Saturday, March 5, 2011

The One Thousand Dollar Box of Tea

A couple of months ago I had the flu and discovered the savory soothing pleasures of licorice tea. IF ONLY I had stopped at a few cups. But no, I had a whole box of the stuff and drank it in the evenings and at work, it's wispy fragrance filling the borrowed cubicle where I worked on ads and brochures for a publishing company in it's busy season.
  • At first I felt tired and off balance and blamed it on my flu recovery
  • I began to have heart thumps and blamed it on too much sitting.
  • My belly and ankles swelled by mid-afternoon and I thought too little exercise was causing my body to melt and bloat.
  • I blamed the headaches on eyestrain from working two jobs.
  • I didn't like the tingling in my left hand and cramps in my legs and ignored it.
  • Then I started having full fledged panic attacks with trembles, until they were almost a daily beast. I blamed it on financial woes, world upheaval, my cat's demise, a bad review, and watching too much news.
Then last Thursday at 4pm, as I idly wondered if I was a total namby-pamby--or going off the deeps--I sipped my final cup of licorice tea and within minutes had all the symptoms slam me. I was faint, I was having heart thumps, my feet looked ready to burst the straps of my mary janes...and I had an epiphany and looked up the effects of too much licorice (glycyrrhizin). I had most of the symptoms, except the guy ones, eureka!

Wiki: "Excessive consumption of liquorice or liquorice candy is known to be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system, and may produce hypertension  and oedema. In occasional cases blood pressure has increased with excessive consumption of liquorice tea, but such occasions are rare and reversible when the herb is withdrawn. Doses as low as 50 grams (2 oz) of liquorice daily for two weeks can cause a significant rise in blood pressure." I'd been having it daily for 2 months!
emedicine: "Symptoms of licorice toxicity may include the following:
  • Fatigue and muscle cramping
  • Dark urine (myoglobinuria)
  • Weakness (hypokalemia, myopathies)
  • Polyuria/nocturia (increased extracellular volume)
  • Edema (increased extracellular volume)
  • Dyspnea (pulmonary edema)
  • Headache (hypertension)
  • Paresthesias/dysesthesias (eg, burning sensations of extremities)
  • Impotence and diminished libido
  • Amenorrhea "
I'm currently uninsured, so I paid these (kindly reduced) prices:  I went to my doctor ($125, ka-ching) who sent me to a lab for tests of my fluids ($125 ka-ching). My blood pressure which had been 90/60 two months ago was now 160/90. He told me I looked greenish and tests showed my liver function was off. But being a doctor he dismissed my self-diagnosis and sent me for an echo cardiogram ($500, ka-ching!) heart OK! I need further blood, pee and liver tests, ka-ching, ka-ching... at $30 a cup!

I read it takes about 2 weeks for symptoms to improve. Months for the adrenal system to fully bounce back. Already I feel better, but tire out by evenings... I am eating lots of potassium rich foods and avoiding the salty ones. I am measuring my weight and ankle circumference every morning and they are going down. I have fewer of all the nasty effects. I am not crazy, just poisoned. And licorice is an ingredient in many of my other tea mixes, with names like Peaceful Mix and Happy Day. They are in a landfill now.

What is shocking? Dog medicine is better regulated than human. Any health food store can sell herbals that can kill you if used to excess. And what is excess? Not listed on the box, that's for sure.

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