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Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.)

Synonyms

pharmaceuticalRadix Liquiritiae (root),
Succus Liquiritiae (extract)
AlbanianGliciriza e shogët, Glicirizë
Arabicعرق السوس, سوس
عِرْقُ الْسُوس, سُوس
Irq as-sus, Irqu as-sus, Irqu al-sus, Sous, Sus
ArmenianՄատուտակ
Madoodag, Matutak
Assameseযষ্টিমধু
Zostimodhu
AzeriBiyanlıq
Бијанлыг
BasqueErregaliz, Gotxerro, Makilgoxo
BelarusianЛакрычнік
Lakryčnik
Bengaliযষ্ঠিমধু
Yashthimadhu
BretonRegalis
BulgarianСладник, Сладък корен
Sladnik, Sladuk koren
BurmeseNoekiyu
CatalanRegaléssia
Chinese
(Cantonese)
甘草 [gām chóu]
Gam chou (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)
Chinese
(Mandarin)
甘草 [gān cǎo]
Gan cao, Kan tsau (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)
CroatianSladki korijen, Slatki sladić; Uralski sladić (Glycyrrhiza uralensis)
CzechLékořice, Sladký dřevo
DanishLakrids, Lakridsplante
Dhivehiވޭމުއި
Veymui
Dogriमुलेठी
Mulethi
DutchZoethout
EnglishSpanish Juice, Black Sugar, Liquorice
EsperantoGlicirizo
EstonianLagrits, Magusjuur, Lagritsa-magusjuur
Farsiشیرین بیان
Shirin bayan
FinnishLakritsikasvi, Lakritsi
FrenchRéglisse
GaelicCarra-meille, Carrchan, Maide-milis
GermanSüßholz, Lakritze
GreekΓλυκόριζα
Glikoriza, Glykoriza
Greek (Old)Γλυκύρριζα
Glykyrrhiza
Gujaratiજેઠીમધ
Jethimadh
Hebrewשוש קרח, שוש
שׁוּשׁ, שׁוּשׁ קֵרֵחַ
Shush kireah, Shush
Hindiमुलेठी, मुलैठी, मुलहठी, यष्टिमशु, जेठीमध
Mulethi, Mulaithi, Mulhathi, Yashtimadhu, Jetimadh
HungarianÉdesfa, Igazi édesgyökér
IcelandicLakkrís
IrishLiocras
ItalianLiquirizia, Regolizia
Japanese蕗草, 甘草, ウラル甘草, ロシア甘草
ろそう, かんぞう
ナンキンカンゾウ, リコリス, カンゾウ, ウラルカンゾウ, ロシアカンゾウ, ロソウ
Nankin-kanzō, Nankin-kanzo, Rikorisu; Kanzō, Kanzo, Uraru-kanzō, Uraru-kanzo (Glycyrrhiza uralensis); Roshia-kanzō, Roshia-kanzo (Glycyrrhiza echinata)
Kannadaಅತಿಮಧುರ, ಯಷ್ಠಿಮಧು
Atimadhura, Yasthimadhu
KazakhҚызылмия, Мия
Mïya, Qızılmïya
Korean감초, 리커리스
Kamcho, Rikeorisu, Rikorisu
Laoສະເອມ, ສະເອມເທດ
Sa-em, Sa-em, Sa-em thet
LatvianLakrica
LithuanianSaldymedis, Paprastasis saldymedis
MacedonianСладок корен
Sladok koren
Maithiliमौध्द
Mauddh
Malayalamഎട്ടിമധുരം, ഇരട്ടിമധുരം, മധുകം, യഷ്ഠിമധുകം
Etthimadhiram, Iradimadhuram, Madhugam, Yashtimadhugam
Marathiज्यष्ठमध
Jestamadha
MongolianЧихэр өвс
Chiher övs
Nepaliजेठीमधु, इष्टमी
Jethimadhu, Istami
Newari
(Nepalbhasa)
इस्टिभि
Istivi
NorwegianLakrisrot
Oriyaଜଷ୍ଠିମଧୁ
Jasthimadhu
PashtoShireen Buya
PolishKorzeń lukrecji, Lukrecja gładka
PortugueseAlcaçuz
ProvençalRecalicé, Recalissi
Punjabiਮਲਠੀ
Malathi
RomanianLemn dulce, Rădăcină dulce, Reglisă
RussianЛакричник, Солодка, Корень солодки, Лакрица
Lakrichnik, Solodka, Koren solodki, Lakritsa
SanskritMadhuuka, Yashtimadhu
SerbianКоњеда, Слацић, Сладић, Слатки корен, Слатко дрвце
Konjeda, Slacić, Sladić, Slatki koren, Slatko drvce
Sinhalaඅතිමාදුරම්, වැල්මී, වැල්මි
Atimaduram, Valmi
SlovakSladké drievko, Sladovka hladkoplodá
SlovenianSladki koren
SpanishOrozuz, Regaliz
SwahiliSusu
SwedishLakrits
Tamilஅதிமதுரம்
Atimaduram
Teluguఅతిమధురమనే, అతిమధురము, యష్టిమధుక్కం
Atimadhuramane, Atimadhuramu, Yashtimadhukkam
Thaiชะเอมเทศ
Cha-em thet
Tibetanཤིང་མངར་
Shi na ma ngar, Shina ngar
TurkishMeyan kökü, Biyam, Piyan, Tatlı kök
UkrainianЛокриця, Солодкий корінь, Солодка гола
Lokrytsya, Solodkyj korin, Solodka hola
Urduملہٹی
Mulhati
UzbekQizilmiya, Miya
Қизилмия, Мия
VietnameseCam thảo
Cam thao
Yiddishלאַקרעץ, זיסװאָרצל
Lakrets, Ziswortsl
Glycyrrhiza uralensis/glabra: Chinese liquorice spice
Dried licorice root
Used plant part

