Pile of liquorice

The link between liquorice and low blood pressure

Low blood pressure tends to be linked to a lower than usual risk of heart disease, but it can actually restrict the amount of blood and oxygen flowing into your brain, causing symptoms like dizziness. Luckily, a childhood treat may be able to help.

What is low blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force with which our blood pushes against the walls of our arteries. Low blood pressure – when there is not much force – can limit the amount of blood flowing to your brain and other essential organs. This can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, unsteadiness, fainting and falls.

It’s normal for blood pressure to vary during the day, and blood pressure naturally drops as we get older. In rare cases, it can be a sign of an underlying condition such as anaemia, diabetes or heart disease.1 If you’re experiencing symptoms of low blood pressure, see your GP to rule these out.

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Balancing out your blood pressure

Unless you’re experiencing symptoms such as falls, low blood pressure doesn’t normally need treatment. But lifestyle changes, including upping your salt and fluid intake, could help rebalance blood pressure. Treating yourself to some liquorice may also have an effect.

Liquorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which gives the treat its sweet taste*. Bacteria in our gut convert the glycyrrhizic acid in glycyrrhizin into an active substance called glycyrrhetic acid.

Glycyrrhetic acid then increases the volume of fluid in the blood by altering the balance of potassium and sodium – these minerals help regulate fluid balance. A higher volume of blood = higher blood pressure.

What does the research show?

A 2001 joint study by Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden and Reykjavik City Hospital in Iceland followed 64 healthy volunteers given either 50g, 100g or 200g of liquorice every day. After two weeks, the researchers noted that ‘even doses as low as 50g of liquorice… can cause a significant rise in blood pressure’.2

You can take liquorice root capsules as a supplement, but a cup of liquorice tea or even a handful of sweets could be beneficial. But don’t overdo it – excessive consumption could up your blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

One case study published in Endocrine Abstracts in 2010 linked a patient with high blood pressure to drinking five cups of liquorice tea a day.3

*Note: deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) liquorice has had most of the glycyrrhizin removed, which means it is less likely to raise blood pressure.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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Sources

1. NHS Choices. Low blood pressure (hypotension). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/low-blood-pressure-hypotension/causes
2. Sigurjónsdóttir HÁ, et al. Liquorice-induced rise in blood pressure: a linear dose-response relationship. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/1001215
3. Lawrence J, Lin Chong LP. The dangers of drinking liquorice tea. Available from: http://www.endocrine-abstracts.org/ea/0021/ea0021p75.htm

Blood PressureHeart Health Nutrition