Is salty licorice ok to eat regularly?
January 7, 2009 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I have developed a taste for salty licorice, aka salmiak. The salty flavor comes from ammonium chloride, rather than sodium chloride. Are there any known health risks associated with eating this stuff regularly?
posted by everichon to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Man, I hope the consensus is "no" -- that stuff looks great. Where do you obtain it?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:51 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eating licorice can raise the blood pressure. A lot even, though not because of the ammonium chloride, which isn't the same thing as NaCl, but because of the glycyrrhizine used in it. Dutch health organizations advice not to eat more then 100 to 150 grams of licorice a day, because of the trouble your body may have to metabolize the glycyrrhizine.
posted by ijsbrand at 2:52 PM on January 7, 2009

There are some known adverse health effects from eating too much licorice (where too much is usually a whole lot), that you might want to keep in mind too.
posted by OmieWise at 2:55 PM on January 7, 2009

Insanity? It's one of the most disgusting things I've ever tasted. My Finnish flatmate loves it, so I keep trying it, and keep grimacing and spitting it out.

But anyway, it's popular in Sweden and Finland, and I've never heard any of my Scandinavian friends mention that. They pack it away like there's something wrong with their taste buds.
posted by Magnakai at 2:56 PM on January 7, 2009

Clyde, you can buy it on Amazon, though it's not the crystal-licious looking stuff on the Wiki article. I have no idea where to get that.

The linked licorice, though, is great: "DZ" for "Dubbel Zout".
posted by everichon at 2:56 PM on January 7, 2009

Umm, I hope there are no adverse effects as I've been consuming the stuff pretty solidly for the last 20 odd years. I've yet to meet a single Finnish person who's suffered any kind of salmiakki related illness. Excluding all incidents related to salmiakki kossu (a type of vodka) of course. That's caused me illness several times.

All very anecdotal, of course.

(Also, Magnakai, you're in the majority. Whenver I bring salmiakki-anything from abroad, the success rate is about 1 in 10 people liking it and 1 in 50 loving it.)

I don't know of a place that sells it online unfortunately...
posted by slimepuppy at 3:04 PM on January 7, 2009

I loved it very much when I was in Sweden. They sell salty licorice ice cream on the beach!

I ate a whole lot on a single day and my blood pressure went up enough that I wanted to call an ambulance. All the Swedes knew what was going on and talked me down from my panic. By a whole lot I mean I went to the store and bought every single presentation they had, a dozen different at least, and ate it all during a 2 hour train ride.

The way I get mine is to give every Scandinavian person I meet my address and ask them to send me some, promising eternal gratitude in return. It works most of the time.
posted by dirty lies at 3:04 PM on January 7, 2009

The glycyrrhizin is likely to be an issue only if (i) you have hypertension (high blood pressure), or (ii) you eat a large amount on a daily basis.

I personally love salmiak. You can also but it in Ikea (well, in the UK at least).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:04 PM on January 7, 2009

Oh, and licorice ice cream is possibly the best thing in the world. It's pretty common in Italy and I've got a contact here in the UK who's promised to make me a batch - yay!
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:05 PM on January 7, 2009

I'm sure, if you really tried, you could do yourself in with enough of the stuff, but I'm thinking scurvy or rickets or being terminally constipated as a result of a diet consisting of pure licorice will get you first.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:14 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ijsbrand, apparently even 50 g daily for two weeks can cause significant rise of blood pressure.

So it seems to boil down to: don't eat it every day and limit consumption to a maximum of 150 g.
But then; with salty liquorice you get a bit nauseous if you eat more. So that's ok.

More anecdotically; here in the Netherlands a lot of kids eat quite a bit of ' drop' without adverse effects. I certainly did! So don't let the cautions for moderation spoil your enjoyment.

Welcome to the northwestern European clan of liquorice eaters!
posted by jouke at 3:16 PM on January 7, 2009

Huh: now I want salty licorice ice cream.
posted by everichon at 3:16 PM on January 7, 2009

Hey people with access to salty licorice, can you please send me some salty licorice to San Francisco? I promise eternal gratitude in return. My address is in my profile.

Thank you.
posted by dirty lies at 4:09 PM on January 7, 2009

I absolutely adore the stuff, and my main source is IKEA.

Among my friends, I'm one of the few that likes it.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:16 PM on January 7, 2009

Searching for the LD50 for the substances in salty licorice, I found a PDF that starts with "PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL ATTORNEYS' WORK PRODUCT'.

It is worth the read, there is an LD50 table for different glycyrrizin salts, some experiments on feeding licorice to rats as part of their daily diet (stunted growth, many deaths), etc. Ammoniated salts have less bad effects. Seems like salty licorice is the way to eat licorice.

My conclusion: If it was good enough for Pharaohs, it is good enough for me.

Some facts from the document:

"Ammonium glycyrrhizinate has been reported as the sweetest substance on the present FDA
list of natural GRAS flavors, and, in the presence of sucrose and other sugars, is 100 times sweeter than sugar alone (Cook, 1975)"

"Licorice has been known for over 3,000 years, as evidenced by the finding of the root in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen (Neiman, 1957) ."

