Licorice is a perennial plant that belongs to the Legume family. This plant also has other names: licorice and licorice.
Licorice has a branching thick root that grows three to four meters deep into the ground. The root system of the plant is extensive, some of it has up to several dozen processes that lie at different depths.
Licorice has straight stems that almost do not branch. They are usually one or two meters high. Licorice has leaves up to twenty centimeters long, on which there are leaves, whose number ranges from 6 to 20. They have an oval egg-shaped shape, pointed to the tip. They also have glands, due to which the leaves are quite sticky to the touch.
Licorice flowers have a small diameter (about one centimeter) and are collected in clusters. They appear in late summer and are white or purple.
Licorice fruits ripen by the end of summer or early fall, representing a bean with several seeds.
It is believed that licorice appeared in the Mediterranean countries. Wild licorice grows in Europe (mainly in the Italian and French territories), Northern regions of Africa, Central and Western Asian States.
In Russia, licorice is found in the southern regions, in the Western part of Siberia and in the Caucasus. Do not grow it in many areas where the climate is temperate, because the plant does not tolerate cold winters. You can also find licorice on sand-rich soils, on the banks of steppe rivers, in the semi-desert zone, near the sea, as well as in the fields. It happens that licorice grows on soils rich in clay and Chernozem. This plant forms thickets along roads and paths.
The history of licorice root dates back several millennia. However, what is best known today as a sweet, salty or spicy treat was considered a medicinal product until the 18th century. Licorice is used mostly for stomach and respiratory diseases. Mention of it can be found in Chinese herbalists and in Egyptian papyri. So, licorice was found even in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Aristotle’s student Theophrastus, the founder of botany, described the ability of the root of a plant to quench even a strong thirst. And the troops of Alexander the Great have survived long campaigns in part without water because of drinking licorice. And in a later period, the Roman legionaries, it was included in the daily diet. Turkish and French soldiers carried licorice with them all the time during world war I.
Ancient Greek and Roman doctors glorified the root as a cure for colds, coughs and catarrh (inflammation of the mucous membrane). In the middle ages, licorice was credited with magical powers, attributing fantastic cures to it. And during the Renaissance, licorice became a “sweet medicine”. A book on botany from the 17th century describes this plant and the applications of the juice extracted from its roots.
Finally, pharmacist George Dunhill in 1760 added various ingredients to licorice root extract, including sugar. That’s when licorice as a treat occurred.
How to choose
Today in stores you can choose a ready-made spice, or just licorice root.
When choosing a spice, you should pay attention to the tightness of the packaging, as it eliminates the appearance of foreign substances and impurities in the spice.
When choosing a licorice root, pay attention to the color: a high-quality rhizome will be brown-brown on the outside and yellow-in the section. The grated root will have a sweet taste and a delicate sweet smell.
When buying licorice candies, pay attention to the composition of the product. So, sweets should be made only from sugar, molasses, starch, flour, gelatin, salt and flavorings. And cover them with a mixture of dye and anise oil.
Remember that if you have high blood pressure or drink diuretics, you can choose a product with licorice only without glycyrrhizin.
How to store
The roots of the plant can be dried yourself. To do this, cut the stems of the plant by washing the roots, cutting them into pieces and drying them in the sun. Dry root can be stored for up to 10 years.
Syrup and candy should be stored in a sealed jar or original packaging in a cool and dark place.
Licorice as a spice has a peculiar subtle smell, close to the aroma of fennel and anise, and a rich sweet taste. This spice is very popular in the cuisines of Japan, China, Egypt, Mongolia, England, and the Scandinavian countries. It is used in the form of powder, dried flakes, syrups and extracts. In China, licorice is especially popular, it is added to various soups and broths, used as part of spice mixes.
Licorice perfectly complements hot dishes from meat, poultry, and game. This spice goes well with eggs and rice. Licorice is used for vegetable pickles and marinades, in the preparation of canned fish, soaked apples and cranberries, sauerkraut. In the preparation of soaked apples and berries, licorice does not allow the products to ferment and prevents the appearance of mold.
Due to its sweet taste, licorice is perfectly combined with berries and fruits. It is added to various drinks: kissels, compotes, teas, coffee, cocoa.
Due to its foaming properties, licorice is considered one of the main components of kvass, beer and carbonated water. In addition, licorice is used for flavoring wine, vodka, liqueurs, and beer. Licorice is often added to baked goods, desserts, and confectionery: halva, ice cream, caramel, chocolate, and marshmallows. Licorice is also often used as a tea surrogate or sugar substitute. Licorice goes well with fennel, anise, black pepper, galanga, ginger, cardamom, complements the composition of the Chinese mixture “5 spices” (anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, Sichuan pepper).
Licorice can also be added to flour. For example, if you make your own pasta, you can add the root powder to the dough.
Licorice has also found culinary uses for preserving the freshness of food and better whipping egg whites.
And of course, everyone knows chewy liquorice candies. Sweets are the branch of cooking where licorice is most widely used.
100 grams of licorice root contains only 375 kcal. Therefore, licorice sweets can be eaten without much harm to the figure.
