Food Guts - Ingredient Information

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Licorice

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Licorice on Wikipedia:

For the candy, see Liquorice (confectionery). Liquorice Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae Division: Magnoliophyta Class: Magnoliopsida Order: Fabales Family: Fabaceae Subfamily: Faboideae Tribe: Galegeae Genus: Glycyrrhiza Species: G. glabra Binomial name Glycyrrhiza glabra L.[1] Synonyms Glycyrrhiza glandulifera Waldst. & Kit.[1] Glycyrrhiza glabra var. glandulifera[1]

Liquorice is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas), native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is not related to Anise, Star Anise or Fennel, which are the source of superficially similar flavouring compounds. It is an herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 m in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 centimetres (3–6 in) long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm (½–⅓ in) long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 centimetres (1 in) long, containing several seeds.[2] The flavor of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole (``trans``-1-methoxy-4-(prop-1-enyl)benzene), an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and other herbs. Additional sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizic acid, an anti-viral compound significantly sweeter than sugar.[3]

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Cultivation and uses

Liquorice grows best in deep, fertile, well-drained soils, with full sun, and is harvested in the autumn, two to three years after planting.[2]

In modern times, liquorice extract is produced by boiling liquorice root and subsequently evaporating most of the water. In fact, the name 'liquorice'/'licorice' is derived (via the Old French licoresse), from the Ancient Greek glukurrhiza, meaning 'sweet root'.[4] Liquorice extract is traded both in solid and syrup form. Its active principle is glycyrrhizin, a sweetener more than 50 times as sweet as sucrose which also has pharmaceutical effects.

Main article: Liquorice (confectionery)

Liquorice flavour is found in a wide variety of liquorice candies. The most popular in the United Kingdom are liquorice allsorts. In continental Europe, however, far stronger, saltier candies are preferred. It should be noted, though, that in most of these candies the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, and the actual content of liquorice is very low.

In the Netherlands, where liquorice candy (``drop``) is one of the most popular forms of sweet, only a few of the many forms that are sold contain aniseed (although mixing it with mint, menthol or with laurel is popular, and mixing it with ammonium chloride creates the very popular salty liquorice known in Dutch as zoute drop.)[5]

Pontefract in Yorkshire was the first place where liquorice mixed with sugar began to be used as a sweet in the same way it is in the modern day.[6] Pontefract Cakes were originally made there. In Yorkshire and Lancashire it is colloquially known as Spanish, supposedly because Spanish monks grew liquorice root at Rievaulx Abbey near Thirsk.[7]

Liquorice flavouring is also used in soft drinks, and is in some herbal teas where it provides a sweet after-taste. The flavour is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavours. Dutch youth often make their own ``dropwater`` (liquorice water) by putting a few pieces of laurel liquorice and a piece of liquorice root in a bottle with water and then shake it to a frothy liquid. Also popular in the Netherlands is a liquorice based liqueur called ``dropshot``.[8]

Liquorice root

Liquorice is popular in Italy (particularly in the South) and Spain in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as mouth-freshener. Throughout Italy unsweetened liquorice is consumed in the form of small black pieces made only from 100% pure liquorice extract; the taste is bitter and intense. In Calabria a popular liqueur is made from pure liquorice extract. Liquorice is also very popular in Syria where it is sold as a drink. Dried liquorice root can be chewed as a sweet. Black liquorice contains approximately 100 calories per ounce (15 kJ/g).[9]

Chinese cuisine uses liquorice as a culinary spice for savoury foods. It is often employed to flavour broths and foods simmered in soy sauce.

Other herbs and spices of similar flavour include anise, star anise, tarragon, and fennel.

It is also the main ingredient of a very well known soft drink in Egypt, called عرقسوس ('erk-soos).

Use in medicine

Glycyrrhiza glabra from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants

Powdered liquorice root is an effective expectorant, and has been used for this purpose since ancient times, especially in Ayurvedic medicine where it is also used in tooth powders and is known as Jastimadhu. Modern cough syrups often[citation needed] include liquorice extract as an ingredient. Additionally, liquorice may be useful in conventional and naturopathic medicine for both mouth ulcers[10] and peptic ulcers.[11] Non-prescription aphthous ulcer treatment CankerMelts incorporates glycyrrhiza in a dissolving adherent troche. Liquorice is also a mild laxative and may be used as a topical antiviral agent for shingles, ophthalmic, oral or genital herpes. The compound glycyrrhizic acid, found in liquorice, is now routinely used throughout Japan for the treatment and control of chronic viral hepatitis, and its transaminase-lowering effect is clinically well recognized. Hepatoprotective mechanisms have been demonstrated in mice. [12] Recent studies indicate that glycyrrhizic acid disrupts latent Kaposi sarcoma (as also demonstrated with other herpesvirus infections in the active stage), exhibiting a strong anti-viral effect.[13]

Liquorice affects the body's endocrine system as it contains isoflavones (phytoestrogens). It can lower the amount of serum testosterone,[14] but whether it affects the amount of free testosterone is unclear. Consuming liquorice is recommended for reducing high sex drive in men. Consuming liquorice can prevent hyperkalemia. Large doses of glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid in liquorice extract can lead to hypokalemia and serious increases in blood pressure, a syndrome known as apparent mineralocorticoid excess. These side effects stem from the inhibition of the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (type 2) and subsequent increase in activity of cortisol on the kidney. 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase normally inactivates cortisol in the kidney; thus, liquorice's inhibition of this enzyme makes the concentration of cortisol appear to increase. Cortisol acts at the same receptor as the hormone aldosterone in the kidney and the effects mimic aldosterone excess, although aldosterone remains low or normal during liquorice overdose. To decrease the chances of these serious side effects, deglycyrrhizinated liquorice preparations are available. The disabling of similar enzymes in the gut by glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid also causes increased mucus and decreased acid secretion. It inhibits Helicobacter pylori, is used as an aid for healing stomach and duodenal ulcers, and in moderate amounts may soothe an upset stomach. Liquorice can be used to treat ileitis, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and