The common name in the UK for molasses. Treacle is the dark sticky sweet goo that results from the boiled-down sugar cane juice left after the process of extracting (granulated) sugar. It's commonly used in baking or made in to candy (dark caramels or treacle taffy); some people like it on toast. I once met a fellow who swore by treacle and marmite sandwiches. I've never yet been brave enough to try one, so I'll reserve judgement on them for now. Treacle is available in a variety of grades based on colour. Darkest is unrefined dark treacle (blackstrap molasses), which is very rich in calcium, and they range up to a light tan treacle.

The English word treacle has its origins in the Greek word theriake, or "poisonous beast." Theriake was a recipe for a poison antidote developed by the physician Galen, and it included, among many other ingredients, the skin of a viper. The idea was that a poison could be cured using body parts from the creature from whence it came.

In Medieval Europe, treacle was used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including heart problems, intestinal blockages, epilepsy, palsy, acne, insomnia, fever, prolapsed uterus, plague, and, of course, poisoning. Making treacle was a complex and time-consuming affair for apothecaries, as it took 40 days to make and 12 years to mature. Treacle was still used as a pharmaceutical as late as the 18th century, when one recipe for Venice treacle had over 70 ingredients, including dried vipers, roses, licorice, spikenard, myrrh, horehound, pepper, valerian, gentian, St. John's wort, and germander.

With such a large number of sometimes-noxious ingredients, treacle was obviously not palatable on its own, and for this reason, it was flavored using honey or other sweet ingredients. By the end of the 17th century, the syrup made in sugar refining became a popular option, and this syrup came to be known on its own as treacle.

Trea"cle (tr&emac;"k'l), n. [OE. triacle a sovereign remedy, theriac, OF. triacle, F. th'eriaque (cf. Pr. triacla, tiriaca, Sp. & It. triaca, teriaca), L. theriaca an antidote against the bite of poisonous animals, Gr. , fr. of wild or venomous beasts, fr. qhri`on a beast, a wild beast, dim. of qh`r a beast. Cf. Theriac.]

1. Old Med.

A remedy against poison. See Theriac, 1.

We kill the viper, and make treacle of him. Jer. Taylor.


A sovereign remedy; a cure.


Christ which is to every harm treacle. Chaucer


Molasses; sometimes, specifically, the molasses which drains from the sugar-refining molds, and which is also called sugarhouse molasses.

⇒ In the United States molasses is the common name; in England, treacle.


A saccharine fluid, consisting of the inspissated juices or decoctions of certain vegetables, as the sap of the birch, sycamore, and the like.

Treacle mustard Bot., a name given to several species of the cruciferous genus Erysimum, especially the E. cheiranthoides, which was formerly used as an ingredient in Venice treacle, or theriac. -- Treacle water, a compound cordial prepared in different ways from a variety of ingredients, as hartshorn, roots of various plants, flowers, juices of plants, wines, etc., distilled or digested with Venice treacle. It was formerly regarded as a medicine of great virtue. Nares. Venice treacle. Old Med. Same as Theriac, 1.


© Webster 1913.

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