Nutritional value in 100 grams:
Protein, g Fat, g Carbohydrates, g Ash, g Water, g Calories, kcal
– 0,05 93,6 – – 375
The beneficial properties of licorice
Composition and availability of useful substances
Licorice, first of all, is rich in vitamin B. Due to this, it is necessary for energy metabolism and normal functioning of organs and systems, especially the nervous system, participates in protein synthesis, and is also able to regulate metabolism. In addition, licorice takes part in the production of insulin, participates in energy exchange and other metabolic reactions.
Licorice root also contains vitamin C, flavonoids, polysaccharides, fatty acids, mucosal substances, mineral salts, resinous bitterness and substances, carotene, coumarins, saponins, including glycyrrhizin, and phytosterols.
Among the polysaccharides contained in licorice, there are up to 34% of starch and up to 30% of cellulose and pectin substances. Licorice contains a lot of organic acids (malic, succinic, citric, etc.). in Addition, it is rich in resins, essential oil and steroids, phenol-carboxylic acids, tannins and coumarins, alkaloids and nitrogen compounds.
The aboveground part of licorice contains carbohydrates (up to 2.1%), organic acids, polysaccharides, essential oil, triterpene saponins, triterpenoids, coumarins, tannins, flavonoids, lipids, nitrogen-containing compounds, and vitamins.
And the composition of licorice essential oil includes ketones, aldehydes, alcohols and their derivatives, aromatic compounds, terpenoids, esters of higher fatty acids and aliphatic hydrocarbons.
Useful and medicinal properties
Licorice has a sweet taste, given to it by glycyrrhizin (its content reaches 23 percent). This substance is ten times sweeter than sugar balance, and it is used as a natural sweetener. Glycyrrhizic acid, which is in the root, resembles the action of cortisol, a hormone of the adrenal cortex. Due to the presence of this acid, licorice has an anti-allergenic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory effect.
Saponins and glycyrrhizin have an expectorant effect. Therefore, licorice is often included in medicines, collections, syrups, and lozenges used to treat coughs. These syrups are happy to drink kids, as they are fragrant and sweet.
Licorice helps to cure dry cough, tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma, laryngitis, inflammation of the lungs and smoker’s cough.
It restores the body with low blood pressure and heart diseases, and it is recommended to use it for diseases of the thyroid gland and blood vessels. The root of the plant has an excellent enveloping effect on the gastric mucosa and is a laxative, since it contains the glycoside liquiricin, which can help with diabetes. This is due to the fact that it is able to increase the production of insulin and is considered a natural sweetener.
A decoction of roots is drunk for diseases associated with the gastrointestinal tract, they treat gastritis and ulcers.
Since licorice contains a lot of flavonoids, various substances with antioxidant properties, doctors recommend using it for cancer. The anti-inflammatory properties of the plant have a healing and protective effect in hepatitis, also helping with diseases of the bladder and restoring the normal functioning of the pancreas.
Since ancient times, licorice root is considered an excellent antidote and is used in the treatment of poisoning and intoxication. It perfectly relieves fatigue, improving mental activity. Licorice is also useful in the treatment of joint diseases, gout, rheumatism. In addition, it lowers cholesterol, preventing blockage of blood pressure and improving heart function.
Licorice root is used not only in pharmaceuticals as a component of various cough medications and for the treatment of other ailments, but also in folk medicine.
So, for the treatment of colds, it is recommended to brew tea with licorice. To do this, you need 25 grams of roots and the upper part of licorice, a pair of leaves of the Golden thousandth, mint and lemon balm. It is recommended to brew such an infusion and drink a glass after a meal.
For the treatment of diseases of the joints and gastrointestinal tract, you can prepare an aqueous tincture with licorice root. For it, you need to take 20 grams of roots, fry them in a pan, and then pour two glasses of boiling water and insist. The tincture is ready for use in 8 hours. Depending on the degree of the disease, this tincture is taken several dozen drops a day.
To cure a cough, you can mix 15 grams of crushed roots, the same number of roots of elecampane and marshmallow. The mixture should be filled with two glasses of clean water and infused for 7-8 hours. Take this mixture should be 0.5 cups twice a day before meals.
Use in cosmetology
The cosmetic use of licorice is due to its wound-healing effect. It is used to treat allergies, skin rashes, psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema. Also, licorice extract is one of the components of products for the care of problem skin. It gives you the ability to soothe it and has anti-aging properties, as well as being able to clear the pores and help whiten the skin and get rid of spots.
Since licorice has the property of rejuvenation, skin whitening and stimulates the production of collagen, it is often included in the composition of age-related creams.
Dangerous properties of licorice
Licorice is not recommended for those who have a disturbed water-salt balance, as well as for patients with kidney diseases and hypertension. Licorice has the property of retaining water in the body, so it should not be used during pregnancy, as well as for children under two years of age. From this age, medicines that contain licorice are recommended to be given strictly according to the dosage prescribed by the doctor.
Also, the substances in the licorice root reduce the level of potassium. Its deficiency causes muscle weakness. An extreme degree of myopathy is considered to be rhabdomyolysis, in which muscle cells are destroyed and acute renal failure can develop.
Licorice is also contraindicated in patients with pericarditis and myocarditis, as well as those suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.
In addition, licorice in some people causes irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. Its effect on the sexual sphere is not fully understood, there are the most opposite opinions about the weakening and strengthening of libido and man potency.