Description: Natural Order, Leguminosae. The licorice plant is herbaceous, from three to five feet high, smooth, dull gray, and with but few branches. The leaves are alternate, pinnate, of nine to thirteen pairs, the leaflets ovate, of a greenish-yellow color, and clammy beneath. Flowers small, papilionaceous, in axillary and erect spikes, on long peduncles; calyx tubular, bilabiate, persistent; corolla bluish-purple; stamens diadelphous. Fruit a smooth, compressed, one-celled legume, with from one to four kidney-shaped seeds.
This species of licorice is native to the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, and to Russia; and is now cultivated in Germany, France, and England. The greater portion of that received in the American market comes from Spain and Sicily. The root is perennial, round, long and straight, tough and fibrous, grayish without and yellowish within, of a sweet taste, and somewhat mucilaginous. Its sweet principle is scarcely soluble in cold water, very soluble in boiling water, and wholly unlike sugar in its characters. Its most desirable virtues lie inside of the corticle.
Properties and Uses: This root is demulcent and gently relaxant, soothing to mucous irritations, and valued chiefly for its sweet taste in covering the sharpness of other remedies. It is employed principally for bronchial irritations, and recent tickling and dry coughs. Is seldom used alone, but oftener combined with such articles as boneset, senega, and other expectorants; or used in warm infusion with flaxseed. It can be used to advantage in compounds for irritation of the bowels, bladder, and uterus. It may be associated with capsicum, piper, guaiacum, and other sharp stimulants, both to cover their taste and render them more acceptable to the stomach. The powder is used largely in the preparation of pills, to absorb moisture, give adherence to the mass, and disguise the taste with a pleasant outside coating. The root may be chewed; or prepared in infusions by removing the outer bark and boiling for several minutes.
Extract of Licorice is mostly made in the north of Spain, and comes to market in rolls about six inches long and nearly an inch in diameter, known as black licorice and licorice ball. A finer and more carefully-prepared article comes from Sicily and Italy. It is made by thoroughly washing and half drying the green roots, cutting them into small pieces, boiling them for several hours, letting the decoction stand till the coarser and more insoluble materials settle, and then evaporate to the proper consistence. It ie very black, dry, brittle, breaking with a shining fracture, and almost wholly soluble in boiling water. A poor article is not brittle, and has not a shining fracture, and is but partly soluble in boiling water. It may be further purified by dissolving it in warm water, decanting it from the impurities that settle, and drying it with the addition of about fifteen percent of gum arabic to obviate the tendency which a refined article exhibits to attract moisture and become softish. It is used in coughs, and for the same general purposes as the root, which it largely supersedes. If mixed with starch in the decoction, it may be dried and pulverized; and this powder is peculiarly serviceable in pill masses.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com