Liquorice, popularly known as mulethi in India, has long been used in home-remedies and medicated products for treating sore throat, congestion and a host of other ailments. Despite its myriad health benefits, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests it to be detrimental to pregnant ladies.

A team of experts from the University of Helsinki in Finland studied 378 people ageing 13 years whose mothers consumed liquorice during pregnancy. It was found that fetuses that were exposed to large amount of liquorice in the womb didn’t fare well in cognitive reasoning and memory capacity measuring tests as compared to their counterparts. "The difference was equivalent to about seven IQ points," noted PTI.

Such participants also experienced more ADHD-type problems than others along with early puberty in girls. Liquorice contains glycyrrhizin which the study deemed harmful for expecting mothers and their fetus. Large amount of glycyrrhizin was defined at 500 milligrams a week (250 gms of liquorice) or more. "Little or no consumption of liquorice was stated at less than 249 mg of glycyrrhizin per week.

Pregnant women or those trying to conceive should therefore be informed about the ill-effects of food items or products that contain glycyrrhizin. "Glycyrrhizin is one of many factors that affect the development of a fetus but it is impossible to say whether it expressly affects the development of a certain individual," noted the study.

Studies and researches around animal experiments have confirmed effects of liquorice.

"Glycyrrhizin intensifies the effects of stress hormone cortisol by inhibiting the enzyme that inactivates cortisol. While cortisol is essential to the development of a foetus, it is detrimental in large amounts. It has long been known that glycyrrhizin causes higher blood pressure and shorter pregnancies in humans, but such long-lasting effects on the foetus have not been proven before," PTI reported.