For parents stocking up on black licorice for this Halloween, the Food and Drug Administration has a dire warning: the old-fashioned candy may have dangerous side effects.
Consuming over two ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could bring on arrhythmia in people over the age of 40, Fox News reports. This is an irregular heart rhythm that could lead to more severe cardiac conditions.
Black licorice contains the ingredient glycyrrhizin, the sweetening compound taken from licorice root, according to the FDA. Glycyrrhizin could lower a person’s potassium level, resulting in abnormal heart rhythms, swelling, high blood pressure, lethargy and even heart failure.
Potassium levels are usually restored to normal with no permanent or long-term health problems when the person involved stops eating black licorice, Linda Katz of the FDA advised.
The agency does not recommend eating large amounts of this treat at one single time, no matter how old.
Black licorice could also interfere with some medications and supplements, so it’s always best to consult a health care professional, the FDA adds.
Licorice is a polarizing topic, as people either love it or hate it. Some describe the flavor as reminiscent of liquors like Jagermeister or medicines like NyQuil. It also contains anethole, which smells good, adding to licorice’s appeal—even for those who don’t like the taste. On the bright side, licorice has reportedly had some progress in treating canker sores, high cholesterol, hepatitis and obesity, according to Forbes.
Marcia Pelchat, an associate member of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, says, “People either love it or hate it and, as far as I can tell, it’s not a learned like or dislike. I don’t know a specific gene that is associated with liking and disliking licorice. [But] it does seem to be something that people are born with.” The center researches taste and smell.