Why You Should Avoid Licorice Intake during Pregnancy?

Why Should You Avoid Eating Liquorice Root During Pregnancy?

Medically Reviewed By
Megha Mukhija (Paediatric Nutritionist)
View more Paediatric Nutritionist Our Panel of Experts

When you are pregnant, your grandmother and mother will send a horde of suggestions about what food to eat, exercises, and home remedies to help you with your pregnancy! Out of the many foods, they ask you not to eat, licorice will be one.

For your health, you would need to avoid alcohol, smoking, and even your morning coffee during pregnancy. It’s the same case with liquorice as well. Liquorice, that is commonly found in Twizzlers and other candies, consists of a natural component that is highly dangerous during your pregnancy.

Let’s find out why licorice root in pregnancy root is not safe.

What Is Liquorice?

Liquorice, a natural ingredient, is the root of a plant known as Glycyrrhiza Glabra. It has a unique, sweet flavour, and is also known to have compounds that can act as an anti-depressant. It can help with calming nervousness by regulating your stress hormones.

When consumed in controlled amounts, it is an excellent natural remedy for several health conditions, including heartburn, asthma, fungal, and viral infections. It also has therapeutic benefits for treating ulcers, cough, arthritis, yeast infections, and more.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Liquorice?

Wondering is licorice root safe for pregnancy? Doctors and scientists have strongly advised expectant and lactating mommies to avoid consuming liquorice. This is done in order to protect your little one from potential health issues. Liquorice tea while pregnant may come under herbal teas that you can have, but you mustn’t consume it for the safety of your baby.

According to many studies, liquorice must be avoided by expecting mothers. While it may offer multiple medicinal benefits, the root contains a compound known as ‘Glycyrrhizin’. High consumption of liquorice can cause many health problems to pregnant women like headaches, high blood pressure, water retention, fatigue, or even a heart attack. When consumed in smaller quantity, the side effects that can be noticed are a pain in the limbs and numbness.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Liquorice?

Negative Effects of Having Liquorice While Pregnant

  • With high consumption of liquorice root, there is a high-risk chance of miscarriage or preterm delivery, which means a shorter gestation period. Premature birth in itself has drawbacks for the baby.
  • Consuming liquorice root during your pregnancy can lead to the impairing of the placenta. The compound found in liquorice, Glycyrrhizin, could increase the chances of your glucocorticoids or stress hormones to reach the baby in the uterus. This leads to an adverse effect on the foetus’s brain development, lowering the intelligence levels, and increasing the behavioural problems in the child as they grow up.
  • Chances of your child’s low cognitive skill development can also be a side effect of high liquorice root consumption. It is likely that your child may be prone to develop conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
  • Liquorice root has an oestrogen-like effect, which could possibly cause severe foetal development complications if consumed in high quantities during your pregnancy. If a male foetus gets exposed to these high levels of oestrogen, the chances of him developing testicular abnormalities are high. This will eventually lead to infertility later in life. Meanwhile, if a female foetus is exposed to too much oestrogen during the growing period, she may develop reproductive tract issues.
  • The consumption of liquorice root while pregnant can also be associated with early puberty.
  • The root comprises a compound that increases cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone leading to issues in the growth and development of the nervous system of the baby to be born.
  • Babies born to mothers who ate large amounts of glycyrrhizin-containing liquorice products during pregnancy were more likely to have brain impairments later in life.
  • It can cause hypertension, arrhythmia, and potentially cardiac arrest in certain cases.
  • Consuming the root can cause hormonal imbalance.
  • It may interfere with certain medications, like blood thinners.
  • Regular ingestion of liquorice is associated with hypertension, sodium and water retention, and hypokalemia (below normal levels of potassium in the blood).
  • Excessive liquorice consumption can cause metabolic alkalosis, low renin activity, and hypoaldosteronism.

Black vs Red Licorice During Pregnancy

Both the red and the black forms of liquorice are eaten as candies. The most well-known red liquorice candy varieties are safe to consume while pregnant because they don’t actually contain any liquorice.

However, black liquorice contains a potentially dangerous substance and is manufactured from the actual liquorice root or an extract of it. Black liquorice should therefore be consumed in moderation or not at all while pregnant.

What Should You Do If You Accidentally Eat Licorice While Pregnant?

It is okay if you accidentally eat liquorice while pregnant, as the negative effects of it only happen when a large amount of liquorice is consumed regularly or even daily. But do look out for any symptoms of high blood pressure and contact your medical providers for personalized guidance.

FAQs

1. Does Licorice Root Help to Induce Labor?

Liquorice root pregnancy in pregnancy has traditionally been used to stimulate contractions and induce labour, but the scientific evidence to support its effectiveness is scarce.

2. Is It Safe to Consume Licorice Extract During Pregnancy?

No, it is unsafe to consume liquorice extract during pregnancy as it contains compounds that can harm the developing fetus and may lead to adverse effects.

3. Can Liquorice Root Be Considered an Effective Treatment for Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?

Liquorice root might be beneficial for blood pressure and help alleviate some symptoms of preeclampsia. A study states that glycyrrhizin was found to possess anti-inflammatory properties that could help alleviate preeclampsia and the preeclampsia-associated inflammatory reaction.

4. Can Licorice Root Interact With Other Medications or Supplements Commonly Used During Pregnancy?

Yes, the root can interact with medications like diuretics, corticosteroids, drugs for diabetes, laxatives, and anticoagulants.

If you love liquorice, just be mindful and alert of the potential threat to you and your baby’s life with the consumption of liquorice root. As with most pregnancy advice, practice moderation. Just remember that when you’re expecting, you should avoid liquorice root as much as possible, despite its many medicinal benefits.

References/Resources:

1. Licorice; mountsinai.org; https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/licorice

2. T E Strandberg, A L Järvenpää, H Vanhanen; Birth outcome in relation to licorice consumption during pregnancy; National Library of Medicine; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11390327/; June 2001

3. New Study Suggests Women Should Avoid Eating Licorice during Pregnancy; rileychildrens.org; https://www.rileychildrens.org/connections/new-study-suggests-women-should-avoid-eating-licorice-during-pregnancy

4. Pregnant women advised to avoid the herbal remedy liquorice root; tommys.org; https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/blogs-and-stories/im-pregnant/pregnancy-news-and-blogs/pregnant-women-advised-avoid-herbal-remedy-liquorice-root

5. Tabia Volqvartz, Anna Louise Vestergaard, Sissel Kramer Aagaard, et.al; Use of alternative medicine, ginger and licorice among Danish pregnant women – a prospective cohort study; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6320632/; January 2019

Also Read:

Foods You Should Avoid when Pregnant
Indian Foods You Must Avoid during Pregnancy
Drinks & Beverages you should Avoid in Pregnancy

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