What is Licorice?

Licorice is a herb which thrives in some regions of Asia and Europe. Glycyrrhizin, an ingredient in liquorice root, can have negative effects if consumed in excessive quantities. It is known to include compounds that lower swelling, lessen coughing, and boost the body’s natural ability to heal ulcers. In reality, many American-made “licorice” goods don’t even contain licorice.

They contain anise oil, which has a “black licorice”-like flavor and aroma. There are numerous illnesses for which it is utilized, including mouth sores, liver edema, and eczema.

What is Licorice?

It is also known as licorice and is a plant native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. It has been used for centuries for its medicinal and culinary properties. The term “licorice” typically refers to the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, which is harvested and processed for various purposes.

Licorice root contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which is responsible for its characteristic sweet taste. This compound is about 50 times sweeter than sucrose, which is why it is often used as a natural sweetener in candies, confectioneries, and some beverages. It is worth noting that not all licorice-flavored products contain real licorice root. Sometimes artificial flavors are used to mimic the taste.

In addition to its culinary use, it has also been used traditionally in herbal medicine. It is believed to have several potential health benefits, including soothing sore throats and coughs, alleviating digestive issues, and supporting adrenal gland function. It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before using it for medicinal purposes.

What Does Licorice Taste Like?

Licorice root has a highly sweet flavor and a faintly woodsy undertone. Because of the other substances used during processing, it is substantially different from products that are frequently marketed as having licorice flavor.

Licorice has a fundamentally woodsy, cinnamon-like flavor. In other words, it has a sweet, woody, slightly flowery flavor with a subtle bitterness under all of that. It is also inherently sweet, so when any kind of sugar or sweetener is added, it quickly becomes intolerable.

Why is Licorice Sweet?

It is sweet primarily because of a compound called glycyrrhizin, which is found in the roots of the plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Glycyrrhizin is a natural sweetener and is responsible for the intense sweetness associated with licorice.

Glycyrrhizin has a chemical structure similar to that of sugar, but it is approximately 50 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). When you consume it or its flavored products, the glycyrrhizin molecules interact with the taste receptors on your tongue, triggering a sensation of sweetness.

Interestingly, glycyrrhizin also has some chemical similarities to the artificial sweetener known aspartame. However, unlike aspartame, glycyrrhizin is a natural compound derived from the licorice plant.

It’s worth noting that not all its flavored products on the market contain real licorice root or glycyrrhizin. Some products use artificial flavors to achieve the taste, while others may use other natural sweeteners or flavorings to mimic the flavour profile.

It’s important to be mindful of your consumption of it, as excessive intake of glycyrrhizin or licorice root can have adverse effects on health, particularly for individuals with certain health conditions or those taking certain medications. It’s always advisable to enjoy it and its products in moderation.

Why is Licorice Candy Black?

Black licorice candy’s unusual color results from an effort to make it resemble the root’s original form. Due to molasses and root extract, the root is dark brown, and early black licorice was probably also dark brown. The candy may have gradually darkened to the shade we are all familiar with.

Some businesses maintain their dark brown color instead of using food coloring to make it more resemble the actual licorice root that the candy was meant to replicate. However, over time, customers have grown to connect and even anticipate that the color is that of licorice sweets.

As a result, you might also describe it as a type of color coding, similar to how red candies typically represent strawberries, cherries, or raspberries, green candies represent green apples, yellow candies represent bananas or lemons, and so on.

This is somewhat trustworthy because no other candy is as pure black as black licorice, so if you don’t particularly enjoy the flavor, you know to avoid these. Only the candy with cola flavoring has the potential to deceive you. Those are dark brown, but they’re often translucent, so you can see the color much more clearly if you hold one up to the light.

How to Use Licorice?

It can be used in various ways, both in culinary applications and for medicinal purposes. Here are some common ways to use it:

  1. Culinary Use:
    • Licorice Candy: Licorice root extract or powder is often used to make candies, such as licorice ropes, twists, and drops.
    • Beverages: Its flavor can be infused into teas, herbal blends, or syrups to add a sweet and aromatic taste. Licorice root tea is particularly popular.
    • Baked Goods: Its powder or extract can be used to flavor cookies, cakes, ice cream, or other desserts.
    • Seasoning: Licorice root can be ground into a powder and used as a flavoring agent in savory dishes, such as marinades, sauces, or rubs, for a unique twist.
  2. Medicinal Use:
    • Sore Throat Relief: Licorice root tea or gargling with a licorice-infused solution may help soothe sore throats and relieve coughs.
    • Digestive Aid: It can be used to support digestive health and alleviate symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, and stomach ulcers. It can be consumed as a tea, supplement, or chewable tablet.
    • Adrenal Support: Licorice root may help support adrenal gland function and manage stress. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using it for this purpose.
    • Topical Applications: Its extracts or creams can be applied topically to the skin to help soothe irritation, inflammation, or certain skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Can Pregnant Women Consume Licorice?

Pregnant women should exercise caution when consuming it or its products. While it is generally considered safe in moderate amounts, there are some factors to consider. It contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which can have effects on hormonal balance and blood pressure regulation.

Consuming large amounts of it or glycyrrhizin during pregnancy may potentially increase the risk of certain complications.

High intake of it has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and developmental issues in babies. It may also affect blood pressure levels in pregnant women, which could be problematic for those with pre-existing hypertension or gestational hypertension.

It is important to note that the specific risks and effects of licorice during pregnancy can vary depending on the amount consumed. The healthcare provider can provide personalized advice based on the individual’s health status and specific circumstances to ensure the safety and well-being of both.

Does it have any Side Effects?

Yes, it can have side effects, especially when consumed in large amounts or over a prolonged period. Here are some potential side effects associated with it:

High Blood Pressure and Fluid Retention

It can cause an increase in blood pressure and sodium retention due to its effect on mineralocorticoid receptors. This effect is primarily attributed to the compound glycyrrhizin. Individuals with high blood pressure or heart conditions should be cautious and monitor their blood pressure when consuming licorice.

Potassium Imbalance

Excessive consumption can lead to low potassium levels in the body, known as hypokalemia. This can cause muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, and other health issues. It is particularly important for individuals with existing potassium imbalances or taking medications that affect potassium levels to be cautious when consuming them.

Hormonal Imbalances

Glycyrrhizin in it can affect hormone levels by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of cortisol, a stress hormone. Prolonged or excessive use of it may disrupt the body’s hormone balance, leading to various symptoms such as fatigue, hormonal irregularities, and muscle weakness.

Interactions with Medications

Licorice can interact with certain medications, including corticosteroids, diuretics, antihypertensives, and some medications metabolized by the liver. It may affect their effectiveness or increase the risk of side effects. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking any medications and considering their consumption.

Allergic Reactions

Some individuals may have allergies or sensitivities to it. Allergic reactions can manifest as skin rashes, itching, swelling, or respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing or wheezing. If you experience any allergic reactions after consuming it, discontinue use and seek medical attention.

It’s important to note that most of these side effects occur with excessive or prolonged use of it or its supplements. Consuming moderate amounts as part of a balanced diet is generally considered safe for healthy individuals.


In conclusion, it is a plant with a long history of culinary and medicinal use. The root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, commonly known as licorice root, contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which gives licorice its characteristic sweetness. Glycyrrhizin is approximately 50 times sweeter than sucrose and acts as a natural sweetener.

Ultimately, licorice offers a unique and sweet flavor and has a range of potential health benefits when used appropriately. Enjoying licorice and licorice-based products in moderation can be a delightful addition to one’s culinary experiences.