A licorice stick is usually a type of chewy candy, in stick form, having the flavor of the licorice plant. Licorice, or Glycyrrhiza glabra, is an herbaceous plant that has been prized for centuries for its medicinal properties. It became popular as a source of the flavor known in the United States as black licorice, which is sweet, pungent, and reminiscent of anise. Today, licorice is a generic term for the type of chewy candy often sold in sticks. Alternatively, "licorice sticks" can refer to actual sections of licorice root itself or to a clarinet.
Licorice candy is one of the most popular forms of candy in the world today and in its traditional form, consists of a ribbed, twisted stick of sweet, chewy candy, black in color and flavored with licorice root extract. The immense popularity of the candy and the fact that many people do not care for the traditional licorice flavor led candy manufacturers to come up with alternate flavors for licorice sticks, and today, hundreds of colors and flavors of this chewy treat are available from large numbers of manufacturers all over the world.
While the basic licorice stick itself is an iconic form and immediately recognizable to candy lovers everywhere, it has undergone many modifications and variations over the decades, although many manufacturers still produce the traditional shape. A licorice stick may be solid or hollow, and the ribbing and degree of twist commonly varies from one product to another. Very long licorice sticks are called ropes, and licorice sticks may be formed from a number of smaller licorice strands, twisted and pressed together so that they can be peeled off from the stick individually.
Used for centuries as an herbal remedy, licorice root is still available in its whole form and is commonly used by those trying to quit smoking as a cigarette substitute. Chewing the root can help alleviate cigarette cravings. It is also traditionally thought to have many useful medicinal properties and is still used in many parts of the world in this way today. It is believed by some to be a calming digestive tonic, to help regulate blood sugar, to alleviate symptoms of arthritis, and to act as an antioxidant and detoxification agent.
Used as a slang term in music, particularly amongst jazz musicians and devotees of jazz music, "licorice stick" refers to a clarinet. The long, straight shape and traditional black color of the instrument at some point caused someone to call it a licorice stick. The exact origin of this usage, first encountered during the big band period in American music is unknown, however.