Liquorice (Br.) or licorice (Am.) is the plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra, in the Family Fabaceae from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a legume related to beans and peas and native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. Very little commercial liquorice is grown in North America, but wild liquorice (G. lepidota) is quite common.
Liquorice extract is produced by boiling liquorice root and subsequently evaporating all or most of the water. 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 active medical effects.
The flavour is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavours. Liquorice can also be found in many candies. The most popular in the United Kingdom and North America are very sweet Liquorice Allsorts. In continental Europe, however, far stronger, saltier, candies are preferred. It is well regarded as a low fat sweet. Liquorice is also found in some soft drinks.
Liquorice is a mild laxative. Also, the glycyrrhizin that it contains can lead to an increased blood pressure when liquorice candies are consumed in larger quantities (over 50 g per day). This is due to effects of glycyrrhizin on the enzyme 11²-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (type 1).
The word liquorice means 'sweet root' in Ancient Greek.
- Herbmed entry (http://www.herbmed.org/Herbs/Herb101.htm)
- Glycyrrhiza glabra at plants for a future (http://www.scs.leeds.ac.uk/cgi-bin/pfaf/arr_html?Glycyrrhiza+glabra)
- Glycyrrhiza glabra at Liber Herbarum II (http://www.liberherbarum.com/Pn0259.HTM)
- Glycyrrhiza glabra at 'A Modern Herbal' by Mrs. M. Grieve 1931 (http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/liquor32.html)