Acute hypokalemic myopathy due to chronic licorice ingestion: report of a case

F M Corsi, S Galgani, C Gasparini, M Giacanelli, G Piazza
Italian Journal of Neurological Sciences 1983, 4 (4): 493-7
A 35-year-old man, who had been ingesting one or two bags of tablets of pure licorice daily (20-40 g/day) for about two years, developed an acute myopathy with high levels of serum muscle enzymes and the typical features of mineralocorticoid excess: serious hypokalemia, hypertension, metabolic alkalosis. Both plasma renin and serum aldosterone were below the normal values. Ultrastructural study of muscle showed only minor, aspecific changes. Glycyrrhizinic acid, a steroid-like glycoside contained in natural licorice, has a well-known mineralocorticoid activity but severe potassium depletion and rhabdomyolysis due to chronic licorice ingestion have rarely been reported. This case further indicates that such a possibility is to be considered in the differential diagnosis of a patient admitted because of acute flaccid tetraparesis and hypokalemia.

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