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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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Liquorice: you either love it or you hate it. Most kinds typically bring two totally opposing flavours together: sugary sweet and extremely salty.

The basic ingredient in this jet black confectionery is the juice of the liquorice root, which is boiled together with starch, sugar and salt, and sometimes also with added gum arabic, to make sure it scrunches up nicely between your teeth.

Whether it’s then turned into a sweet with desiccated coconut or a type of fruit gum, a tangy variety with mint or violet flavouring, or a spicy mixture with pepper, ginger or ammonium chloride: you can let your imagination run wild.

The Scandinavians have chocolate with liquorice pieces and in Calabria you can even find pasta with liquorice. But liquorice isn’t only something to chew on, it can also raise the blood pressure. Since this is not good news for everyone, some types of liquorice have to be specially labelled. According to the German guidelines on confectionery products, liquorice in sweet form must contain at least three percent liquorice extract. This extract contains glycyrrhizin, which is responsible for the distinctive taste of liquorice.

A decomposition product of this substance inhibits the function of an enzyme that is key to the body’s mineral balance, which explains the stimulating effect of liquorice. Used as a remedy right back in ancient times, many people rely on the natural power of the liquorice root even today. Traditional remedies for coughs and sore throats are the most widely available products on the market, or you can also find simple throat pastilles containing liquorice. However, if people with high blood pressure consume excessive amounts, this can pose a risk to their health. This is why sweets and drinks with a high glycyrrhizin content must bear the warning “Contains liquorice – People with high blood pressure should avoid excessive consumption”.

Starklakritze products, which is the German term for liquorice products with a high glycyrrhizin content, also contain ammonium chloride. This is another potentially risky substance: in high doses it can adversely affect the body’s mineral balance and cause the blood to become hyperacidic. For this reason, even liquorice with just two percent ammonium chloride must bear a clearly visible warning on the front of the packet, stating “Liquorice for adults – Not suitable for children”. If the product contains over four and a half percent of this salty ingredient, another warning saying “Extra strong” must be included too. And when it gets to eight percent, it’s game over: such products are classed as pharmaceuticals, not food.

Source: www.aid.de, Christina Rempe