Gan Cao (Licorice Root)

Gan Cao (Licorice Root)

Herb 5 of 13 in Herbs that Tonify Qi

Neutral Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae)
All 12 (Primarily the LU, HT, SP, ST)
Sweet, Neutral
Radix Glycyrrhizae
Tone Marks:
gān căo
Alt Names:
Guo Lao
Sweet Herb, Sweet Grass
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Chinese Herb Actions

  • Tonifies the Spleen and Strengthens the Qi
    To improve the Spleen's function of transformation and transportation with symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, lack of appetite, and loose stools.
  • Moistens the Lung, Dispels Phlegm, and Stops Cough
    For coughing and wheezing from various etiologies of Excess, Deficient, Heat or Cold conditions. Also used alone to treat Wei Syndrome (atrophy) of the Lung with chronic cough.
  • Releases Cramps and Alleviates Pain
    For cramping and pain of smooth muscle tissue, especially in the abdomen. For skeletal muscle cramps or spasms, this herb is usually combined with Bai Shao (Paeoniae Radix Alba).
  • Clears Heat and Reduces Fire Toxins
    The fresh herb is taken internal or applied topically for uncomplicated carbuncles, lesions, ulcers, and other sores distinguished by heat and toxins. Decoct and apply topically for Erysipelas or eczema with lesions and itching.
  • Poison Antidote
    Can mitigate the effects of various food, herb, drug, and chemical poisonings.
    Use alone for for beef poisoning, with honey for drug poisoning, with Xing Ren (Semen Armeniacae Amarum) for lead poisoning, with Hu Shi (Talcum) for herbicide or pesticide poisoning. The herb can be used topically or internally.
  • Harmonizes Formulas and Moderates Other herbs
    Used to lessen the harsh and toxic nature of other herbs, to protect the Middle Jiao, regulate temperate, and enhance the overall effects of a formula.

    Mitigates the toxicity of Fu Zi (Radix Aconiti Lateralis Praeparata). Moderates the heat of Gan Jiang (Rhizoma Zingiberis) and protects the Yin. Protects the Stomach from the Cold nature of Shi Gao (Gypsum Fibrosum) and Zhi Mu (Raidx Anemarrhenae). Reduces the intensity Da Huang's (Radix et Rhizoma Rhei) and Mang Xiao's (Natrii Sulfas) purgative effects.

Chinese Herb Contraindications & Cautions

  • Do not use with vomiting, nausea, or chest and abdominal distention/fullness due to Dampness.
  • Do not use with high blood pressure or edema

Herb-Drug Interactions

  • Corticosteroids: Glycyrrhizin, a compount in Gan Cao may prolong the biological half-life of the sytemic corticosteroids. 12, 25
  • Digioxin: Potassium loss associated with Gan Cao may increase toxicity of cardiac glycosides such as Lanoxin 12, 26

Chinese Herb Toxicity & Overdose

  • Overdoses may cause symptoms such as higher blood pressure, edema, weakness or numbness of the extremities, dizziness, or headache.
  • Gan Cao may also cause increase sodium retention and decrease potassium excretion.
  • Gan Cao can be combined with Ze Xie (Rhizoma Alismatis) and Fu Ling (Poria) to mitigate water and sodium retention.
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Chinese Herb Dosage

  • 3-10 grams 12
  • 1.5-9 grams 13
  • Maximum of 15-30 grams for large doses

Chinese Herb Notes

  • Reduced sodium intake and a potassium supplement are recommended when taking Gan Cao in large doses or long term.

Chinese Herb Combinations:

  1. Bai Shao (Radix Albus Paeoniae Lactiflorae)
  2. Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae)

This Herb Appears in the Following Formulas:

This herb is incompatible with:

References Used

The TCM information presented here has been referenced from numerous sources; including teachers, practitioners, class notes from Five Branches University, the following books, as well as other sources. If you have benefited from this information, please consider supporting the authors and their works by purchasing the books below.

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