Licorice and Labor
The licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza) grows wild in Europe and Asia, and the root of the plant has been used for centuries as both a sweetener and for medicinal use. Glycyrrhizic acid is the active compound that gives licorice its distinctive flavor. Unfortunately, this acid can interfere with an important metabolic pathway that the body uses. Excessive ingestion of licorice compounds can cause headache, high blood pressure, water retention, loss of potassium, preterm uterine contractions and even heart irregularities.
Fortunately, many licorice candies do not contain any licorice root at all and may be fruit-flavored or flavored with anise oil. For example, the strawberry-, cherry- and chocolate-flavored Twizzler candies do not contain any licorice flavoring. The black licorice Twizzler candy contains both licorice extract and anise oil. Typically, you would have to eat more than 50 grams of candy containing licorice extract daily for two weeks before experiencing adverse effects. (A seven-ounce bag of Twizzlers contains about 200 grams of candy.) Any candy containing licorice root will have it listed in the list of ingredients as "licorice root extract," "licorice root" or "glycyrrhizic acid."