Licorice as an aphrodisiac

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licorice aphrodisiac

Licorice (or liquorice) is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The liquorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas) and native to southern Europe, Middle East, and parts of Asia where it grows wild. It is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 metre in height, with pinnate leaves about 7–15 centimetres (3–6 inches) long, with 9–17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8–1.2 cm (1/3 to 1/2 inch) long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in a loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2–3 centimetres (about 1 inch) long, containing several seeds.

Licorice gets its name from the Greek glyks, meaning “sweet” and rhiza meaning “root”. It is the sweet tasting rhizomes (underground stems) and roots that are used as flavorings. Licorice is mentioned in the Hippocratic texts, and to the Romans, who made licorice extract as we do today. Ancient Chinese herbalists used licorice, distilling the root’s essence and prescribing it for a wide range of conditions. It was cultivated in England since the 16th century by Dominican monks in Pontefract, Yorkshire, where the confectionery trade began.

Licorice is popular in Italy, particularly in the South, in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as mouth-freshener. Throughout Italy unsweetened liquorice is consumed in the form of small black pieces made only from 100% pure liquorice extract; the taste is bitter and intense. Dried liquorice root can be chewed as a sweet.

Licorice is more well-known, perhaps, as a confectionery flavoring. It is usually found in a wide variety of liquorice candies. The most popular in the United Kingdom are very sweet "Liquorice allsorts" and “Pontefract” cakes. Additionally, liquorice is found in some soft drinks (such as root beer), and is in some herbal teas where it provides a sweet aftertaste. The flavour is common in medicines to disguise unpleasant flavors.

Licorice has also been known for its medicinal properties. Roman legions considered licorice an indispensable ration for their long grueling campaigns. It was said soldiers could go up to 10 days without eating or drinking as the licorice properties helped to build stamina and energy, which relieved both hunger and thirst.

Ancient Chinese used their related Chinese Licorice (G. uralensis) extensively in traditional Chinese medicine, although their licorice contains extracts that are in much greater concentration. (Ordinary licorice extracts are 50 times sweeter than sugar.)

Ten different bio-flavonoids have been found in licorice; hence it helps cleanse the colon, supports lung health, and promotes adrenal gland function. Licorice is a common ingredient in throat-soothing herbal supplements. Its natural sweetness makes it a favorite flavor in herbal teas and many food products. Herbal preparations containing Licorice Root are used to treat stomach and intestinal ulcers, lower acid levels and coat the stomach wall with a protective gel. Rarely used alone, Licorice is a common component of many herbal teas as a mild laxative, a diuretic, and for flatulence. It has also been known to relieve rheumatism and arthritis, regulate low blood sugar, and is effective for Addison's disease. The Root extract produces mild estrogenic effects, and it has proven useful in treating symptoms of menopause, regulating menstruation, and relieving menstrual cramps. Licorice may also be used for night sweats.

Licorice has an ancient reputation as an aphrodisiac; the Kamasutra and Ananga Ranga contain numerous recipes for increasing sexual vigor which include licorice; in ancient China, people used licorice to enhance love and lust. It is widely believed that chewing on bits of licorice root can enhance one’s sexual vigor.

Liquorice affects the body's endocrine system. It can lower the amount of serum testosterone which affects the amount of free testosterone.

According to research, its smell is particularly stimulating especially to women. Alan R. Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, conducted a study that looked at how different smells stimulated sexual arousal. He found that the smell of black licorice increased the blood flow to the penis by 13 percent. When combined with the smell of doughnuts, that percentage jumped to 32. “Black licorice”, by the way, has been used as an aphrodisiac for centuries.


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