13 Interesting Facts About Licorice

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Licorice is a unique and versatile plant that has been used for centuries for its sweet flavor and medicinal properties. The licorice plant contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that is 50 times sweeter than sugar and has been used as a sweetener and flavoring ingredient around the world.

In this article, we’ll explore 13 fascinating facts about licorice that reveal its rich history, health benefits, culinary uses, and more. From its prominence in ancient Chinese medicine to its ability to satisfy a sweet tooth, licorice is an amazing plant with an intriguing backstory.

Interesting Facts About Licorice

black licorice
black licorice
  1. Licorice gets its name from the Greek word “glukurrhiza” meaning “sweet root.” The licorice plant is a legume that grows long, wrinkly, brown pods containing sweet and aromatic oil.
  2. Licorice has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 3,000 years. Ancient Chinese texts recommend licorice to treat a variety of ailments including ulcers, inflammation, and respiratory infections.
  3. Ancient Egyptians enjoyed licorice tea as a beverage. Licorice root was one of the ingredients found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, indicating ancient Egyptians valued the plant.
  4. Roman soldiers chewed on licorice root to quench thirst. During long battles in intense heat, Roman soldiers would chew on licorice sticks for refreshment.
  5. Licorice was a popular medicine during the Middle Ages in Europe. Monks and healers used licorice concoctions to help digestive and respiratory issues.
  6. The first licorice factory opened in England in 1760. Pontefract cakes were coin-shaped candies made of licorice extract that became popular across England.
  7. The Woody Guthrie song “So Long It’s Been Good to Know Yuh” references licorice. The lyrics contain the line “I got a good woman with licorice in her shoe.”
  8. Licorice extract is used to flavor tobacco products like cigarettes. The compound glycyrrhizin enhances sweetness and masks harsh flavors in tobacco.
  9. Licorice contains antioxidants. Research indicates licorice acts as a free radical scavenger, helping prevent cell damage.
  10. Licorice may help treat stomach ulcers. The anti-inflammatory compound glycyrrhizin shows promise assisting ulcers caused by H. pylori bacteria or overuse of NSAIDs.
  11. Licorice can satisfy a sweet tooth. With its intensely sweet flavor, licorice can tame sugar cravings without the high glycemic impact of sugar.
  12. Too much licorice can have health risks. Consuming over 2 ounces of licorice root daily for 2 weeks may cause high blood pressure and electrolyte imbalances.
  13. Licorice remains a popular candy flavor around the world. From licorice pipes in Australia to salty licorice candies in Scandinavia, the world loves the sweet root!


With its incredibly sweet flavor, ancient history, and modern medicinal uses, licorice is a fascinating plant. Many cultures have prized licorice root for ages thanks to its versatility as a medicine, sweet treat, and tobacco flavoring. While licorice has health benefits, overconsumption poses some risks. Overall, licorice remains an intriguing and beloved botanical worldwide.

Next time you enjoy some licorice candy or see the plant in natural medicine, remember the amazing history behind that distinctive sweet flavor! Licorice has journeyed through the centuries to remain a unique part of human culture.

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