Root and the juice extracted therefrom.

Plant family

Fabaceae (bean family)

Sensory quality

The aroma is strongly reminiscent of anise or fennel, but considerably stronger. The taste is dominantly sweet, warm and medical.

Main consti­tuents

The root, espe­cially the root bark, con­tains about 4% glycyr­rhizin, the pot­assium or calcium salt of glycyr­rhizinic acid. The latter is a glyco­side of a penta­cyclic tri­terpene carb­oxylic acid (18β‑glycyr­rhetic acid) with two mole­cules gluc­uronic acid. Glycyr­rhizin is about 50 times sweeter than sucrose (cane sugar).

Glycyrrhiza glabra: Licorice inflorescence
Licorice flowers
Glycyrrhiza glabra: Liquorice flower close-up
Licorice flower

Furthermore, a flavonoid glyco­side has been identi­fied: liquiritin. The aglycon liquiriti­genin is in part spon­taneous­ly formed when the root is dried; it is respon­sible for the spasmo­lytic effects of licorice.

Licorice contains only traces of essential oil; volatile con­stituents identi­fied include bi­cyclic mono­terpenoid ketones (fenchone, thujone) and coumarins (herniarin, umbelli­ferone).

Origin

China. Licorice is a medical plant in China and India, and there­fore culti­vated.

Etymology

Licorice essentially derives from Old Greek glykyrrhiza [γλυκύῤ­ῥιζα], which is just a contraction of glykeia rhiza [γλυκεῖα ῥίζα] sweet root; compare also the modern Greek name glikoriza [γλυκόριζα]. For the first element glykys [γλυκύς] sweet see almond; the second element rhiza [ῥίζα] is cognate to English root, being derived from the Proto-Indo–European linguistic root WRED (see also horseradish).

Glycyrrhiza glabra: Flowering liquorice bush
Licorice shrub in full flower (G. glabra)
Glycyrrhiza glabra: Liquorice inflorescence
Licorice (G. glabra) flowers

In Latin tongue, the Greek plant name appears as liquiritia, being in­flu­enced by liquere flow for the liquid form of lico­rice juice. The British spel­ling liquo­rice has some­what con­served that re­la­tion. Latin liquiritia is the source of many names for lico­rice in modern Euro­pean lan­guages, e. g., German Lakritze, Yiddish lakrets [לאַקרעץ], Czech lékořice and Ukrainian lokrytsya [локриця]. In most of the Romance languages, the word was changed by metathesis between the sounds L and R (Provençal recalicé, French réglisse, Spanish regaliz). Basque erregaliz is a loan from these Romance forms.

The German name Süß­holz sweet wood and its Dutch analogue zoethout are probably simply calqued from liquorice. German süß sweet has many Germanic cognates (English sweet, Dutch zoet, Yiddish zis [זיס] und Danish sød, Old Norse sætr) going back to a Common Germanic root SWOTJA. There are also relatives outside the Germanic branch: Old Greek hedys [ἡδύς] (see also mint), Sanskrit svadu [स्वादु], Latin suavis, all meaning sweet, and the Greek noun hedone [ἡδονή] delight, pleasure; the Proto-Indo–European root may be reconstructed as SWEH₂DU sweet; pleasure.

