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Throat Coat Tea and Potassium Loss -- box of Throat Coat tea


Throat Coat contains a very large amount of licorice root (760 mg per tea bag) plus another 60 mg of a 6:1 licorice root extract and these ingredients are likely to be the cause of your issues. Licorice root provides great flavor, but you need to exercise caution and moderation with it because it contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that can, through an effect on the kidneys, cause loss of potassium, fluid retention, increased blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and lethargy. Throat Coat has a warning on its box regarding these issues, although the warning does not identify the causative agent — licorice root.

Be aware that the FDA has warned that eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks can cause similar problems.

Homemade licorice tea has also been reported to cause low potassium levels. An 84-year-old man (with hypertension controlled by medication) developed extremely high blood pressure, headache, photophobia, chest pain (due to pulmonary edema) and fatigue, as well as low potassium after two weeks of drinking 1 to 2 glasses daily of homemade licorice root extract called "erk sous" (Falet, CMAJ 2019). A 57-year old man in Turkey with no prior history of cardiovascular disease experienced atrial fibrillation (a rapid, irregular heartbeat) likely caused by low potassium levels after consuming four glasses of "licorice root syrup" daily for one month (Erkus, Turk Kardiyol Dern Ars 2016). In extreme cases, this can cause death. For example, a 54-year-old man went into cardiac arrest and died after consuming one to two large packages of licorice-flavored soft candy for three weeks. His doctors determined that the glycyrrhizic acid in the candy likely led to low potassium levels and other metabolic changes that resulted in a rapid, abnormal heart rhythm (Edelman, New Eng J Med 2020).

Dietary supplements containing licorice root can also be problematic. A 68-year-old Chinese-American woman developed dangerously high blood pressure (219/123 mm Hg) resulting in a stroke (with symptoms including difficulty speaking and paralysis on one side of the body) after taking Chinese herbal supplement pills providing 800 mg of licorice root daily for two weeks to treat indigestion. The supplement contained several other ingredients, such as ginger root and cinnamon bark, but the reporting physicians noted the woman could have been consuming 8 times the maximum dose recommended by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food of glycyrrhizin (Shin, Neurohospitalist 2019).

Licorice supplements and other licorice products that have had glycyrrhizin removed, known as de-glycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), are available and may not have the same adverse effects as licorice containing glycyrrhizin (Omar, Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab 2012; NIH 2020).

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July 4, 2019

For digestive and hormonal issues, you can take DGL - Deglycyrrhizinated licorice. It usually comes in chewable tablets. It is the glycyrrhizin that causes problems and the tablets are made from licorice from which the glycyrrhizin has been removed. Research the correct dosage for your particular problem and take care that you understand the amount you're getting in the tablets because some contain DGL that is more concentrated.

July 3, 2019

Beware. Glycrrhizic acid presents a significant risk in triggering A-fib. The benefits of licorice root are nowhere near as great as the risks. It should not even be an over the counter supplement.

September 28, 2020

Agree. I was hospitalized for AFib two weeks after taking licorice root in 2007. My friend refused to believe LR was the reason, so he began taking it. A few days later, he collpased at my house with a rapid heartbeat and blood pressure over 190. It absolutely should not be sold without a Rx (though it's difficult to imagine any intelligent doctor prescribing it), and maybe not even then. Bad stuff - miniscule benefit with major damage risk as you correctly point out.

June 2, 2019

A lot of female hormone support supplements also include licorice. Now menopause formula is one. I did get high blood pressure while taking it and chalked it up to the licorice. I discontinued it and within a few day my pressure was back to normal. It's a good thing I keep a tight watch over it because otherwise I may have ended up like the guy mentioned in the study.
The problem is that licorice that is full spectrum is SO effective at relieving hormonal issues such as insomnia and hot flashes, at least for me. I take the supplement very cautiously nowadays.
June 3, 2019

Hi Patricia - Thank you for sharing your experience with this.

February 27, 2019

I also use throat coat tea, but for leaky gut, as it has the same ingredients recommended to heal that condition, Licorice, Marshmallow Root and Slippery Elm. Glycyrrhizic acid is the component of licorice that causes the potassium loss and high blood pressure. I contacted the manufacturer, Traditional Medicinals to ask how much glycyrrhizic acid a tea bag contains, and here is their answer:

"Our organic Throat Coat tea contains 760 mg of organic licorice root (non-extract) and 60 mg of organic licorice root dry aqueous extract 6:1. We use pharmacopeial grade licorice root, which stipulates at least 4% concentration of glycyrrhizic acid. This would equate to approximately 40 mg per tea bag."

A single tea bag with 40 mg is far below the amount required to cause these symptoms(assuming Traditional Medicinals 40 mg figure is true). But drinking many cups a day might. I have reduced my intake to one cup per day and am instead using DGL, which is Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice, it does not contain glycyrrhizic acid, yet retains some of the beneficial properties.
February 27, 2019

Thanks for adding that information, Mark. Please note, however, that even 40 mg of glycyrrhizin per tea bag of Throat Coat is a substantial amount and if taken daily, can cause adverse effects.

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