While everyone has a favorite sweet treat they look forward to on Halloween, there's a sizable piece of the population who just can't stand black licorice candy. But, believe it or not, there are plenty of people out there who love the tangy taste of black licorice, but, those people should know, that candy could be harmful to your health.
According to a consumer alert issued by the FDA, black licorice candy sometimes contains a substance known as glycyrrhizin, which comes from the root of a shrub found in Greece, Turkey and other parts of Asia. Health experts say people who eat high amounts of foods with glycyrrhizin can see their potassium levels fall dramatically, causing abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, edema (swelling) and even congestive heart failure.
Fortunately, if you prefer the mainstream versions of black licorice, like those made in the United States by companies like Twizzlers, you're probably going to be OK, as those products are made with anise oil, which has a similar smell and taste to glycyrrhizin, the FDA states.
Glycyrrhizin is used in other things beyond licorice, including as a home remedy for heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throats, coughs and some infections caused by viruses.
However, the FDA says no matter how old you are, you should avoid eating large amounts of black licorice at one time. If you are eating the candy and begin experiencing heart problems or muscle weakness, experts say you should stop eating it immediately and contact a healthcare provider.