Glycyrrhiza echinata: Wild liquorice plants with flowers
Russian licorice, Glycyrrhiza echinata
Glycyrrhiza echinata: Wild licorice flower cluster
Inflorescence of G. echinata
Glycyrrhiza uralensis: Chinese liquorice
Chinese licorice, G. uralensis

www.ibiblio.org/herbmed       © Henriette Kress

German Holz wood also has many relatives: Archaic and poetic English holt and Welsh celli wood, Russian koloda [колода] wood­block and Greek klados [κλάδος] branch. The original meaning seems to have been break, cut off, cf. Greek klan [κλᾶν] break, Lithua­nian kalti beat, forge and Latin clades hurt, damage.

The charac­teristic sweet taste of liquorice is also reflected in the Indian names. In Sanskrit, madhu [मधु] means sweet, pleasant. This element is found in names for licorice not only in Sanskrit (madhuka [मधूक] and yashtimadhu [यष्टिमधु] from yashti [यष्टि] stem, stalk), but also in modern names of both South and North India, e. g., Marathi jestamadha [ज्यष्ठमध], Bengali yashthimodhu [যষ্ঠিমধু], Telugu atimadhuramu [అతిమధురము] and Kannada yashthimadhu [ಯಷ್ಠಿಮಧು]. Outside of India, related names are Lithuanian saldymedis and Armenian madudag [մատուտակ]. The Proto-Indo–European root behind this element is MEDʰU honey, sweet; see bear’s garlic for its linguistic affiliation.

Further examples of sweet­ness moti­vating a name for licorice are Estonian magus­juur, Hun­garian édes­gyökér, Ukrainian solodkyj korin [солодкий корінь] and Bul­garian sladuk koren [сладък корен], all of which trans­late to sweet root. See also almond for the Slavonic terms for sweet.

Lastly, one should mention the Chinese name for the related species Gl. uralensis, which is gan cao [甘草] meaning sweet straw or sweet herb. The name has been trans­ferred to Vietnamese as cam thao [cam thảo], to Korean as kamcho [감초] and to Japanese as kanzō [甘草, かんぞう]. The Japanese Kanji symbols literally mean sweet grass or sweet plant.

The Latin species name glaber bald, hairless refers to the seed pods which have a smooth surface; in other species of the genus, the fruits are pubescent.

The Semitic names of licorice, Arabic as-sus [السوس] and Hebrew shush [שוש], are of ancient origin attested in Akkadian as šûšu, which might be a loan from Sumerian šušum [𒈹𒂞]. From Arabic, the name has spread to some more languages, e. g., Swahili susu and Portuguese alcaçuz (see also caper about Arabic loanwords in Iberic tongues).

Selected Links

The Epicentre: Licorice Chinese Herb Database: Licorice Medical Spice Exhibit: Licorice Dreampharm.com: Licorice (via archive.org) Rain Tree: Licorice Herb Monographs: Licorice (stevenfoster.com)


Glycyrrhiza glabra: Liquorice flower
Licorice plant (G. glabra), flowering

pharm1.pharmazie.uni-greifswald.de

Glycyrrhiza glabra: Liquorice inflorescence
Licorice flowers
At all times, licorice was used less as a spice than as a medicine; usage against diseases of the upper respiratory tract dates back at least to ancient Egypt.

At first glance, the strong, dominating sweetness of this plant neither fits to sweet nor to spicy dishes. However, small amounts of licorice substantially improve the Chinese five spice powder (this is suggested by Norman and absolutely worth trying). For the other components of this spice mixture, see star anise. In China, licorice is often used to flavour master sauce (see cassia).

Licorice is the base of traditional candies of Northern Europe, particularly Northern Germany (Lakritz in Germany) and Scandinavia (salmiakki in Finland). These bonbons consist of the evaporated juice of licorice, plus some optional flavourings, e. g., lemon or more traditionally salmiac (sal ammoniac, ammonium chloride), but usually no sugar. More recently, licorice-based sweets have been suspected to cause high blood pressure; indeed, glycyrrhizin has hypertensive action, but it is yet unclear whether consumption of a few licorice candies could have any significant effect.

Several different spices are frequently termed sweet. This attribute does not always denote a truly sweet taste, but is sometimes used as a general synonym for aromatic (e. g., cloves or cinnamon). Other spices, though, really taste somewhat sweet, although in few of them sweetness is as strong as in licorice: Anise, fennel, and star anise are typical examples for this sensory quality; see also cicely. Other sweet spices are tonka beans and vanilla. A spice unique by its sweet pungency is long pepper. Lastly, both juniper berries and pink pepper contain significant amounts of sugar and, thus, indeed taste sweet; their sweetness is, however, of minor importance in the kitchen.



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