Woman’s blood pressure soars after switching to ‘non-caffeinated tea’

Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure

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High blood pressure is a pernicious condition that sets the body up for severe cardiovascular complications when poorly managed. The condition has a plethora of risk factors, some more obvious than others. As one case study shows, even the healthiest of lifestyle changes carry hidden risks.

Herbal tea is medically revered for its ability to improve overall health, but these health-promoting benefits sometimes conceal certain risks.

In fact, some dieticians recommend drinking herbal tea in moderation and with medical approval due to unwanted side effects and interactions.

Herbal teas containing liquorice are able to inhibit the growth of bacteria linked to strep throat for instance, but reports of dangerous blood pressure elevations have also been made.

Excessive consumption of liquorice tea has in fact been identified in several medical cases as the cause of unexplained hypertension.

One British Medical Journal (BMJ) case report stated: “A 45-year-old woman presented to her general practitioner with a four-month history of hot flushes, sweating and headaches.

“On examination, she was found to be hypertensive, and blood tests revealed milk hypokalaemia.

“While awaiting the results of further investigation into the cause of her elevated blood pressure, the patient conducted her own research and identified liquorice tea as the potential cause of her symptoms.

“The patient had been drinking up to six cups of liquorice tea per day as a substitute for caffeinated tea and fruit-based infusions.”

Fortunately, symptoms resolved soon after discontinuation.

“The patient immediately stopped consuming the drink and within two weeks her symptoms, hypertension and hypokalaemia had entirely resolved,” stated her report.

Liquorice products are required to carry a labelled warning that excessive consumption should be avoided in patients with hypertension.

The problematic ingredient in root is glycyrrhizinic acid, which triggers a set of reactions linked to high blood pressure.

The compound, which is responsible for giving liquorice its sweet taste, gets converted into glycyrrhizic acid in the gut.

Glycyrrhizic acid then increases the volume of fluid retained in the blood by altering the balance of potassium and sodium, which are key minerals in blood pressure regulation.

The NHS warns: “Eating more than 57 grams of black liquorice a day for at least two weeks could lead to potentially serious health problems, such as an increase in blood pressure and an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia).

“For most people, liquorice found in food is safe to eat and safe when consumed in large amounts in medicines for short periods of time.”

The health body advises against eating large volumes of liquorice regardless of your age, as it may interact with medications or other dietary supplements too.

“If you have been eating a lot of black liquorice and have heart palpitations, muscle weakness or other health-related problems, stop eating it immediately and seek medical advice,” it cautions.

While the risks of over-consumption are clear, liquorice may prove beneficial for some patients.

Holland and Barnett argue that liquorice could be beneficial for people suffering natural drops in blood pressure as they age. for instance.

The health body also states that deglycyrrhizinated versions of liquorice are available, which have had most of their glycyrrhizin removed.

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