Various liqourice root slivers

Image via Wikipedia

Botanical Name: Glycyrrhiza glabra
G. glabra

Common Names: The word liquorice / licorice is derived (via the Old French licoresse) from the Greek   name  glukurrhiza, meaning “sweet root”,  glukus means “sweet”   and rhiza   means “root”.   It is called as adhimadhuram  in Tamil, irattimadhuram  in Malayalam, yastimadhu  in Sanskrit and in Bengali, mulethi  in Hindi, Vel Mee  in Sinhalese and jethimadh  in Gujarati language.

Habitat :
The liquorice plant is a legume native to southern Europe, India, and parts of Asia.

It is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 cm (3–6 in) long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm (1/3 to 1/2 in) long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 cm (1 in) long, containing several seeds. The roots are stoloniferous.

click to see the picture

click to  see

Other herbs and spices of similar flavour include Anise, star anise, tarragon, and fennel.The taste of licorice is similar to that of aniseed and fennel, and thus licorice can be considered to be a spice. However, it has a long history as being of value as an herbal remedy, and it is therefore often considered to be an herb rather than a spice. The licorice plant is a member of the bean family, but its seed pods are hair free in contrast to similar plants. Its roots contain the very sweet, characteristic juice, and as a tribute to this, the plant is named Glycyrrhiza glabra   meaning the sweet root with hairless seed pods. Corruption of the Greek name glyrrhiza led to the other official name, Liquiritra officinalis; the medieval name was gliquiricia from which the name licorice or liquorice is obtained. The sweetest sources of licorice come from plants growing in Spain and Italy, although it is probable that the original plant came from Russia or China. Spanish licorice was brought to England, and it became an important product in the town of Pontefract.
Cultivation and uses
Liquorice is grown as a root crop mainly in southern Europe. Very little commercial liquorice is grown in North America, where it is replaced by a related native species, American Licorice (G. lepidota), which has similar uses.

Liquorice extract is produced by boiling liquorice root and subsequently evaporating most of the water (in fact, the word ‘liquorice’ is derived from the Ancient Greek words for ‘sweet root’). Liquorice extract is traded both in solid and syrup form. Its active principle is glycyrrhizin, a sweetener more than 50 times as sweet as sucrose which also has pharmaceutical effects. The related Chinese Liquorice (G. uralensis), which is used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine, contains this chemical in much greater concentration.
The pleasant quality of true licorice led to it being incorporated into many traditional Chinese remedies, where it was credited with harmonizing the body’s response when it was exposed to the contrasting actions of other herbs in the formula. It has also been utilized in Chinese spice mixtures, and is often incorporated in desserts, confectionaries, candies and alcoholic drinks. Further uses include its addition to tobaccos and snuff. Currently, it is included in many simple medications, especially for pharyngitis and cough. Traditionally, the list of indications is very extensive, and includes infections, aphthous ulcers, skin disorders, rheumatic and other inflammatory diseases, asthma, hepatic and gastroduodenal diseases.

There is no doubt that glycyrrhizin has an aldosterone like effect, and excessive intake of licorice can cause hypokalemia and hypertension. However, the claimed value of licorice products in treating hypo-adrenal states is disputed. Other hormonal effects have been suggested, including impairment of gonadal function.

Thus, this ancient herbal spice has dubious medical values that are complemented by its undoubted toxic potential. It may surprise many people in the U.S. to know that familiar licorice candy is usually not true licorice, since the flavor is generally provided by aniseed, molasses and corn syrup. Eaters of typical U.S. licorice products may put on weight, but this will not be explainable by the hormonal effects of the compounds found in true licorice.
Liquorice flavour is found in a wide variety of liquorice candies. The most popular in the United Kingdom are Liquorice allsorts. In continental Europe, however, far stronger, saltier candies are preferred. It should be noted, though, that in most of these candies the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, and the actual content of liquorice is quite low. Additionally, liquorice is found in some soft drinks (such as root beer), and is in some herbal teas where it provides a sweet aftertaste. The flavour is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavours.

