You might be hard pressed to believe that this tangled mess is edible - but indeed it is. These are dried Licorice (or Liquorice) roots and are used to make tea.
The health properties associated with Licorice are well documented - it contains a natural expectorant so it can help soothe coughs and colds; it offers digestive relief by decreasing the amount of stomach acid and can help reduce stress and anxiety.
However, there are concerns with taking licorice in large doses or on a frequent basis as it can cause blood pressure to rise - if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant you should probably give it a miss but always check with your doctor to make sure.
If you are feeling a bit queasy or perhaps a cold is coming on, then a soothing cup of licorice root tea should make you feel better.
One or Two sticks depending on size is all you need - let them brew for a few minutes before drinking.
You shouldn't expect the commercial licorice flavour that we associate with modern day sweets as they are flavoured using aniseed rather than a product of the licorice plant.
The tea has a more woody, resinous flavouring to begin with which then finishes with a pleasant and distinctive sweetness.