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Licorice: An Ancient Plant with a Rich History
Licorice is a perennial plant that belongs to the Fabaceae family. It typically grows between 1 and 1.5 meters high and features large pinnate leaves, flat pod-shaped fruit, and roots forming rhizomes. The part we know and consume is the plant's roots. While some enjoy it as a favorite candy, others view it as an elixir of long life, particularly in Chinese medicine. Licorice thrives in rich, moist soil and requires a warm climate for optimal growth. As a result, it is predominantly found around the Mediterranean, the southern United States, the Middle East, North Africa, and Mauritius. However, when planted in suitable areas, licorice tends to become invasive, similar to mint.
Licorice has been known and utilized since the time of the Greeks and Romans, who used it to soothe their throats. In the 1950s, it was employed to treat ulcers and gastritis. Additionally, licorice is considered an effective remedy for colds, sore throats, and bronchitis. Throughout history, licorice has been known by various names, such as sweet wood, sweet root, and regalisse.
In perfumery, the flavor of licorice is derived directly from its roots, either through extraction or as a powder. However, modern technology now allows perfumers to recreate the scent in the laboratory. Licorice is used in both male and female fragrances, lending a spicy, woody, and sweet touch to compositions. It is often paired with vanilla, resulting in a delectable scent reminiscent of candy. Consequently, licorice-based fragrances are particularly popular among gourmands, giving the wearer an irresistibly enticing aroma.
Arguably the most famous licorice-based fragrance is the iconic Lolita Lempicka. However, this versatile plant is also present in Serge Lutens' Bois Vanille, Azzaro's Décibel, Dior's Fahrenheit, and the eponymous perfume by Balmain, showcasing its broad appeal and adaptability in the world of perfumery.