licorice (lĭkˈərĭs, –rĭsh) [key], name for a European plant ( Glycyrrhiza glabra ) of the family Leguminosae (pulse family) and for the sweet substance obtained from the root. Since early times the root has been used medicinally (for coughs and as a laxative); it is used also in brewing, for confectionery, and for flavoring (e.g., in some tobacco). The licorice plant, a perennial with blue pealike blossoms, is cultivated chiefly in the Middle East. Another species, the wild licorice ( G. lepidota ), is native to North America; other plants of similar flavor may be called licorice. Licorice is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.