Liquorice English (_leguminous_)

The common Liquorice plant, a native of the warmer European

countries, was first cultivated in Britain about 1562, in Turner's

time. It has been chiefly grown at Pontefract (Pomfret) in Yorkshire,

Worksop in Nottinghamshire, and Godalming in Surrey; whilst at

the present time it is produced abundantly at Mitcham, near London,

and the roots are dug up after a three years' growth, to be supplied to

the shops. The use of
he Liquorice plant was first learnt by the

Hellenes from the Scythians; and the root was named adipson,

being thought from the time of Theophrastus to [319] powerfully

extinguish thirst. But Dr. Cullen says his experience has not

confirmed this as a true effect of chewing the root. When lightly

boiled in a little water it yields all its sweetness, together with

some mucilage.

A favourite pastime of school boys at the beginning of the present

century, was to carry in the pocket a small phial of water containing

bits of this Spanish juice, and to shake it continually so as to make

a solution, valued the more the darker and thicker it became.

The juice is commonly employed as a pectoral in coughs or

hoarseness, when thickened to the consistence of a lozenge, or to

that of a solid mass, which hardens in the form of a stick. It is also

added to nauseous medicines, for masking their taste. Towards

obtaining this juice the underground stem or root of the plant is the

part employed.

The search of Diogenes for an honest man was scarcely more

difficult than would be that of an average person for genuine

Liquorice; since the juice is adulterated to any extent, and there is

no definite standard of purity for this article so commonly used.

Potato starch, miller's sweepings mixed with sugar, and any kind of

rubbish are added to it.

In China, the roots of Glycyrrhiza echinata and Glycyrrhiza

glabra, are used in a variety of medicinal preparations as

possessing tonic, alterative, and expectorant properties, and as a

mild aperient. Thereto are attributed rejuvenating and highly

nutritive qualities. English Liquorice root occurs in pieces three or

four inches long, and about as thick as a finger.

The extract of Liquorice must be prepared from the dried root,

else it cannot be strained bright, and would be liable to

fermentation. Chemically, the root [320] contains a special kind of

sugar, glycyrrhizine, a demulcent starch, asparagin, phosphate and

malate of lime and magnesia, a resinous oil, albumen, and woody

fibre. Old Fuller says concerning Nottingham, This county

affordeth the first and best Liquorice in England: great is the use

thereof in physick. A stick of the same is commonly the spoon

prescribed to patients to use in any Loaches. If (as the men of

oeneas were forced to eat their own trenchers), these chance to eat

their spoons, their danger is none at all. The Loach, or Lingence,

from ekleigma, a substance licked-up, has become our modern

lozenge. Extract of Liquorice is largely imported as Spanish or

Italian juice, the Solazzi juice being most esteemed, which comes

in cylindrical or flattened rolls, enveloped in bay leaves; but the

pipe Liquorice of the sweetstuff shops is adulterated. Pontefract

lozenges are made of refined Liquorice, and are justly popular. The

sugar of Liquorice may be safely taken by diabetic patients.

Officinally, the root and stolons (underground stems) of the

Glycyrrhiza glabra (smooth) are variously employed; for making

an extract, for mixing with linseed in a tea, for combination with

powdered senna, sugar, and fennel, to form a favourite mild laxative

medicine, known as Compound Liquorice Powder, and for other

uses. The solid juice is put into porter and stout, because giving

sweetness, thickness, and blackness to those beverages, without

making them fermentative; but Liquorice, like gum, supplies

scant aliment to the body. Black Liquorice is employed in the

manufacture of tobacco, for smoking and chewing.

The Rest Harrow (Ononis arvensis), a troublesome weed, very

common in our ploughed fields, has a root [321] which affords a

sweet viscid juice, and hence it is popularly known as Wild


This is a leguminous plant, called also Ground Furze, which is a

favourite food of the donkey, and therefore gets its botanical title

from the Greek word onos, an ass. Its long and thickly matted

roots will arrest the progress of the harrow, or plough. Medicinally,

the plant has been given with success to subdue delirium. It is

obnoxious to snakes, and they will not come near it.

Other appellations of the herb are Cammock, Stinking Tommy,

Arrete boeuf, Remora aratri, Resta bovis, and Land Whin

(which from the Latin guindolum, signifies a kind of cherry). The

plant was formerly much extolled for obviating stone in the bladder.

It is seen to be covered with spines; and a tradition exists that it

was the Rest harrow which furnished the crown of thorns plaited by

the Roman soldiers at the crucifixion of our Saviour. This plant has

been long-used as a culinary vegetable, its young shoots being

boiled, or taken in salad, or pickled.

The French know it as Bugrane, beloved by goats, and the chief

delight of donkeys, who rejoice to roll themselves amid its prickles.

Simon Pauli ne connait pas de meilleur remede contre le calcul des

reins, et de la vessie. Anjourdhui l'arr ete boeuf est a peu pres

abandonne. On y reviendra! The plant contains ononin, a

chemical glucoside, which is demulcent to the urinary organs.

Its botanical name of Glycyrrhiza comes from the Greek words,

glukus, sweet, and riza, a root. English Liquorice root,

when dried, is commercially used in two forms, the peeled and the

unpeeled. By far and away the best lozenges are those of our [322]

boyhood, still attributed to one Smith, in the Borough of London.