Thursday, February 18, 2010


Liquorice is a confectionery flavoured with the extract of the roots of the liquorice plant. A wide variety of liquorice sweets are produced around the world. In the U.S., licorice is called black licorice, to distinguish it from similar candy varieties that are not flavoured with liquorice extract, and commonly manufactured in the form of chewy ropes or tubes. Most popular in the United Kingdom are liquorice allsorts. Dutch and Nordic liquorice characteristically contains ammonium chloride instead of sodium chloride, prominently so in salty liquorice.

The essential ingredients of liquorice candy are liquorice extract, sugar, and a binder. The binder is typically starch/flour, gum arabic, or gelatin, or a combination thereof. Additional ingredients are extra flavouring, beeswax for a shiny surface, ammonium chloride, and molasses to give the end product the familiar black colour. Ammonium chloride is mainly used in salty liquorice candy, with concentrations up to about 8 percent. However, even regular liquorice candy can contain up to 2 percent ammonium chloride, the taste of which is less prominent due to the higher sugar concentration.

During manufacturing, the ingredients are dissolved in water and heated to 135 °C. In order to obtain candies of the desired shapes, the liquid is poured into molds, that are created by impressing holes into a container filled with starch powder. The liquid is then dried and the resulting candies are sprayed with beeswax in order to give their surface a shiny appearance.

The liquorice-root extract contains the natural sweetener glycyrrhizin, which is over 50 times sweeter than sucrose. This ingredient has various pharmaceutical properties, the most important ones being that it acts as an expectorant (facilitating removal of mucus from the lungs by coughing) and that it increases blood pressure. The latter effect can become significant with a daily consumption of 50 g or more of liquorice candy for as little as two weeks.

Liquorice is also a mild laxative, and has several varied uses in herbal medicine.

Alexander the Great supplied his troops with rations of licorice root whilst marching, due to its thirst quenching qualities.

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