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