Saturday, September 24, 2022

Licorice in Middle East

The licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a blue-flowering pea with violet blossoms and spiky leaves. The plant grows to a height of 3–4 feet (90–120 cm). It prefers sandy soil with free drainage. Only after 3 years of growth are the roots thick enough to be harvested.

It has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. Historically, the dried rhizome and root of this plant were employed medicinally by the Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Indian, and Roman civilizations as an expectorant and carminative.

It was said that Emperor Shennong classified more than 300 different medicinal plants, and one of the most important plants he classified was licorice. Shennong himself believed licorice could be used as an antidote to toxins, to reduce aches and pains, and to cure other ailments.

The earliest evidence of the use of licorice comes from the ancient tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. Licorice root was amongst the many treasures found in the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb from 1350 BC.

References to licorice have also been made on Assyrian tablets dating back to the second or third millennia BC.

The early Egyptians and Assyrians are known to have cultivated the ‘sweet root’ that was later imported to China, where it has been used for centuries under the name ‘Gan Cao’. The Ancient Egyptians believed licorice endowed the recently deceased with the ability to keep evil spirits at bay.

In ancient Scythia, which today is a region that encompasses Iran and parts of eastern Europe, licorice was cultivated, and by the third century BC, it was exported to Greece.

In Medical School of Salerno (VIII–IX century AD) the work Regimen sanitatis carefully examined licorice and its pharmacological properties acquiring the knowledge derived from outstanding Arabic medical scientists like Mohammed Ibn Zakaria Abu Bekr Alrazi (“Rhazes”, 850–925 AD.) and Ibn Sina (“Avicenna”, 980–1037 AD.).

Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the famous physician and philosopher, said in the Canone of Ibn Sina, that: “the infused licorice purifies the voice and the trachea, and is useful in disorders and diets.” He used this plant in treating his patients nine centuries ago.

The Cluniac monks are thought to have ‘discovered’ licorice when accompanying the Crusaders in the Middle East, where it was already a popular drink and a suitable alternative to the banned substance, alcohol. It is thought that they then grew licorice in their herb garden at Pontefract.
Licorice in Middle East