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Category: Food



Introduction and description

Liquorice or licorice comes from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, a leguminous plant native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds. The word 'liquorice'/'licorice' is derived from the Greek (glukurrhiza), meaning "sweet root". And liquorice is not only used as a sweet but has healing properties.


Glycyrrhizin is the main sweet-tasting compound from liquorice root. It is 30–50 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar). Pure glycyrrhizin is odorless. Although sweet, the taste sensation of glycyrrhizin is different from that of sugar. The sweetness of glycyrrhizin has a slower onset than sugar has, and lingers in the mouth for some time. Unlike the artificial sweetener aspartame, glycyrrhizin maintains its sweetness under heating. Glycyrrhizin is used as a flavoring in some sweets, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco products.

In Japan, where concern over the safety of artificial sweeteners during the 1970s led to a shift towards plant-derived sugar substitutes, glycyrrhizin is a commonly used sweetener, often used in combination with another plant-based sweetener, stevia.

Glycyrrhizin and other licorice root products have been used for numerous medical purposes, in particular, treatment of peptic ulcers and as an expectorant. According to MedlinePlus and the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, licorice is "possibly effective" for dyspepsia in combination with other herbs. Regarding stomach ulcers, specifically, there is "some evidence...that specially prepared licorice will speed the healing of stomach ulcers"

An un-blinded study of 82 patients from the early 1980s, published in the British Medical Journal, reported that Caved-S had a therapeutic effect is similar to that of cimetidine in the treatment of gastric ulcers.

It should not be used regularly as it causes potassium loss and hypokalemia, but it does have some medicinal efficacy as a one off treatment”.


Liquorice is found in a wide variety of liquorice candies or sweets.

In the Netherlands, where liquorice candy ("drop") is one of the most popular forms of sweet, the liquorice is mixed with mint, menthol or with laurel. It is also mixed with ammonium chloride ('salmiak'). The most popular liquorice, known in the Netherlands as zoute drop (salty liquorice) actually contains very little salt, i.e. Sodium; “the salty taste is probably due to ammonium chloride”.

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. Pontefract cakes were originally made there. In County Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire it is colloquially known as Spanish, supposedly because Spanish monks grew liquorice root at Rievaulx Abbey near Thirsk.


Liquorice allsorts are sweets made of liquorice, sugar, coconut, aniseed jelly, fruit flavourings, and gelatine. They were first produced in Sheffield, England, by Geo. Bassett & Co Ltd . Bassetts were taken over by Cadbury's but the name remains.

Liquorice flavouring is also used in soft drinks, and in some herbal infusions 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) and Spain in its natural form.

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.

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

It is all too easy to overdose on liquorice as the flavour for some is very appealing. Do not overdose!!

Excessive consumption of liquorice or liquorice candy is known to be toxic to the liver and may produce hypertension. Most cases of hypertension from liquorice were caused by eating too much concentrated liquorice candy. 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." Do not overdose.

How it works

The observations describe the healing effects of liquorice and their mechanism of action.




Too easy to overdose - take care

Related observations