Liquorice: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Galegeae
Genus: Glycyrrhiza
Species: G. glabra
Binomial name
Glycyrrhiza glabra
  • Glycyrrhiza glandulifera Waldst. & Kit.[1]
  • Glycyrrhiza glabra var. glandulifera[1]

Liquorice (pronounced /ˈlɪkərɪʃ/ LIK-ə-rish or /ˈlɪkərəs/ LIK-ə-rəs),[2] also licorice, is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas), native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is not related to Anise, Star Anise or Fennel, which are the source of superficially similar flavouring compounds. It is an herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 centimetres (3–6 in) long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm (½–⅓ in) long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 centimetres (1 in) long, containing several seeds.[3] The flavor of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole ("trans"-1-methoxy-4-(prop-1-enyl)benzene), an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and other herbs. Additional sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizic acid, an anti-viral compound sweeter than sugar.[4]


Cultivation and uses

Liquorice grows best in deep, fertile, well-drained soils, with full sun, and is harvested in the autumn, two to three years after planting.[3]

Today, liquorice extract is produced by boiling liquorice root and subsequently evaporating most of the water. In fact, the name 'liquorice'/'licorice' is derived (via the Old French licoresse), from the Ancient Greek glukurrhiza, meaning 'sweet root'.[5] 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.

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 very low.

In the Netherlands, where liquorice candy ("drop") is one of the most popular forms of sweet, only a few of the many forms that are sold contain aniseed (although mixing it with mint, menthol or with laurel is popular, and mixing it with ammonium chloride creates the very popular salty liquorice known in Dutch as zoute drop.)[6]

Pontefract in Yorkshire was the first place where liquorice mixed with sugar began to be used as a sweet in the same way it is in the modern day.[7] Pontefract Cakes were originally made there. In Yorkshire and Lancashire it is colloquially known as Spanish, supposedly because Spanish monks grew liquorice root at Rievaulx Abbey near Thirsk.[8]

Liquorice flavouring is also used in soft drinks, and in some herbal teas where it provides a sweet aftertaste. The flavour is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavours. Dutch youth often make their own "dropwater" (liquorice water) by putting a few pieces of laurel liquorice and a piece of liquorice root in a bottle with water and then shaking it to a frothy liquid.

Liquorice root

Liquorice is popular in Italy (particularly in the South) and Spain in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as a 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. In Calabria a popular liqueur is made from pure liquorice extract. Liquorice is also very popular in Syria where it is sold as a drink. Dried liquorice root can be chewed as a sweet. Black liquorice contains approximately 100 calories per ounce (15 kJ/g).[9]

Chinese cuisine uses liquorice as a culinary spice for savoury foods. It is often employed to flavour broths and foods simmered in soy sauce.

Other herbs and spices of similar flavour include anise, star anise, tarragon, and fennel.

It is also the main ingredient of a very well known soft drink in Egypt, called عرقسوس ('erk-soos).

Use in medicine

Glycyrrhiza glabra from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants

Liquorice may be useful in conventional and naturopathic medicine for both mouth ulcers[10] and peptic ulcers.[11] Non-prescription aphthous ulcer treatment CankerMelts incorporates glycyrrhiza in a dissolving adherent troche. Liquorice is also a mild laxative and may be used as a topical antiviral agent for shingles, ophthalmic, oral or genital herpes. The compound glycyrrhizic acid, found in liquorice, is now routinely used throughout Japan for the treatment and control of chronic viral hepatitis, and its transaminase-lowering effect is clinically well recognized. Hepatoprotective mechanisms have been demonstrated in mice. [12] Recent studies indicate that glycyrrhizic acid disrupts latent Kaposi sarcoma (as also demonstrated with other herpesvirus infections in the active stage), exhibiting a strong anti-viral effect.[13]

Liquorice affects the body's endocrine system as it contains isoflavones (phytoestrogens). It might lower the amount of serum testosterone slightly,[14] but whether it affects the amount of free testosterone is unclear. Consuming liquorice can prevent hyperkalemia. Large doses of glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid in liquorice extract can lead to hypokalemia and serious increases in blood pressure, a syndrome known as apparent mineralocorticoid excess. These side effects stem from the inhibition of the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (type 2) and subsequent increase in activity of cortisol on the kidney. 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase normally inactivates cortisol in the kidney; thus, liquorice's inhibition of this enzyme makes the concentration of cortisol appear to increase. Cortisol acts at the same receptor as the hormone aldosterone in the kidney and the effects mimic aldosterone excess, although aldosterone remains low or normal during liquorice overdose. To decrease the chances of these serious side effects, deglycyrrhizinated liquorice preparations are available. The disabling of similar enzymes in the gut by glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid also causes increased mucus and decreased acid secretion. It inhibits Helicobacter pylori, is used as an aid for healing stomach and duodenal ulcers, and in moderate amounts may soothe an upset stomach. Liquorice can be used to treat ileitis, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease as it is antispasmodic in the bowels.[15]

The compounded carbenoxolone is derived from liquorice. Studies indicate it may inhibit an enzyme in the brain that is involved in making stress-related hormones, which have been associated with age-related mental decline.[16]

Use in alternative medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, liquorice is commonly used in herbal formulae to "harmonize" the other ingredients in the formula and to carry the formula to the twelve "regular meridians"[17] and to relieve a spasmodic cough.

