Licorice and my adrenal gland.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am walking around on this Earth with but one adrenal gland to my name, even though the Standard Model Human has two. About eight years ago, we discovered that one of mine had a grapefruit-sized tumor on it, so the doctors said: “Right! That’s enough of that!” And out came my pheocromocytoma, adrenal gland and all.

Which was a good thing, bottom line, but still and all, humans were designed to have two, and having only one can screw a person up a bit. The job of the adrenals is to produce and secret certain hormones, and if one of your adrenals has to go it alone? It gets a wee bit tired and cranky.

And here’s a funny thing! According to this post at io9, “if you crave licorice, you need hormones.” Why is that funny? Because I crave licorice not infrequently, and before my poor body and its lonely and beleaguered adrenal were set right by the good hands of Lisa My Naturopath, I craved licorice all the time, and if I got my hands on some and wasn’t careful, I would eat it until it made me a bit ill — the only food about which that has ever been remotely true for me.

When you crave licorice you need hormones

Addison’s disease is a disease of the adrenal system, often brought on by an attack from a person’s own immune system, that causes the adrenal glands to produce too few steroid hormones. This can cause weakness, abdominal pain, and can even cause blood-pressure crashes that end in coma. One of the hormones regulates salt excretion, which causes people with the disease to get rid of too much salt, and have extreme cravings for it. That’s pretty straightforward. Stranger, though, is their craving for licorice. Doctor’s couldn’t account for it, until they saw that licorice contained glasorisic acid, which causes salt retention. Without having any idea as to why they might want licorice, patients gravitated toward a food that had substance that relieved their symptoms.


I’m not entirely certain this lines up directly with my experience, but there sure seems to be some kind of connection. And I just thought I’d share.

To find out all kinds of other interesting things about what certain cravings might mean, click here. I also found the one about craving ice of particular interest: I craved ice, like WHOA, the entire time I was pregnant with the girl, ate it all the time, asked for it again and again in the hospital as I awaited her arrival — and the instant she was out, the craving disappeared. io9 suggests that a craving for ice may be a result of an iron deficiency, which, given my history and the fact that I was pregnant, kind of makes sense to me.




  1. Emily, I had an aunt who passed away a couple years ago from adrenal insufficiency. She craved salt.

    What complicated matters in our one-size-fits-all cultural milieu, is that she knew SALT IS EVIL. Everyone who pretends to know anything about health, says so.

    So my poor aunt was salt-deficient most of the time.

    She craved more salt.

    And she feared to take enough salt.

    Which caused her blood pressure to sag to ridiculously low levels and limited the oxygen supply reaching her brain.

    This replaced the paralyzing anxiety with paralyzing unconsciousness.

    Ultimately an episode of low blood pressure killed her.

    Meanwhile, she’d have been more comfortable and likely had more useful years in her life, had she just accepted that the salt warnings are for people whose blood pressure gets too high, and that she should give in to her craving and maintain a normal electrolyte balance in her blood.

    And maybe eat some licorice.

    I wonder what it would cost to remove half of the sugar from licorice juice, so folks who consume the stuff as an aid to salt retention, don’t have to overdose on carboyhdrate to get the benefits. Hmm………

  2. I hate licorice. What does that mean?

  3. elizabeth brown

     /  November 22, 2012

    I have craved Liquorice since i was a small child. I have also suffered with fluid retention, and 16 year ago i was diagnosed with an under active thyroid gland. I hopefully after trial and error and a lot of convincing my GP that my thyroxine dosage was to low,got it stable,and i noticed my craving for Liqourice had subsided. I’m now beginning to think my craving was conected to my thyroid.

  4. Lisa

     /  January 15, 2014

    Although I am late to this thread, I thought I would add my two cents worth: I have been suffering from adrenal problems (undiagnosed) and high blood pressure (diagnosed) for the past year and a half. I had a lot of swelling in my ankles and feet…a LOT. My doctor put me on blood pressure medication with a diuretic and in about a month the swelling and my blood pressure were down. A few months later my skin was so incredibly dry (legs and feet) that it actually burned and was sore to the touch. I also began craving licorice to the point that I went online and ordered salted licorice from Sweden (or some other blond country:>). Anyway, the fact that I was suddenly craving licorice was very strange to me as I have absolutely HATED licorice my entire life! I couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t get enough. Now it makes more sense!

    Thanks for the info!