Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a plant species belonging to the family of legumes (Leguminosae). Liquorice is a perennial, herbaceous plant growing to a hight of up to 150 cm while developing a substantial rootstock with various root tillers. It grows and prospers in warm-temperate to subtropical countries, for instance some former GUS-countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan), Western and Central Asia (Afghanistan, China), Australia and America.
Liquorice is a wild-growing plant that is collected by farmers in the fall to be delivered to liquorice manufacturers. Manufacturers buy and store the roots to sell them as whole roots (peeled or non-peeled) later on or until the roots are manufactured into liquorice extract.
To manufacture liquorice extract, the roots are cleaned, coarsely cut up or rasped. Afterwards, the coarsely cut liquorice roots are boiled out in water for several hours in large extraction tanks.
During processing, the aqueous liquorice extract is purified, filtered and concentrated by water evaporation several times. Then the filtered solution is either spraydried to a fine liquorice powder or further concentrated to a highly viscous paste which will harden upon cooling. The solid extract is then formed into blocks or crushed to coarse granules.
All qualities of Liquorice extract contain Glycyrrhizine, an alloy of calcium and potassium salts of Glyyrrhizinic acid. This substance gives the liquorice extract its characteristic flavour and has 50 times the sweetening power of cane sugar. Its concentration depends on the particular quality of liquorice extract.
Liquorice extract is mainly used for the production and aromatization of confectionary goods in various flavours. The spectrum of these flavours ranges, roughly speaking, from sweet to salty, this last one being particularly popular in Scandinavia. The salty taste is created by adding ammonium chloride (“salmiac”), which gave the corresponding candy the name “Salmiac Liquorice”.
Liquorice extract is also used as a flavouring agent in the tobacco industry. Furthermore liquorice is used in pharmaceutical products, for instance it is traditionally used as a mucolytic substance for the respiratory system.