Uncle Johns Licorice
Uncle Johns Licorice
Uncle Johns Licorice

The History of Licorice



Licorice comes from the Greek word glykyrrhiza, literally meaning 'sweet root', referring to the root of a small European plant of the pea family.

The main constituent found in the root is glycyrrhizin. The root contains a number of other compounds including various sugars, starches, flavonoids, saponoids, sterols, amino acids, gums and essential oil Licorice is a perennial herb that dates back over 4000 years. It was grown in the region of Mesopotamia, (the region now occupied by modern Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and Southwest Iran) which is regarded by many as the cradle of civilization.

Ancient clay tablets discovered by archaeologists near Baghdad describe how it was used to treat their royal masters seven centuries before Christ. Licorice root was found in the recently opened tomb of King Tut. Roman soldiers used it as a thirst quencher. Manuscripts dating from 360 AD of Buddhist origin talk of licorice helping eye ailments, skin disease, coughs and loss of hair.

Ancient cultures on every continent have used licorice, the first recorded use by the Egyptians in the 3rd century BC. The Egyptians and the Greeks recognizes the herb's benefits in treating coughs and lung disease. Licorice is the second most prescribed herb in China, followed by ginseng. It was used in medieval times as flavouring for cakes, puddings and drinks. Licorice is native to southern Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean. It is extensively cultivated in Russia, Spain, Iran and India.

It is one of the most popular and widely consumed herbs in the world. Today, the extract of the root is added to a mixture of flour, sugar, molasses, water and treacle to produce the familiar confectionary item.

And, it tastes great!