If you take cyclosporine to relieve your RA symptoms, you may want to avoid candy flavored with licorice and licorice supplements. In an Arthritis Today article, it was explained that Pei-Dawn Lee Chao, Ph.D., a chemist at China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan and his team fed cyclosporine to laboratory rats with and without various doses of pure glycyrrhizin, an active compound in licorice root, and natural licorice extract. They found that levels of cyclosporine dropped in the animals fed licorice or glycyrrhizin.
Not all licorice candy does this, however. Many types of candy are called “licorice” but are just flavored with the oil of a similar-tasting herb, anise.
Licorice is also a common herbal remedy for a variety of illnesses. Many people, for example, use licorice tablets to ease stomach irritation and heartburn.
Previous reports have indicated that licorice can trigger other potentially dangerous drug interactions. Some studies have shown licorice can interfere with the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications, aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, insulin and oral contraceptives.
The ingredient that can cause so many serious side effects is glycyrrhizin. This is the natural flavor found in black licorice, but it is absent from red “licorice.”
If you have RA or high blood pressure, be sure to check the label. If it includes glycyrrhizin, reconsider before indulging your sweet tooth.