Skip to main content

Fact sheet: Licorice


Licorice, is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The licorice plant is a perennial  legume (related to beans and peas), and native to southern Europe and parts of Asia.  It  grows best in deep, fertile, well-drained soils, with full sun, and is harvested in the autumn, two to three years after planting.

Today, liquorice extract is produced by boiling licorice root and subsequently evaporating most of the water. In fact, the name ‘licorice’ is derived from Ancient Greek, meaning ‘sweet root’. 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.

Licorice is used to flavor soft drinks, candy, and some medicines. In Italy, it is popular in its natural form.  The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as a mouth freshener. Licorice also goes toward flavouring, sweetening and conditioning tobacco products. It adds a mellow, sweet woody flavour and enhances the taste. 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 flavor include anise, star anise, tarrgon, and fennel.

Planted in Nassau County Extension Demonstration Garden