[Licorice products are sued as flavoring/sweeteners in many products] "The Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) believes the average daily intake from foods and beverages is
about 27 mg licorice root and about 0 .61 mg of licorice extract, calculated from the quantities of licorice imported (Informatics, 1972) ."
posted by dirty lies at 4:23 PM on January 7, 2009

I got some at Six Flags Magic Mountain outside of Los Angeles in a candy shop a few years ago. I love it, everyone else gagged.
posted by mrmojoflying at 4:39 PM on January 7, 2009

Oh my god. My Dutch husband eats these constantly. I hate them with a passion! He satisfies his Dutch jonesin from Dutch Sweets. He has ordered from them and has found them very reasonable.
posted by theantikitty at 4:56 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

PS: You can find a wide array of licorice under their licorice candy section. The selections include helpful categories for salty licorices -- light salt, medium salt, and very salty. They have tons of other really interesting stuff on there too.
posted by theantikitty at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2009

If you like salty licorice, try to get the various Dutch kinds, not this Swedish nonsense. I've been in Sweden for the last 18 years - lived in Holland the 14 years before that. I'm still missing the real stuff.
And yes, if you eat a lot, you get all hot and flustered and whatnot, so the high blood pressure warning makes sense somehow. But IANALD (licorice doctor)
posted by Namlit at 5:01 PM on January 7, 2009

They sell it in Yorkshire as well. Pontefract is the granddaddy of all liquorice production in the UK, and they have an annual festival to celebrate that fact. One of the local brewers produces a liquorice stout, which is best described as root beer (dandelion & burdock) meets Guinness. Lovely as a half, particularly on a hot summer's day, but I don't think I could have a full pint.

I have a picture of a Dalek made of solid black liquorice at the festival this past year. I may have to register with a flickr account to share it with y'all.

Here it's zout, double zout, or Dutch. It's definitely an addiction. The stuff I've had here is smooth and slightly hard, in round pastilles... vs Pontefract cakes (local style liquorice) that's soft, chewy and looooovely.
posted by Grrlscout at 5:30 PM on January 7, 2009

P.S. Mr G, who is a slavering liquorice fiend whose blood pressure seems to be undented by his addiction, asked that I clarify that Haribo liquorice is an abomination... look for the traditional market sweet shop stuff.
posted by Grrlscout at 5:33 PM on January 7, 2009

Okay gourmet food lovers, Zingerman's. I haven't tried it, but wondered when I got an e-mail about it recently. And, it's organic!
posted by 6:1 at 5:54 PM on January 7, 2009

When I go on a Tyrkisk Peber bender I sometimes get charliehorses in my calf the next day. I don't know if it's the salt or the licorice, but I sure eat a lot of both in those situations!
posted by aubilenon at 6:55 PM on January 7, 2009

Dutch salt licorice definitely gives me high blood pressure if I eat too much in one sitting, but I've never had that problem with Swedish or Finnish brands. I can definitely see it, though, if you eat a lot.

There are lots of places where you can buy it online, btw. My favorite are the not-too-salty licorice coins, and the Tyrkisk Peber... mmm.

The salty stuff in the Wiki article is Djungelvrål (Jungle Roar), which you can buy at The Northerner.
posted by gemmy at 8:52 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

It seems that the DZ (dubbel zout) liquorice is most wel known Dutch liquorice in the US. Personally I find their flavour rather one dimensional. If you want to try something else I'd recommend finding liquorice with arabic gum. The Dutch Sweets link from antikitty provides the widest range of liquorice I've seen so far. If you select the brand Klene you'll get some liquorice that contains 24% arabic gum.
posted by jouke at 10:28 PM on January 7, 2009

Liquorice Dalek goodness
posted by Grrlscout at 3:22 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd forgotten all about Dutch liquorice. I bought a ton of the stuff when I spent a week in Amsterdam about 10 years ago. Found a little sweet shop (I forget where) and they had about 50 different varieties.

Traditional sweet shops here in the UK usually sell something called 'liquorice gums' which I think must be similar to what jouke is talking about. They're like chewing a piece of liquorice-flavoured rubber, but they're highly addictive.

Also had a bottle of liquorice liqueur from a supermarket in Italy - they're big liquorice fiends there too. One shot of that is enough to give me a pounding high blood pressure headache - felt like my noggin was going to go pop. So I wouldn't recommend that as a daily tipple.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:26 AM on January 8, 2009

I wasn't talking about liquorice gums but about liquorice that contains an ingredient that's called 'gum arabic'. To me that ingredient is an indication of higher quality of liquorice.
posted by jouke at 6:40 AM on January 8, 2009

Hey people with access to salty licorice, can you please send me some salty licorice to San Francisco? I promise eternal gratitude in return. My address is in my profile.

You can get it in San Francisco. miette and the Candy Store both carry it. IKEA and Cost Plus both have a small selection as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:02 PM on January 8, 2009

I ordered some of this stuff from the Amazon link, and I can't stand it. If anybody wants it, I'll happily ship it to you. MeFiMail me if you're interested.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:00 AM on January 14, 2009

By some, I actually mean "an assload," because 8 tubs was the smallest amount I could order
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:01 AM on January 14, 2009

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