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Glycoyrrhiza uralensis, or Asian Licorice, is a legume native to central Asia, China, and Japan. The root has been used in traditional medicine throughout Asia and the Middle East for thousands of years. In China, licorice is second in popularity only to ginseng and written record of it's use goes back as far as 3,000 years. It was used to treat wounds, strengthen bones, and promote muscle growth.
Licorice root has historically been used for a wide range of ailments from respiratory distress to digestive irritation and is still popular today in herbal remedies for boosting the immune system, improving mental functions, and countering stress, among numerous uses. Botanical researchers have analyzed licorice and identified many active compounds.
A key compound, glycyrrhizin, is responsible for licorice's distinctive sweetness. The genus name "Glycyrrhiza" means "sweet root" in Greek, but most licorice candy today is flavored with anise instead.