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Nikki's experience of having high blood pressure caused by liquorice
Nikki explains how liquorice caused her to develop high blood pressure. She talks about how research led her to the discovery and why she feels it's important to let others know.
Bid to get even healthier
I am a very healthy 50 year old. I have been self-employed for 26 years and have a very enjoyable, stress-free job. I have a good BMI (21.7) and exercise regularly. I am very health conscious about what I eat; predominantly organic, no processed or fast foods, low sodium and low sugar. I don’t smoke and I drink alcohol very infrequently and of course I’m not diabetic.
In early August 2013, in a bid to get even healthier, I decided to stop drinking caffeinated tea in preference for herbal tea and substituted coffee for decaffeinated. I discovered a whole range of herbal teas, and tried several different types, before settling on a select few that I really liked; superfruits, chamomile and peppermint and liquorice. My favourite by a long way was the peppermint and liquorice and I started to drink this regularly.
Disbelief at feeling the pressure
You can imagine my disbelief, when at a periodic health check in December 2013, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I was told I should visit a doctor and have it monitored. I purchased a blood pressure monitor so that I could keep an eye on it. Over the next couple of months my blood pressure fluctuated, but seemed to reach steadily higher levels; sometimes getting up to 220/110.
In February 2014 I decided that I needed to get my blood pressure under control as it was dangerously high. The first doctor I saw prescribed potassium medication (Lorsatan potassium) to start taking immediately and arranged for me to have an ECG and blood test. I didn’t like the idea of taking medication without knowing the cause of my high blood pressure, so I decided not to take the tablets. A week later, both the ECG and blood test came back with no problems.
I went to a different doctor and he determined that I must have essential hypertension, although I have no family history of this. He prescribed two sets of medication (Ramipril and Lisinopril) on two different occasions, however, I reacted badly to both.
I stopped taking the tablets and returned to the doctor, and he suggested that I take a rest from medication to give my body a chance to recover. He also recommended that I go onto the waiting list for a 24 hour monitor to measure my blood pressure before prescribing further medication. I was never happy about taking medicine without knowing the cause and I always felt that there must be a trigger of some kind, but couldn't think what that could be.
In my spare time, I explored the internet looking for possible ways to lower my blood pressure. I found out about the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and started eating foods that I thought would help.
Chance find on the internet
In early April, whilst surfing the internet, I chanced upon a UK homeopathic website that suggested food groups to help and foods to be avoided. I glanced down the list and noticed that it recommended avoiding liquorice, as consumption of liquorice can lead to dangerously high blood pressure and dangerously low potassium levels (hypokalemia). It informed me that liquorice contains glycyrrhizinic acid, which sets off a chain reaction of biochemical events in the body which results in high blood pressure.
Instantly alarm bells sounded, as I realised that since September 2013 I had been consuming as many as 4-6 cups of liquorice and peppermint tea daily! I knew that something must have triggered the high blood pressure, but hadn't linked it to my switch to herbal teas, as I had assumed that they are healthy. I further researched this and discovered that there have been instances of individuals being admitted to hospital after consuming too much liquorice. Seemingly, it is also not advisable to consume whilst taking ACE inhibitor medication (which could have contributed to my adverse reaction to the prescribed medications).
I immediately stopped taking the liquorice and peppermint tea and within the next week my blood pressure returned to normal levels.
Manufacturer helps me
I subsequently went back to the website from which I purchased the tea to look at the description of the liquorice and peppermint tea. There is nothing on the first page; however, if you click on the ingredients tab it states ‘This tea contains liquorice - people with hypertension should avoid excessive consumption.’ At the time I initially purchased the tea I didn't have hypertension and to be honest, I hadn’t even noticed this before. On further exploration it appears some other herbal teas also contain liquorice, for example, some lemon and ginger teas, so it is worth checking the ingredients. I went back to the manufacturer and thankfully they have agreed to update their packaging and their website details.
The need to share this experience with others
I feel that it is very important to share this experience with others, as without my chance find on the internet, I would probably be taking medication for the rest of my life.