Liquorice is popular in Italy, particularly in the South, in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as mouth-freshener. Throughout Italy unsweetened liquorice is consumed in the form of small black pieces made only from 100% pure liquorice extract; the taste is bitter and intense. Liquorice is also very popular in Syria where it is sold as a drink. Dried liquorice root can be chewed as a sweet. According to the US Department of Agriculture Food Database, black licorice contains approximately 100 calories per ounce Chinese cuisine uses liquorice as a culinary spice for savoury foods. It is often employed to flavour broths and foods simmered in soy sauce.

Useful Parts :The roots and rhizomes are the important source for the flavor.

Medicinal Properties:Licorice contains several active phytomedicines. The main one is the saponin-like triterpene glycoside, glycyrrhizin (also called glycyrrhizic acid and glycyrrhizinic acid), which is much sweeter than sugar. This compound is hydrolyzed in the bowel to glycyrrhetic (or glycyrrhetinic) acid, which is also called enoxolone. The latter has been marketed as a succinate derivative, carbenoxolone, which is prescribed in Europe and Japan as a treatment for gastric ulcers, although its value is uncertain. Licorice flavonoids are believed to have antioxidant properties. Additional effects of glycyrrhizin include the surprising finding in Japan that this agents helps improve liver function in hepatitis C. Similarly, some reports demonstrate improvement in AIDS. All such studies raise unanswered questions as to the true value of licorice in the modern era.
Liquorice plays an important part in unani as well as Ayurvedic system of medicines. It is mentioned as one of principal drugs by ‘Sushruta’ one of the prominent Sage physician of Vedic times. Liquorice has been used for its rejuvenating properties especially for longer periods. In earlier times, it was used to quench thirst, alleviate feverishness, pain, cough & distress of breathing. Liquorice is also a popular flavouring agent. It is tall erect herb growing upto about 1.5 metres in height. It has compound leaves lilac or violet flowers flat fruit & and is densely covered with small apineous out growths. The dried roots & under ground stems or rhizomes of the plant constitute the drug. Liquorice is cultivated in southern Europe, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Greece & Russia. In India, it is cultivated in northwest parts of the country and large quantities are imported for medicinal purposes.

The root of the plant is a laxative & expectorant. When externally used it has a soothing effect on the skin. Powdered liquorice is very popular in allopathic medicine.

Liquorice is an excellent remedy for relieving pain discomfort & other symptoms caused by acrid matter in the stomach. It should be taken in powder form.


The herb is a recognised home remedy for sore throat. A small piece of raw liquorice if chewed or sucked provides relief by soothing the inflammation.
Historical View : Liquorice root possesses demulcent properties: and hence is useful to allay cough, and in catarrhal affections. It has also been found serviceable in irritable conditions of the mucous membrane of the urinary organs, etc.”

Other Uses:
Most liquorice is used as a flavouring agent for tobacco. For example, M&F Worldwide reported in 2011 that about 63% of its liquorice product sales are to the worldwide tobacco industry for use as tobacco flavour enhancing and moistening agents in the manufacture of American blend cigarettes, moist snuff, chewing tobacco, and pipe tobacco  American blend cigarettes made up a larger portion of worldwide tobacco consumption in earlier years,  and the percentage of liquorice products used by the tobacco industry was higher in the past. M&F Worldwide sold approximately 73% of its liquorice products to the tobacco industry in 2005.  A consultant to M&F Worldwide’s predecessor company stated in 1975 that it was believed that well over 90% of the total production of liquorice extract and its derivatives found its way into tobacco products.

Liquorice provides tobacco products with a natural sweetness and a distinctive flavour that blends readily with the natural and imitation flavouring components employed in the tobacco industry. It represses harshness and is not detectable as liquorice by the consumer. Tobacco flavourings such as liquorice also make it easier to inhale the smoke by creating bronchodilators, which open up the lungs.  Chewing tobacco requires substantially higher levels of liquorice extract as emphasis on the sweet flavour appears highly desirable

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Help taken from:Medicinal Spices Exhibit and and

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *