Can Parrots Eat Licorice?

The other day I was eating some licorice when the thought occurred to me — can parrots partake in the delightful snack? Licorice comes in many forms and is originally from a plant so surely my parrots must be able to join me in this treat? So naturally I have researched this and would like to share that with you, let’s see if parrots can eat licorice.

Ultimately, no, parrots should not eat licorice. Licorice root itself, is considered toxic to parrots so please do not give your bird this to chew on. They should not be fed candies very often either due to the sugar content so avoid licorice in all forms.

So there you have it you should absolutely not be feeding licorice to your parrot for a snack, there are so many other options for tasty treats that this should be easily avoidable.

That being said there are some studies showing a medicinal benefit to parrots ingesting small amounts of licorice root. This means there may be specific cases where it may be advised to give your parrot licorice.

So let’s explore licorice…

What is licorice?

Licorice is a plant from the bean family of Fabaceae, from which we use the root to extract sweet flavorings. It is similar in taste to star anise or fennel although the plants are not closely related.

The root of a licorice plant can be used for medicinal purposes, mainly in herbalism or traditional medicines. Excessive consumption of licorice can be detrimental to our health as it can increase blood sugar levels or even weaken muscles. In extreme cases overconsumption of licorice can lead to death.

What is Licorice flavoring?

The most common use for the licorice plant is to flavor. It has been used in tobacco products to enhance the flavor and as a moistening agent. This has since been discontinued in cigarettes as all flavored cigarettes other than menthol have been banned.

Most people associate licorice with the candies that are readily available across the globe, this treat is mainly purchased in Europe. The actual amount of licorice in these is very low with most of the flavor coming from aniseed oil. In the Netherlands you can actually buy something called zoethout which is the licorice root on which you can chew. It releases the sweet flavor slowly and causes less damage to your teeth than sucrose.

Can Parrots Eat Zoethout?

Zoethout is literally the dutch word for licorice, this means your parrot cannot eat it. It is just a small piece of licorice root that is available to chew on for humans so is not advisable to give your parrot.

What can a parrot have instead of licorice?

As mentioned earlier Star Anise is a good option as an alternative to licorice root, for both humans and parrots. Star Anise has been used as bird food for years and can be found in pet shops to offer for foraging exercises with your parrot.

Another alternative is cinnamon sticks as they are similar in their sweet woody flavor, they can chew on them but the stick nature prevents too much being consumed. This makes for a fun activity for your parrot without too much sugar intake, however, use them sporadically and don’t let them consume too much just to stay safe.

Parrots eat a wide variety of plants but one good alternative is fennel, it could be cooked or uncooked they will enjoy it either way. Ultimately it comes down to whether or not your parrot likes the taste and texture.

Can licorice be used medicinally?

Despite the worries of toxicity some holistic vets use licorice to treat some illnesses such as hepatitis or liver failure. This is should only be used in a tiny amount and to treat very specific illnesses. Licorice can help with bacterial infections due to its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.

These findings were on small scale studies and should only be used under veterinary supervision. If you are interested in these medicinal benefits discuss them with your vet as there are only a few illnesses in which licorice can help and for the most part it should be avoided where possible.

Can I give my parrot licorice candies?

As with all confectionary it is not advisable to give this to your parrot, or any bird for that matter. Foods which are high in sugar, fat, and sodium are not strictly toxic but can cause a lot of health issues for your parrot.

Licorice candies specifically should not be given to your parrot due to the toxic nature of licorice itself. Whilst the amount found in the candy might be minimal, any ingestion of the plant in this form should be avoided at all times. With so many other, healthier options to offer this to your parrot is unnecessarily dangerous.

What happens if you give your parrot licorice?

Medicinal reasons aside, licorice is toxic or assumed toxic to parrots, this means that your parrot will react badly to eating this as a food in large quantities. Looking at licorice specifically it can cause sodium and water retention and deplete potassium. As with any toxic food, as the number of toxins in the body build up in turn the effect they have will also build. So excessive consumption of licorice will cause your parrot to steadily feel worse and worse. This will be detrimental to your parrot and in extreme cases with excessive licorice eating could cause death.

How to tell if your parrot has eaten licorice

In the situation that your parrot has possibly eaten licorice look out for common symptoms of poisoning are as follows. If your bird exhibits any of these you should call your vet and speak to them. The best thing to do is monitor symptoms and if they don’t clear in a day or so then action is needed.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Increased urination
  • Blindness
  • Tremors
  • Excitability
  • Depression
  • Staggering or lack of coordination
  • Falling from perch
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

In conclusion, although some schools of thought do support the use of licorice for medicinal purposes, for the main part it is not advisable to feed to your parrot. Unless you are a trained professional using it sparingly for an ill parrot then it is best to avoid the root altogether.

With so many other options available there is really no need to expose your parrot to this kind of risk recreationally. Whilst the medicinal properties are useful, the average parrot does not need to be ingesting this plant. Try Star Anise or Fennel instead if you want to give your pet a tasty treat without too much risk.

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