• Jace Shoemaker-Galloway

National Licorice Day

If you're in the mood for a sweet treat to eat, you're in luck. April 12 is National Licorice Day, an annual holiday that celebrates one of those products that people either love or they hate - licorice.

Licorice, a low-growing perennial herb cultivated in Iran, India, Spain and Russia, is actually considered a weed. The root of the plant contains glycyrrhizic acid, which is 50 times sweeter than sugar. Licorice extract is used as a flavoring in many products including alcohol, tobacco, soft drinks, tea and of course, candy. Today's licorice candy is available in a rainbow of colors.

Health Benefits of Licorice

Consumed for centuries, licorice has been used as a remedy for a variety of ailments including sore throats, coughs, heartburn, bronchitis and stomach ulcers. Licorice may also help slow the effects of aging on the brain and help with hair loss. Legend has it that Napoleon Bonaparte ate so much of it after battle, his teeth turned black!

Health Warnings

But while small amounts of licorice may provide some health benefits, folks with high blood pressure, a history of heart disease or diabetes should avoid it. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), eating just 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks could cause an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia for people 40 or older! Glycyrrhizic acid can cause a decrease in potassium levels, which could lead to swelling, congestive heart failure and lethargy.

The FDA recommends people should not consume large amounts of black licorice at a time, regardless of age. If you notice an irregular heart rhythm after eating black licorice, stop eating it and contact your healthcare physician.

If you are a licorice lover , why not whip up one or two licorice-inspired recipes in honor of National Licorice Day?