In herbalism it is used in the Hoxsey anti-cancer formula, and is a considered adaptogen which helps reregulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. It can also be used for auto-immune conditions including lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and animal dander allergies.[15]

Uses with tobacco

Much liquorice production goes toward flavouring, sweetening and conditioning tobacco products.[18] Liquorice adds a mellow, sweet woody flavour and enhances the taste of tobacco. The burning liquorice also generates some toxins found in the smoke,[19] and the glycyrrhizin expands the airways, which allows users to inhale more smoke.[20]


Excessive consumption of liquorice or liquorice candy is known to be toxic to the liver[21] and cardiovascular system, and may produce hypertension [22] and oedema.[23] In occasional cases blood pressure has increased with excessive consumption of liquorice tea, but such occasions are rare and reversible when the herb is withdrawn.[24] Most cases of hypertension from liquorice were caused by eating too much concentrated liquorice candy.[25] Doses as low as 50 grams (2 oz) of liquorice daily for two weeks can cause a significant rise in blood pressure.[26]

The European Commission 2008 report suggested that “people should not consume any more than 100mg of glycyrrhizic acid a day, for it can raise blood pressure or cause muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, headaches or swelling, and lower testosterone levels in men.” Haribo, manufacturer of Pontefract cakes, stated: “Haribo advises, as with any other food, liquorice products should be eaten in moderation.” A 56-year-old Yorkshire woman was hospitalized after liquorice overdose (200 grams or 7 ounces a day), which caused muscle failure. The hospital restored her potassium levels, by intravenous drip and tablets, allowing her to recover after 4 days.[27]

Comparative studies of pregnant women suggest that liquorice can also adversely affect both IQ and behaviour traits of offspring.[28]



  1. ^ a b c "Glycyrrhiza glabra information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 6 March 2008. 
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster Online: Licorice
  3. ^ a b Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. ISBN 0-333-47494-5
  4. ^ Russian Academic Dictionary: "Anethole"
  5. ^ "AskOxford Search results: licorice". Compact Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  6. ^ [1] Dutch website of Wageningen University with English information about "Drop"
  7. ^ "Right good food from the Ridings". 25 October 2007. 
  8. ^ "Where Liquorice Roots Go Deep". Northern Echo. Retrieved 9 December 2008. 
  9. ^ Licorice Calories
  10. ^ Das, S.K.; Das V, Gulati AK & Singh VP (1989). "Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice in aphthous ulcers". The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India (Association of Physicians of India) 37 (10): 647. PMID 2632514. 
  11. ^ Krausse, R.; Bielenberg J. Blaschek W. & Ullmann U. (2004). "In vitro anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of Extractum liquiritiae, glycyrrhizin and its metabolites". The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (Oxford University Press) 54 (1): 243–246. doi:10.1093/jac/dkh287. PMID 15190039. 
  12. ^ Protective mechanism of glycyrrhizin on acute liver injury induced by carbon tetrachloride in mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 2007 Oct;30(10):1898-904
  13. ^ Curreli, Francesca; Friedman-Kien, Alvin E.; Flore, Ornella. "Glycyrrhizic acid alters Kaposi sarcoma–associated herpesvirus latency, triggering p53-mediated apoptosis in transformed B lymphocytes" Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol. 115, Issue 3 (March 1, 2005) 115(3): 642-652 (2005). doi:10.1172/JCI23334.
  14. ^ Materia Medica, retrieved 24 May 2007
  15. ^ a b Winston, David; Steven Maimes (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Bensky, Dan; et al. (2004). Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, Third Edition. Eastland Press. ISBN 0939616424. 
  18. ^ Tobacco Documents Online
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ What's in a cigarette?
  21. ^ The Nurse's Guide To Herbal Remedies from Salisbury University
  22. ^ Liquorice and hypertension Editorial in The Netherlands Journal of Medicine, 2005
  23. ^ A Guide to Medicinal and Aromatic Plants from Purdue University
  24. ^ Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Safety Issues Affecting Herbs: Herbs that May Increase Blood Pressue, retrieved 24 May 2007
  25. ^ Woman 'overdoses' on liquorice, BBC News online, published Friday, 21 May 2004
  26. ^ Sigurjónsdóttir, H.A., et al. Liquorice-induced rise in blood pressure: a linear dose-response relationship. Journal of Human Hypertension (2001) 15, 549-552.
  27. ^ BBC Woman 'overdoses' on liquorice 21 May 2004
  28. ^ Eurekalert press release 2009

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LIQUORICE. The hard and semi-vitreous sticks of paste, black in colour and possessed of a sweet somewhat astringent taste, known as liquorice paste or black sugar, are the inspissated juice of the roots of a leguminous plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra, the radix glycyrrhizae of the pharmacopoeia. The plant is cultivated throughout the warmer parts of Europe, especially on the Mediterranean shores, and to some extent in Louisiana and California. The roots for use are obtained in lengths of 3 or 4 ft., varying in diameter from 4 to i in.; they are soft, flexible and fibrous, and internally of a bright yellow colour, with a characteristic, sweet pleasant taste. To this sweet taste of its root the plant owes its generic name Glycyrrhiza (yXvKi)iik-a, the sweet-root), of which the word liquorice is a corruption. The roots contain grape-sugar, starch, resin, asparagine, malic acid and the glucoside glycyrrhizin, CN 1135 09 7 a yellow amorphous powder with an acid reaction and a distinctive bitter-sweet taste. On hydrolysis, glycyrrhizin yields glucose and glycyrrhetin.

Stick liquorice is made by crushing and grinding the roots to a pulp, which is boiled in water over an open fire, and the decoction separated from the solid residue of the root is evaporated till a sufficient degree of concentration is attained, after which, on cooling, it is rolled into the form of sticks or other shapes for the market. The preparation of the juice is a widely extended industry along the Mediterranean coasts; but the quality best appreciated in the United Kingdom is made in Calabria, and sold under the names of Solazzi and Corigliano juice. Liquorice enters into the composition of many cough lozenges and other demulcent preparations; and in the form of aromatic syrups and elixirs it has a remarkable effect in masking the taste of nauseous medicines.

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