Licorice – A Confectionery and Medical Delight
Licorice is perhaps one of the most interesting products out there. But what is more interesting is how most people who have been using this market staple are not always in the know when it comes to where it comes from, or how it is processed.
Moreover, not everyone has a firm grasp as to its many uses and benefits aside from the conventional ones. Here is some important liquorice information you should know about.
Liqourice or more popularly known as licorice is a by-product of a plant called Glycyrrhiza Glabra, which falls under the flora kingdom’s legume category, same as peas and beans. The said plant is mostly found in some Asian countries and in most parts of Southern Europe. Liquorice is extracted from the aforementioned plant’s roots which give off a distinct sweet taste or flavor. In the Greek lexicon, liquorice literally means sweet root.
Considered as a member of the herbaceous perennial plant class, liquorice can grow up to 1 meter and typically sprouts 7-15 centimeter pinnate leaves that are comprised of at least 9 leaflets. The plant’s flower comes in a pale, almost whitish blue color, while the fruit is in oblong shape and contains numerous seeds. The plant’s roots, which are the exact source of its sugary flavor, are considered stoloniferous. The liquorice flavor is the result of the plant’s anethole compound which is an unsaturated and aromatic ether composite that is also produced by other herbs such as fennel and anise. Meanwhile, the sweetness derived from liquorice is the result of its glycyrrhin content; a chemical that is considerably sweeter than regular sugar.
Licorice is cultivated in vast valleys with dry soil and ample supply of sunlight. The liquorice plant is harvested after having been nurtured for at least two years. The harvest is carried out during the months of autumn.
In terms of processing the sweet liquorice extracts, the entire procedure can be either complicated or simple depending on one’s expertise. The method involves the boiling of the plant’s roots until the entire liquid is drained from the pot. The roots are then either sold in solid form, or they are turned into a syrupy substance.
Confectionery For The Sweet Tooth
Perhaps the most popular by-product of the Licorice extract is the confectionery item popular in many parts of the globe. These candies or sweets are highly sought-after in countries like Britain and the United States. In both of these countries, liquorice sweets or candies are infused with aniseed oil for added flavor. Meanwhile, in some parts of Europe, there are liquorice inspired candy products with salty flavor are available.
Liquorice drop is also a staple candy-shop item in Netherlands. In this country, there are many variants of liquorice-based candy products and they are normally flavored with other ingredients such as aniseed, menthol, ammonium chloride, table salt, mint, and even laurel.
Medical Properties of Licorice
Aside from its benefits for the taste-buds, Licorice also has several medical properties which may very well be the answer to various illnesses and health conditions. The plant’s significant level of glycyrrhizic acid is believed to be a reliable anti-viral chemical that can be used to treat, or at least alleviate symptoms of recurring viral hepatitis. This is especially true in Japan where the liquorice extracts have been routinely employed to deal with the aforementioned disease. In China, liquorice is also being used to control the symptoms of tuberculosis. Other conditions that may be addressed by liquorice include ileitis, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.
Although there have been studies that supported the healing properties of licorice for specific types of conditions, it is also important to note that it also has known side effects to patients. For instance, the plant’s glycyrrhizic acid can adversely affect a person’s endocrine system due to its isoflavones content. For male patients, there is also a risk for lowered level of serum testosterone. Other possible adverse effects include hyperkalemia, increased blood pressure, increased cortisol level or excess of aldosterone in the kidney.
In order to minimize these side effects, specific preparation methods for liquorice have been developed such as the liquorice deglycyrrhizination which is deemed to produce a safer licorice extract.