1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Liquorice

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LIQUORICE. The hard and semi-vitreous sticks of paste, black in colour and possessed of a sweet somewhat astringent taste, known as liquorice paste or black sugar, are the inspissated juice of the roots of a leguminous plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra, the radix glycyrrhizae of the pharmacopoeia. The plant is cultivated throughout the warmer parts of Europe, especially on the Mediterranean shores, and to some extent in Louisiana and California. The roots for use are obtained in lengths of 3 or 4 ft., varying in diameter from 1/4 to 1 in.; they are soft, flexible and fibrous, and internally of a bright yellow colour, with a characteristic, sweet pleasant taste. To this sweet taste of its root the plant owes its generic name Glycyrrhiza (γλυκύῤῥιζα, the sweet-root), of which the word liquorice is a corruption. The roots contain grape-sugar, starch, resin, asparagine, malic acid and the glucoside glycyrrhizin, C24 H36 O9, a yellow amorphous powder with an acid reaction and a distinctive bitter-sweet taste. On hydrolysis, glycyrrhizin yields glucose and glycyrrhetin.

Stick liquorice is made by crushing and grinding the roots to a pulp, which is boiled in water over an open fire, and the decoction separated from the solid residue of the root is evaporated till a sufficient degree of concentration is attained, after which, on cooling, it is rolled into the form of sticks or other shapes for the market. The preparation of the juice is a widely extended industry along the Mediterranean coasts; but the quality best appreciated in the United Kingdom is made in Calabria, and sold under the names of Solazzi and Corigliano juice. Liquorice enters into the composition of many cough lozenges and other demulcent preparations; and in the form of aromatic syrups and elixirs it has a remarkable effect in masking the taste of nauseous medicines.