Many new moms believe that herbal extracts and supplements are safe because they are derived from a plant. Licorice root has been used for medicinal and flavoring purposes for centuries; however, there are several side effects that may occur when ingesting the plant. The National Institute of Health recommends avoiding the use of licorice during breastfeeding due to insufficient research and evidence. Consult your physician before taking any type of herbal supplement while pregnant or nursing.
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Licorice is a plant used to flavor foods and beverages. The root of the licorice plant is used in medicine and herbal supplements. The root is often called "sweet root" because it contains a chemical compound that is approximately 50 times sweeter than table sugar. Licorice root has been used as an herbal remedy for a variety of health problems, including sore throat, heartburn, osteoarthritis, liver problems, muscle cramps, ulcers and infertility. More research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of the root on these health problems.
Although little is known about the effects of consuming licorice extracts or supplements while breastfeeding, nursing mothers should avoid the plant. Consuming the plant may cause various side effects, including headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease or swelling due to water retention. Licorice root may also worsen some health conditions and should be avoided if you suffer from heart failure, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease or low potassium levels. Women who are pregnant should avoid ingesting licorice as it may cause miscarriage or preterm labor.
Although licorice candy tastes similar to the the extract, most licorice candy does not contain licorice root. Red licorice is made without any licorice, while most black licorice candies are flavored with anise instead of licorice root. The safety of consuming licorice candy while breastfeeding is unknown.
Many herbal supplements are considered safe to ingest when nursing your newborn; however, licorice is not one of them. Always discuss the possible side effects and safety concerns of herbal supplements with your healthcare provider before taking by mouth or applying topically.