Licorice has been around as long as man.  It was considered of great medicinal value by ancient peoples especially the Egyptians but also Hindus, Greeks, Babylonians, and Chinese. Prepared in different ways, or by simply chewing on the licorice root it was believed to increase sexual vigor, clear the throat, alleviate thirst and hunger, calm the stomach, aid in liver and kidney disorders.  During war time, Alexander the Great often encouraged his troupes to eat licorice.  And Napoleon habitually chewed on licorice root towards the end of his life.

During the Middle Ages Licorice was eaten after a meal, sort of as an antacid; to aid in digestion.  In 1305 a tax was placed on licorice imports to aid in the repairing of the London Bridge.  By the 15th century almost every apothecary in Italy carried licorice.  Not only was it offered as medicine, but it was a very popular flavor in cooking, candies, alcohol, and tobacco.

Europeans introduced licorice to the Native Americans.  A strongly flavoured drink of elecampane, Licorice, aniseed, sassafras, and fennel were used to cure a common cold.

Today Licorice still has medicinal value in western medicine.  It’s extracts are used to sooth irritated membranes, loosen and expel congestion in upper respiratory tract, an anti-inflammatory, protects the liver from toxins, and as an anti-allergen.

I love licorice.  Today my friend Sarah and I went to Eataly.  This amazing Italian Super Store in NYC.  There they had pure licorice, no sugar added.  These little hard pieces of… candy I suppose, but it was the most bitter thing I’ve ever tasted.  I also purchased one with anise and sugar added to the licorice, and it was still bitter and too tough to chew, but the flavour was much more to my liking.