Everyone is familiar with licorice because it is used in the U.S. as a flavoring for candy and beverages. And no wonder it contains a compound that is 50 times sweeter than table sugar. But licorice is actually a lush, green herb with a history of traditional uses as well.
Native to southern Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean, some varieties of the licorice plant can reach 7 feet in height. To develop their extensive root system, licorice requires the rich soils commonly found in subtropical climates.
From June to August, the plant blooms in clusters of yellow or purple flowers. It's the yellow, fleshy root below the surface, however, which is valuable for health promotion. Licorice is used for various digestive system concerns.
During the thirteenth century, licorice root extract was widely used for immune health and respiratory health. It is likely merchants sold it combined with honey, making it the first, true licorice candy. We know also that during the late Middle Ages, a type of licorice lozenge was popular. The familiar, extruded licorice candy of today, however, originated in Holland at the start of the seventeenth century.
Licorice is also known as liquorice, American licorice, Spanish licorice, Russian licorice, sweet root, and glycyrrhiza glabra.
- Licorice naturally contains important constituents such as flavonoids.
- Licorice is an herb with a long history of use.
- Licorice is one of the most important plants used by Chinese herbalists.
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