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Microscopic Characters of Liquorice: In-depth Exploration

Microscopic Characters of Liquorice: Elucidate the complicated microscopic characters of liquorice root, particularly detailed structures such as cortical and stele tissues, starch grains, fibers, vascular bundles, and phloem tissues. 

This general review is concerned with the complicated structure of the root and localization of major bioactive components, namely glycyrrhizin and flavonoids as well as their functions in therapy. 

This is an ideal article for researchers and enthusiasts who wish to understand the scientific factors that lead to liquorice’s therapeutic properties.

Microscopic Characters of Liquorice
Microscopic Characters of Liquorice

Microscopic Characters of Liquorice: An In-depth Exploration

History of Liquorice: Microscopic Characters of Liquorice

Liquorice is an ancient herbs, extracted from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra which originated in many parts of the world. This herb is an indigenous plant of a number of countries in Europe and Asia where it was first noticed not only for its sweetish taste, but also for its medicinal value. 

The ailments were coughs, stomach pains, and some digestive problems that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans valued the herb for its healing properties. 

The root was so highly prized that specimens have been discovered in the graves of Egyptian pharaohs, proving the importance of this plant in their culture.

All through the middle ages, and until the modern era, liquorice continued to be a significant component of herbal medicine in various cultures. However, especially in the traditional Chinese medicine has been used liquorice for its harmonizing properties, which is included into herbal formulas to activate the action of other components and reduce toxicity.

Morphological Characters of Liquorice

Liquorice is scientifically referred to as Glycyrrhiza glabra. Liquorice is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the family Fabaceae. It is marked by several morphological features in its growth and appearance, which help in identifying it and even planting it.

The Liquorice Plant is a short-lived perennial herb with upright stems.

Height and Structure: It can grow to a maximum height of about 1m (3ft.). They have an erect growth habit, which is highly branched giving the plant a bushy appearance.

Root System: In particular, the liquorice plant is characterized by its rich root system comprising a thick woody rhizome and long fibrous roots. The main root may grow up to several meters deep into the ground which ensures that there is access to water and nutrients. The sweet liquid, liquorice extract comes from these roots and rhizomes, which are infused with the unique flavor.

Leaves: The leaves of the liquorice plant are compound, normally having 4 to 7 pairs of leaflets with an extra terminal leaflet. It is oval-shaped in appearance with a shiny green surface and a pale underside. The leaflets are laid opposite to the stem, making the plant leafy.

Flowers: The flowers of liquorice are small, purplish to pale blue in color; they grow in axillary spikes. These flowers represent typical legume plants, with papilionaceous structure, which makes pollination mostly bee-dependent.

Fruits: The seed pod of the liquorice plant is a small, flat one which contributes several seeds. The pods are elongated and become brown when they ripen finally splitting into two to release the seeds.

Aromatic Qualities: Although the liquorice plant is best known for its sweet and unusual flavor due to the presence of glycyrrhizin, the above-ground parts of this plant have a mild odour that is typical of many members of the legume family.

The morphology of liquorice enables not only its identification and cultivation but also has a significant impact on ecological interactions, pollination, and seed dispersal. The elaborate root system, in particular, is essential to the plant’s survival and maintenance because it provides the necessary liquorice extract that is widely used in different industries.

Table- 1: Morphological Characters of Liquorice

Here’s a table summarizing the morphological characters of liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), highlighting its key features and their significance:

Morphological FeatureDescription
Height and StructurePerennial herb that can reach up to 1 meter in height, with an upright, bushy appearance and extensive branching.
Root SystemFeatures a thick, woody rhizome and long, fibrous roots that can grow several meters deep, crucial for water and nutrient absorption.
LeavesCompound leaves comprising 4 to 7 pairs of leaflets and an additional terminal leaflet, oval-shaped with a glossy green surface.
FlowersProduces small, purplish to pale blue flowers arranged in axillary spikes, typical of legume plants, facilitating pollination.
FruitsThe plant bears small, flat pods containing several seeds, which are oblong and turn brown upon maturation.
Aromatic QualitiesWhile the root is known for its sweet, distinctive flavor due to glycyrrhizin, the above-ground parts of the plant have a mild aroma.
This table offers an overview of liquorice’s morphological characteristics, illustrating how each feature contributes to the plant’s growth, survival, and utility in various applications, from herbal medicine to the food industry.

Microscopic Characters of Liquorice Root

The microscopic anatomy of liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) provides a good perspective on how the pharmacological properties and applications of the plant can be understood. 

In this section, we will explore the preparation techniques and microscopic structures responsible within the root.

Sectioning: In order to make liquorice root available for microscopic examination, microtome sections are taken. This maintains the transmission of light through the sample for clear and visualization under a microscope.

Fixation: Sections are then fixed in chemicals such as formalin or ethanol so cellular structures may be maintained and decomposition prevented.

Dehydration: The fixed samples are dehydrated with alcohol and then stained ethanol to remove water that might alter the visualization of structures.

Clearing and Mounting: The tissue samples are cleared in xylene or another clearing agent to render them transparent following dehydration and are then mounted on glass slides using mounting medium for the microscopic examination.

Microscopic Characters of Liquorice Under Microscope
Microscopic Characters of Liquorice Under Microscope

Microscopic Anatomy

Cortical and Stele Tissues

Cortex: The outermost part of the root, or cortex, is composed of parenchyma cells that act as starch and metabolites storage. It is rather thick and contributes toward water and nutrients absorption.

Stele: The stele is the vascular cylinder in the interior of the stem and it consists of xylem, phloem, and cambium.

Starch Grains and Fibers

Starch Grains: We can see starch grains are plentiful in the cortical area, appearing as dense, refractive granules under the microscope, which represent an energy store.

