Licorice root is used as a flavoring in candy and in beverages including some gins and liqueurs. Licorice Root contains glycyrrhizin, which is controlled in quantity in the United States, and only allowed up to certain amounts in food and beverages.
The FDA states [link] "Licorice (glycyrrhiza) root is the dried and ground rhizome and root portions of Glycyrrhiza glabra or other species of Glycyrrhiza. Licorice extract is that portion of the licorice root that is, after maceration, extracted by boiling water. The extract can be further purified by filtration and by treatment with acids and ethyl alcohol. Licorice extract is sold as a liquid, paste ("block"), or spray-dried powder."
Licorice is also used as a flavoring in food. Many “licorice” or “licorice flavor” products manufactured in the United States do not contain any licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which has the same smell and taste. [link]
"FDA experts say black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice root. Glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall. When that happens, some people experience abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure." [link]
- Licorice and derivatives (ammoniated glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhiza) - FLAV, GRAS
- < 0.05% Baked goods - Flavor, Flavor enhancer, a surface active agent;
- < 0.1% Alcoholic Beverages;
- < 0.15% Nonalcoholic Beverages;
- < 1.1% Chewing Gum;
- < 16.0% Hard Candy;
- < 0.15% Herbs & Seasoning;
- < 0.15% Plant Proteins;
- < 3.1% Soft Candies;
- < 0.5% Vitamins & Minerals;
- < 0.1% All other food
The percentages correspond to "Maximum level in food (percent glycyrrhizin content of food) (as served)"
According to the United States FDA [link]:
Licorice: This would appear to be a fairly harmless snack food. However, for someone taking Lanoxin (digoxin), some forms of licorice may increase the risk for Lanoxin toxicity. Lanoxin is used to treat congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Licorice may also reduce the effects of blood pressure drugs or diuretic (urine-producing) drugs, including Hydrodiuril (hydrochlorothiazide) and Aldactone (spironolactone).