role of 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Cardiovasc Res 1998; 38:16-24.

15. Walker BR & Edwards CRW: Licorice-induced hypertension and syndromes of apparent mineralocorticoid excess. Endocrinol Metab Clinics N Amer 1994: 23:359-377.

16. Werbach MR & Murray MT: Botanical Influences on Illness: A Sourcebook of Clinical Research. Third Line Press, Tarzana, CA; 1994.

17. Product Information: Zyvox(R) IV injection, oral tablets, oral suspension, linezolid IV injection, oral tablets, oral suspension. Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, New York, NY, 2008.


Last Updated: 4/4/2014

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