Licorice is a flowering shrub-like plant in the pea and bean family found throughout Asia and now naturalized in some parts of Europe. The herb’s genus name of Glycyrrhiza is derived from the Greek word glukurrhiza, which translates to “sweet root.” The name is well chosen since licorice root contains compounds that provide much more sweetness than cane sugar. Aside from its use in making candies and lozenges, licorice root is used to flavor many types of beverages, including teas, carbonated soft drinks, beers and cordials. Licorice root is also used decocted to produce infusions, tinctures and syrups.
Licorice root has been used by various cultures for thousands of years. Pieces of the root were discovered in King Tutankhamun's burial tomb, presumably so that the young pharaoh could enjoy the traditional Egyptian beverage Mai sus, which would ensure safe passage to the next word.
Today, next to ginger, licorice is the most widely used herb in China. In powdered form, licorice root is most often encapsulated as a dietary supplement.