Is Licorice Root Safe For Consumption During Pregnancy?

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Licorice is a herb with several medicinal benefits. However, women may be curious to know about the safety of licorice during pregnancy. People have long used it to treat various health conditions, such as liver issues, arthritis, and Lyme disease, to name a few. However, pregnant women should avoid the consumption of this herb because certain compounds present in it may have adverse health effects, such as the development of headaches, water retention, and fatigue. Read on the post to understand the health benefits of licorice, its safety for expecting mothers, and its side effects when consumed during pregnancy.

What Is A Licorice?

Licorice is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. It not only has a sweet flavor but is replete with many anti-depressant compounds too (1).

What Are The Health Benefits Of Licorice?

Licorice root acts as a natural remedy for athlete's foot and other infections

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Licorice root is an excellent natural remedy for several health conditions including heartburn, body odor, asthma, athlete’s foot, fungal infections, and viral infections. It can also offer therapeutic benefits for treating ulcers, liver problems, tuberculosis, yeast infections, cough, chronic exhaustion, canker sores, Lyme disease, arthritis, baldness, melancholy and even HIV! Licorice is an effective cure for depression and nervousness as it helps in regulating the stress hormones. It is also beneficial for preventing the following health complications (2) (3):

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Symptoms of Menopause
  • Skin problems
  • Herpes
  • Shingles
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight loss
  • Allergies

Is Licorice Root Safe During Pregnancy?

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, pregnant women must avoid the consumption of licorice. While this root offers multiple medicinal benefits, it also contains glycyrrhizin that can cause health problems like headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure, water retention, edema, and even heart attack!

While only high consumption of licorice root in pregnancy can cause the above health issues, smaller amounts of it may cause side effects like numbness or pain in the limbs (1).

Side Effects Of Licorice Consumption During Pregnancy

Recent studies reveal the side effects associated with licorice root and pregnancy can lead to the following health complications:

  • A high dose of licorice extract during pregnancy may cause a miscarriage or a preterm delivery. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology links high licorice consumption to a shorter gestation period. Licorice can double the risk of premature birth (4).
  • Experts from Edinburgh and Helsinki universities state that the consumption of licorice root during pregnancy can impair the placenta. The compound glycyrrhizin could allow the mother’s glucocorticoids or stress hormones to reach the baby and adversely affect the fetal brain development. Hence, it can lower the intelligence levels and increase the behavioral problems in the child (5).
Consuming licrorice when pregnant can eventually cause behavioral problems in the child

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  • Another study reveals consuming high amounts of licorice root when pregnancy can take a toll on a child’s cognitive skills. It can also make children prone to suffering from conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD (6).

Scientists strongly advise pregnant and lactating women to avoid consuming this herb in order to safeguard their babies from potential health hazards.

Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry especially during pregnancy. Since your baby’s growth and your health is at stake during this critical period you should strictly avoid consuming any unsafe food. If you are keen to try natural remedies to cure any ailment during pregnancy, it is better to seek a go-ahead from your doctor first.

Seek your doctor approval before having licorice root

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much licorice is unsafe in pregnancy?

Consuming around 500mg of glycyrrhizin per week is considered high and may be unsafe in pregnancy (7).

2. Does licorice raise progesterone?

Licorice root may decrease estrogen and increase progesterone levels (8).

There are several known benefits of licorice root, including its anti-microbial, antidepressive, and anti-allergic nature. Nonetheless, it could be apprehensive for most moms who wonder if it is safe to consume licorice root during pregnancy. However, experts suggest that you avoid it as licorice roo could put you at significant risk of medical complications during pregnancy, such as preterm labor, fetal abnormalities, etc. Therefore, it is ideal for keeping you and your baby safe and avoiding the risk of health hazards associated with consuming licorice root during pregnancy.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Licorice.
    https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/licorice
  2. Licorice Root.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=Licorice
  3. Licorice.
    https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2122006
  4. Timo E. Strandberg et al.; (2002); Preterm Birth and Licorice Consumption during Pregnancy.
    https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/156/9/803/256317
  5. Warning on liquorice in pregnancy.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8292392.stm
  6. Katri Räikkönen et al.; (2009); Maternal Licorice Consumption and Detrimental Cognitive and Psychiatric Outcomes in Children.
    https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/170/9/1137/165310
  7. Licorice.
    https://www.drugs.com/npp/licorice.html
  8. Hormone Balance: The Key to Breast Cancer Prevention.
    https://womeninbalance.org/seventh-woman/hormone-balance/
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Ria Saha

Ria is a techie-turned-writer and writes articles on health, with special emphasis on nutrition. She did her B.Tech from West Bengal University of Technology and was previously associated with IBM as SAP ABAP technical consultant. She moved into freelance content writing in 2013 and worked for various websites including MomJunction, Brainpulse Technologies, and Emarketz India.

Jyoti Benjamin

(MS, RD, CSO, FAND, CD)
Jyoti Benjamin has 25 years of experience as a clinical dietitian and currently works in Seattle. She focuses on teaching people the value of good nutrition and helping them lead healthy lives by natural means. Benjamin has a masters in Foods and Nutrition, and has been a longtime member and Fellow of AND (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and the...
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