Fibers: The liquorice root contains fibrous cell, especially in relation to the vascular bundles; hence offers structural support.

Vascular Bundles: These bundles are arranged in a ring in the stele and they are essential for the root’s transport system.

Xylem Elements: The primary function of water transport is performed by xylem tissues which are observed as star-shaped or polygonal cross-sections.
Phloem Tissues

Phloem tissues are located in the vicinity of xylem and transport sugars and other organic compounds in the vascular bundles. Phloem cells such as sieve tubes and companion cells can be identified because they have relatively thin walls, and their cytoplasm is very dense.

Here’s a table summarizing the microscopic characterization of liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), highlighting key anatomical Microscopic Characters of Liquorice Root and their features:

Table- 2: Microscopic Characters of Liquorice Root

Microscopic FeatureDescription
Cortical TissuesComposed of parenchyma cells, thick outer layer responsible for storage of starch and other metabolites.
Stele TissuesContains the vascular system, including xylem, phloem, and cambium, essential for transport and support.
Starch GrainsDense, refractive granules found in the cortical region, indicating energy storage.
FibersLong, slender cells with thick walls, located around vascular bundles, providing structural support.
Vascular BundlesArranged in a ring within the stele, crucial for the plant’s transport system, containing both xylem and phloem tissues.
Xylem ElementsStar-shaped or polygonal in cross-section, responsible for water transport, consisting of vessels and tracheids with thick walls and hollow centers.
Phloem TissuesAdjacent to the xylem, responsible for transporting sugars and other organic compounds, identifiable by relatively thin walls and dense cytoplasm.
This table provides a concise overview of the microscopic structures within liquorice root, shedding light on their functions and significance in the root’s growth, survival, and medicinal properties.

Chemical Constituents for Liquorice: Microscopic Characters of Liquorice

Glycyrrhiza glabra roots are characterized by a high content of bioactive components possessing specific pharmacological effects. At the microscopic level, understanding these compounds highlights how they contribute to the medicine attributes of the root.

Glycyrrhizin: Composition and Localization

Composition: Liquorice contains a triterpenoid saponin compound also known as glycyrrhizin, which is the main bioactive constituent. It is the factor responsible for the sweetness of the roots because it is 30-50 times sweeter than sucrose. Glycyrrhizin activity is anti-inflammatory and antiviral.

Localization: Glycyrrhizin is mainly located in the root’s parenchyma cells of the cortex and the cells around the vascular bundles. It is accumulated in the vacuoles of these cells as a storage pool for the substance.

Flavonoids and Their Distribution

Types of Flavonoids: Liquorice has a broad spectrum of flavonoids in its composition: liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin and glabridin. Such compounds are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and estrogenic active.

Distribution: The flavonoids are not solely localized in the root but rather are present throughout the entire root, with a higher concentration in the outer cortical layers. This distribution is a protective effect against environmental stressors. 

Other microscopic approaches such as histochemical staining can help to identify the presence of the flavonoids in which these compounds show specific localization patterns within the root tissues.

Other Bioactive Compounds

Coumarins and Terpenoids: Liquorice contains coumarins (herniarin and umbelliferone) as well as various terpenoids, which help to promote its anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective effects. In the root, these compounds are distributed in different forms; they are localized mainly in the parenchyma cells.

Polysaccharides: The polyaccharides present in the root are water-soluble and have immunomodulatory activity. These are mostly confined within the phloem and surrounding parenchyma cells, where they can be utilized in plant’s defense processes.

The main chemical components of the liquorice root, glycyrrhizin and flavonoids are selectively distributed in tissues of the plant to increase their biological and pharmacological action. 

This complex distribution provides a hint regarding the complexity of plant defense mechanisms and the pharmacological significance of liquorice root in therapeutic applications.

Pharmacological Properties of Liquorice: Microscopic Characters of Liquorice

Liquorice is one of the best known plants in pharmacology for its multiple biological activities, due to the rich content of bioactive compounds.

Anti-inflammatory Effects: Liquorice root is one of the most valued roots due to its powerful anti-inflammatory characteristics. The main active compound for this activity is glycyrrhizin which has several inhibitory effects on inflammatory pathways and decreases the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. 

This is the reason why liquorice is an effective natural treatment for disorders like arthritis, allergies and skin inflammations.

Antiviral Effects: Many compounds in liquorice such as glycyrrhizin have profound antiviral properties especially against the hepatitis C, HIV and influenza viruses. The mechanism includes suppression of virus multiplication and modulation of the immune system to improve viral clearance.

Effects on the Gastrointestinal Tract and the Adrenal Function

Digestive System Benefits: Liquorice has been used over the years as a remedy to treat a wide range of Gastro-intestinal disorders such as peptic ulcers, gastritis and heartburn. The soothing qualities of the root help line the stomach and the esophagus where it provides protection against gastric acid. 

Liquorice in addition contains glycyrrhizin and flavonoids which facilitate the healing of gastric lesions as well as reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.

It is composed of substances that prevent cortisol from being metabolized, which is the body’s main stress hormone. Through the increased action of cortisol, liquorice can be used to manage adrenal fatigue and aid in the body’s reactions toward stress. 

Yet this factor requires to be also cautious, since excess of liquorice can cause mineralocorticoid activity imbalance and consequently side effects such as hypertension and edema.


To conclude liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has good potential pharmacological value including anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities and considerable benefits for the alimentary canal and adrenals. Indeed, these therapeutic performances have arisen from the plant’s phytochemical constituents that include glycyrrhizin and flavonoids to explain the rationale why CI has been used in the past to treatment of various diseases. 

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