Excessive consumption of licorice tea - a popular herbal beverage - may have health risks such as high blood pressure and reduced potassium levels, researchers claim. According to a case study, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), consuming tea made from licorice root resulted in severely elevated blood pressure in an 84-year-old man.
"Excessive amounts of some herbal products can have harmful side effects," said Jean-Pierre Falet from the McGill University in Canada.
"Products containing licorice root extract can raise blood pressure, cause water retention and decrease potassium levels if consumed in excess," said Falet.
According to the researchers, the patient visited the emergency department for a high-blood pressure emergency. His blood pressure was severely elevated, and he was suffering from a headache, light sensitivity, chest pain, fatigue and fluid retention in the calves.
After admission to hospital and treatment, the patient, who had a history of high blood pressure, told physicians he had been drinking one to two glasses daily of homemade licorice root extract called "erk sous" for two weeks prior.
Licorice tea is popular in the Middle East and parts of Europe, and erk sous is especially popular in Egypt during Ramadan. "Physicians should consider screening for licorice root intake in patients with difficult-to-control hypertension," said Falet.