What Are Licorice Sticks?

Christian Petersen

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.

The term "licorice sticks" may refer to sections of the licorice root plant.
The term "licorice sticks" may refer to sections of the licorice root plant.

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.

Among jazz musicians, a "licorice stick" is a clarinet.
Among jazz musicians, a "licorice stick" is a clarinet.

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.

Licorice sticks may be used to reduce cigarette cravings for those trying to quit smoking.
Licorice sticks may be used to reduce cigarette cravings for those trying to quit smoking.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahGen-- I love the different flavored licorice stick candies as well. Some of them actually have licorice extract in addition to the other flavors but the licorice is barely noticeable.

I think my favorite flavors are strawberry and orange. There are some very unique flavors out there as well like root beer, pina colada, chocolate, raspberry and cinnamon.

Natural licorice sticks are good too but I like the commercial variety more because I enjoy peeling them into strings.


I don't like licorice but I love the different flavored, soft peel candies. I like the cherry and green apple flavors. I haven't tried other flavors but I intend to. What is everyone favorite licorice stick flavor?


As far as I know licorice naturally has a type of sugar in it that can raise blood sugar. So I doubt that it can be used to regulate blood sugar, especially not the licorice candy sticks which contain additional sugar. Diabetics need to avoid licorice sticks unless they are sugar free.

I love real licorice sticks, not the type that is flavored with anise. Anise has a similar flavor to licorice and it's cheaper so many licorice candies contain anise instead of licorice extract. I only buy all natural licorice sticks with real raw sugar, licorice and natural color.

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