Can you eat licorice when breastfeeding?

In this article we are going to answer can you eat licorice when breastfeeding, what is licorice, what are some benefits of licorice, what are the side effects of licorice when breastfeeding, and what food you can’t consume when breastfeeding. 

Can you eat licorice when breastfeeding?

Licorice is considered as generally safe or GRAS food by the FDA while breastfeeding. This refers to low quantities of licorice found in food. A long-term and excessive amount of licorice has been correlated to hypertension, hypokalemia, and disturbance of adrenal hormones. 

So licorice can be eaten when breastfeeding but in small amounts only when necessary. Try not to overeat products containing licorice extract. 

What is licorice? 

Licorice is the name of a plant known as Glycyrrhiza glabra. This plant blooms a flower with a sweet and aromatic flavor. The part of the plant that is used to obtain licorice is the root. The licorice plant is native to Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. 

Licorice has been used for years as a flavoring in candies and tobacco, especially in Europe and West Asia. Also, extract from licorice plants has been applied in herbal and traditional medicine. 

It has been proven that excessive amounts of glycyrrhetinic acid, a component of licorice, have adverse effects. The consumption of licorice has to be closely monitored because it can present unexplained hypokalemia and muscle weakness. 

The sweetness in licorice comes from glycyrrhizin acid, it can give about 30 to 50 times more sweetness than sugar but the type of sweetness is different from sugar. Licorice gives a less instant and long-lasting sweetness flavor. 

Licorice grows best in the autumn two to three years after planting. Countries with a major production of licorice are India, Iran Italy, Afghanistan, and China. It has been used in a variety of products. 


It has been used as a flavor-enhancing agent in tobacco and as a moistening agent. It can be found in cigarettes, moist snuff, chewing tobacco, or pipe tobacco. In 2009, the FDA banned the use of any other compound except menthol from cigarettes but not for other manufactured tobacco products.

Food and confectionery

It is used in candies and sweets. In most candies, the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, so the content of licorice is very low. In countries like the Netherlands, licorice sweets or drops are very popular. 

It can be mixed with mint, menthol, aniseed, or laurel. 

Traditional medicine

It has also been used in Chinese medicine as an ingredient that harmonizes medicinal formulas. Licorice is also used in Ayurveda, it is believed that it treats various diseases. 

What is the difference between licorice and liquorice?

Licorice and liquorice are the same. It is a Mediterranean plant whose root is used in candies and confections as listed above. Licorice is the preferred spelling in the USA and Canada while liquorice is how it’s pronounced in Ireland and the UK. 

Both spellings are common in Australia and New Zealand. The only difference between both is the spelling. 

What are some benefits of licorice?

Licorice has compounds that have been found to be anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and antiviral, this property is why licorice extract has been part of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. 

It contains more than 300 chemicals that have been linked to bringing benefits to our overall health. The most studied compound is glycyrrhizin acid. It has been linked to reducing body fat, healing stomach ulcers, fighting infections, and reducing overall inflammation. 

What are the side effects of eating licorice when breastfeeding?

Licorice has a compound name glycyrrhizin acid that is responsible for giving its sweet flavor of licorice. It has been found that this compound found in licorice has a direct effect on adrenal glands. 

High quantities of licorice can cause hypertension, cataracts, fluid retention, headaches, and problems with heart health. There are several studies that licorice consumption in high quantities by tea can directly affect overall health by reducing potassium levels.

Also, it can exacerbate kidney and liver disease and diabetes because of its correlation with potassium.  

The negative impact is directly on the mother’s health and not on the infant consuming breast milk but there have been some cases where licorice can cause weakness in infants and reduce milk production. 

Even if licorice has been linked to being a galactagogue food, it means it can promote breast milk production, try not to overeat it because there is no scientific evidence of this. Try to read the labels and ask your doctor or midwife if you have any doubt. 

What food you can’t consume when breastfeeding?

Breast Milk is regulated by your body and what you eat goes to your breastmilk. You need to be aware that small amounts of what you eat or drink can be detectable in milk, especially chemicals that are in your blood. 

In medicine, breast milk is considered like blood because chemicals that can be detectable in your blood are also detectable in breastmilk. 

There is no food you can’t consume when breastfeeding and there are some recommendations on limitations, especially on 5 foods that can directly affect the baby’s health. 

  • Fish high in mercury
  • Herbal supplements that have not been considered safe
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Highly processed foods


This article answered can you eat licorice when breastfeeding, what is licorice, what are some benefits of licorice, what are the side effects of licorice when breastfeeding, and what food you can’t consume when breastfeeding.


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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.