Sometimes, when a caregiver is talking to their aging parent or loved one, they can’t always connect. The things your parents liked in their youth, like candy and other sweet treats, aren’t the same things you liked in yours. Licorice candy, though, has been around since the 1920s, and is still sold in many candy stores today.
What you might not know, though, is that what we usually refer to as “licorice” isn’t actually licorice at all. Instead, it is candy flavored with anise, an herb that gives licorice that spicy aroma and flavor. Real licorice comes from a root, and is used in everything from medicines to foods to tobacco products.
In honor of National Licorice Month, let’s take a look at some interesting facts about licorice, so that next time you share a licorice whip with your loved one, you’ll have a story to share as well!
Where does licorice come from? – As mentioned above, licorice comes from a root – the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra to be exact. This plant is in the legume family, and a sweet, sticky substance can be extracted from its roots to create what is referred to as licorice. According to licorice.org, this type of licorice was originally used for medicinal purposes, and was even found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian pharaohs like King Tut!
Where do licorice roots grow? – Glycyrrhiza glabra can be found in many places, but is commercially produced mostly in Eastern and Middle Eastern regions, such as China, India, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. It is also grown in Italy, where their idea of licorice candy is much more natural – they simply wash off the roots, dry them, and eat them!
What other uses are there for licorice? – First and foremost, as you know, licorice is used to make candy. Most of the time, though, what we think of as licorice candy is actually mostly a man-made mixture of sugars and herbs like anise that give it its signature flavor. In other countries, though, people eat licorice raw, or mix it with salt to create an entirely different kind of delicacy.
Aside from food, licorice has been used since ancient times to treat things like low blood pressure. Studies have shown that extracts from the licorice root can also work as antibacterial substances, and can help to treat viruses and reduce inflammation.
Licorice is also used to flavor tobacco, which as you would guess, probably tastes terrible on its own!
Did you know? – One last thing you might not know about licorice is that, in spite of the fact that it smells very similar to herbs like anise and fennel, it is actually not related to them at all. So, it is possible that what you think you have been eating is not even really licorice!
Did any of these facts surprise you? Perhaps you and your loved one should sample a few different types of licorice (“real” or not) to see which version you like best and to put this new knowledge to work!
The staff at Home Care Matters is available to talk with you and your family about all of your needs. Home Care Matters is a home care agency providing quality and affordable caregiver services in Johns Creek, GA and the surrounding areas. Call (678) 828-2195 for more information.