Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopida
Order Fabales
Family Fabaceae
Genus Glycyrrhiza
Species G. glabra
Binomial name Glycyrrhiza glabra

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the plant licorice are Chinese Licorice,Kan-ts'ao,Kuo-lao,Licorice Root,Ling-t'ung,Liquorice,Mei-ts'ao,Mi-kan,Mi-ts'ao,Sweet Licorice,Sweet Wood and Yasti Madhu.


Licorice is one of the most widely used herbs from the ancient medical history of Ayurveda, both as a medicine and also as a flavouring herb to disguise the unpleasant flavour of other medications.

The first significant report of the medicinal use of Glycyrrhiza comes from the Greeks, who recommended it for the treatment of gastric and peptic ulcers. Later, in Arab physicians used Licorice to relieve coughs and side effects associated with laxatives.Licorice gets its name from the Greek glyks, meaning sweet and rhiza meaning root. It was cultivated in England since the 16th century by Dominican monks in Pontefract, Yorkshire, where the confectionery trade began.


Glycyrrhiza is a tall, erect perennial undershrub with light, gracefully-spreading pinnate foliage and dark green lanceolate leaflets that hang down at night. Each leaf bears 7-21 leaflets up to 1-1/2" long that have small scales when young. The scales soon change into sticky, resinous dots.

Long-stemmed spikes of numerous bluish-purple to white papillonaceous flowers grow from the leaf axils and appear from June to August, followed by small leguminous smooth-skinned seed pods. The flowers are 0.8-1.2 centimetres long, produced in a loose inflorescence. The roots are brown, long and cylindrical. The main root (taproot) descends up to a meter into the ground and sends out a network of rhizomes. These roots and rhizomes are harvested after three to five years. The rhizomes have a woody appearance with a brown skin and yellow, fibrous interior.


Licorice grows in the sub - tropical and warm temperate regions of the world, chiefly in Mediterranean countries. In India, it is cultivated in some parts of the hilly northern area, Delhi and South India.


It prefers the open, dry areas with rich soil. It grows wild in warm climates, originally coming from Spain and Italy. It was first harvested from the wild, until it was cultivated one thousand years ago. The plant can tolerate strong winds but not maritime exposure. It is generally seen in dry open places especially in sandy places near the sea.


It is usually in the springtime that the roots of licorice is divided and cultivated. Dividing the roots is its propagation method. When the plants are 3 to 4 years old, the roots are unearthed and harvested. Generally done in late autumn. The seeds are pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and then sow spring or autumn in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on for their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in late spring or early summer when in active growth. Plants are rather slow to grow from seed. Division of the root in spring or autumn. Each division must have at least one growth bud. Autumn divisions can either be replanted immediately or stored in clamps until the spring and then be planted out. It is best to pt up the smaller divisions and grows them on in a cold frame until they are established before planting them out in the spring or summer.

Flowering Season

Licorice blooms from June to August, with long-stemmed spikes of numerous bluish-purple to white papillonaceous flowers grouped into spikes about 2-3 inches long.

Pests and Diseases

It is very rarely affected by pests and diseases but aphids and powdery mildew causes some damage to the shrub.

Parts Used


The main taproot and the rhizomes are used in medicinal and flavouring applications.

Medicinal Applications


• It has been studied for its anti-viral properties in the treatment of AIDS.

• It is suspected that the compounds in Licorice root may be able to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.

• Licorice is traditionally used for coughs and as a soothing remedy for the skin.

• People also take it for spasms and inflammation, for bronchitis, rheumatism, and arthritis.

• Licorice root products are used for treating peptic ulcer and chronic gastritis.

• Some providers recommend licorice root to treat primary adrenocortical insufficiency.

• Licorice can be chewed on to relieve sore throats.

• Soothes irritation caused by acids, and coats digestive and urinary tracts.

• Externally applied for treating eczema, herpes, and canker sores (mouth ulcers).

• Strengthens the immune system.

• Glycyrrhiza is also effective in helping to reduce fevers and it may have an antibacterial action as well. It can neutralise many toxins such as those of diphtheria and tetanus.

• Its anti-inflammatory action accounts for its use in the treatment of chronic inflammations such as arthritic and rheumatic diseases, chronic skin conditions.

• It may also be used as an eyebath in conjunctivitis and other inflammatory conditions of the eye surface.

• Licorice has an ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac; the Kama Sutra and Ananga Ranga contain numerous recipes for increasing sexual vigour which include licorice.

Commercial Applications


• The root of this plant, used as flavouring in candy, liqueurs, tobacco, and medicines.

• Licorice is known mostly as confectionery flavouring, especially Licorice Allsorts or Pontefract cakes.

• A high quality charcoal is made from the wood which is used for walking sticks, tool handles, furniture etc.

• Ninety percent of all natural licorice employed as a flavouring agent is used in tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco).

• The sticks of licorice essence may be dissolved in hot water and drunk as a tisane and the roots may flavour fruit juices, syrups and for flavouring drinks like sambuca and beers like Guinness.


According to the astro reports the plant licorice is under the dominion of the planet Mercury.

Quotes from history

It was known to the Greeks, mentioned in the Hippocratic texts, and to the Romans, who made licorice extract as we do today. Ancient Chinese herbalists used licorice, distilling the root's essence and prescribing it for a wide range of conditions. The traditional Chinese healers have known its herbal properties for ages and it is familiar as gan cao in Chinese.

Folklores and Myths

Liquorice boiled in fair water, with some Maiden-hair and figs, makes a good drink for those that have a dry cough or hoarseness, wheezing or shortness of breath, and for all the griefs of the breast and lungs. It was know to the old Greek writers, and mentioned by Theophrastus to be used for asthma, dry cough, and all diseases of the lungs. The plant was being cultivated in Europe and England by the end of the sixteenth century, is naturalized in North America. China has at least six species and Chinese herbals from every dynasty in Chinese history give the plant prominent recognition. As in the past, licorice is still one of the most commonly used traditional medicine herbs.