Posted by Bangzkie Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Liquorice or licorice is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a somewhat sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas) that is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is called Athimathuram in Tamil, "Yashtimadhu" in Sanskrit and "Mulethi" in Northern India. It is not related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are the sources of similar-tasting flavouring compounds. The word 'liquorice'/'licorice' is derived (via the Old French licoresse), from the Greek (glukurrhiza), meaning "sweet root", from (glukus), "sweet"(rhiza), "root". It is a 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 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. The roots are stoloniferous. 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 several other herbs. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound sweeter than sugar.
Liquorice grows best in deep valleys, well-drained soils, with full sun, and is harvested in the autumn, two to three years after planting. Liquorice extract is produced by boiling liquorice root and subsequently evaporating most of the water, and is traded both in solid and syrup form. Its active principle is glycyrrhizin, a sweetener between 30 to 50 times as sweet as sucrose, and which also has pharmaceutical effects. Liquorice flavour is found in a wide variety of liquorice candies. In Britain and the US these are usually sweet. In most of these candies the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, and the actual content of liquorice is very low. In continental Europe however, strong, salty candies are popular. 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 quite popular. Mixing it with ammonium chloride is also popular, and is known as Salmiak, but mixing it with table salt creates what is probably the most popular liquorice, known in the Netherlands as zoute drop. 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. 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.
The compound glycyrrhizic acid, found in liquorice, is now routinely used throughout Japan for the treatment and control of chronic viral hepatitis, and there is a possible transaminase-lowering effect. Hepatoprotective mechanisms have been demonstrated in mice. 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. The Chinese use licorice to treat Tuberculosis Liquorice affects the body's endocrine system as it contains isoflavones (phytoestrogens). It might lower the amount of serum testosterone slightly, but whether it affects the amount of free testosterone is unclear. Consuming liquorice may prevent the development of hyperkalemia in persons on hemodialysis. 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. As 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 Crohn's disease as it is antispasmodic in the bowels.