WHAT IS LICORICE?
The licorice plant is a perennial herb and a member of the pea family. Native to southern Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean, it is extensively cultivated in Russia, Spain, Iran, and India. The plant is prized for its roots, which contain Glycyrrhizic acid. This acid, which is extracted from the roots, is fifty times sweeter than sugar. Licorice extract is used as a flavoring in food, tobacco, alcohol, cosmetics, and, of course, in licorice candy. The licorice plant, a shrub, is officially a weed. It is about four feet tall with purplish flowers and grows in hot, dry places. Licorice root is one of the most popular herbs in the world.
Its botanical name comes from the Greek words meaning “sweet root.” The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, and Hindus recognized the natural medicinal qualities of licorice. In the United States, anise seed is a popular substitute flavoring for licorice. Although the anise seed has an unmistakable licorice flavor, it is not related to the European plant whose roots are the source of true licorice.
A HISTORY OF LICORICE
Licorice is not a recent discovery. The ancient Egyptians used it as a natural remedy and copious supplies were found in King Tut’s tomb. Egyptian hieroglyphics record the use of licorice as a popular beverage among the men of the time. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar are on record as endorsing the benefits of eating licorice. Modern licorice candy dates from 17th century Holland. At the time, Holland was one of the world’s most powerful countries. Her intrepid sailors spread this wonderful delicacy to other European nations. Today, licorice candy is manufactured throughout Europe, America, and Australia. Napoleon sucked on licorice sticks because he liked them. The Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamen, was buried with a substantial quantity of licorice for use in the afterlife (whether this was for its value as a candy or as medicine, or both, we don’t know).
The Unique Properties of (Real) Licorice:
Not All Licorice Is Licorice , when you buy licorice candy in your local supermarket or candy store, what exactly are you buying? If you live in the United States, the chances are it isn’t licorice. So-called “licorice” candy is flavored with anise (the same herb that gives Pernod its distinctive flavor) or synthetic substitutes. Sugar then becomes a major ingredient, since anise lacks the sweetness of real licorice. Oddly enough, although actual licorice extract is produced in the United States, 90% or more is used to flavor other things, such as cough medicines and (believe it or not) tobacco. Even if you do manage to find the real thing, chances are it has been chemically altered in various ways. (See “Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL)” for more information.) Only licorice root juice extract in its pure, original form can be certified organic.
Only The Real Thing Is The Real Thing…
Like any natural plant extract, real licorice contains a large complex of interacting components that give it its unique combination of flavor and properties. This rich and complex flavor, from the interaction of literally hundreds of organic chemicals and trace elements, is impossible to manufacture artificially. Only the incredibly tiny cellular “chemical factories” in living plants have that subtlety. Real licorice has a strong and distinctive sweet flavor that has been prized for its own sake and its soothing qualities for centuries.). In short, real licorice not only tastes good, it’s also good for you.
“I picked up your licorice because 1) it was licorice 2) it was organic and 3) it was sugar-free. I brought it home and went to your website and found out that it is naturally sweet and would help coughs. I was right in the middle of this horrible coughing, whatever, that has been going around and had a very bad cough. I began suckling these licorices and within a day, my cough was much better. My husband used them too, and they stopped his cough. For both of us, once we started using them, the congestion in our chests began to break up and it was really the turning point for us getting well. So thank you for such an excellent product! Not only as a taste treat, but as a healing remedy as well.”
– Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home
“I’ll tell you how happy I was to discover you licorice as I have cut out refined sugar from my diet and the thing I have missed the most is really strong delicious black licorice but now … Thanks.”
“This licorice is great. I love the taste of the wheels, but the most impressive things are the pellets (or
“tic tacs”). I had acid reflux one night (actually it was 2:00 o’clock a.m.) and this was the hundredth
time I woke up in the middle of the night with it. (You know the kind that wakes you up as it’s (the bile)
coming up into your mouth. I took two (yes, that’s right: two) pellets and swallowed them with a little
water. I went back to sleep and slept like a baby the rest of the night. And I was comfortable for the
first time in a long time. I’m sold.”
– Colleen T.