Gan Cao (Licorice Root)

Herb Gan Cao (Licorice Root)

The root of this amazing herb contains many anti-depressant compounds and is a fantastic alternative to St. John’s Wort.

The key therapeutic compound is the glycyrrhizin (50 times sweeter than sugar) and it seems to prevent the breakdown of adrenal hormones such as cortisol (the body’s primary stress-fighting adrenal hormone), making these hormones more available to the body.

Chinese Herb Actions

Licorice is told to enhance our immunity by boosting levels of interferon, a chemical that fights off viruses.

It’s aspirin-like action is helpful in relieving fevers and relieving headaches.

Decreases and eases the congestion and coughing by loosening and thinning the mucus in airways making cough a more “productive”one.

Licorice is believed to protect the liver and promot healing in this vital organ. The herb’s anti-inflammatory properties help calm hepatitis-associated liver inflammation. Licorice also fights the virus commonly responsible for hepatitis and supplies valuable antioxidant compounds that help maintain the overall health of the liver.

Recent studies have found that by limiting the damage from LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, licorice may discourage artery-clogging plaque formation and contribute to the healthy functioning of the heart. Research indicates that modest doses of licorice (100 mg a day) have this effect.


Improves the Spleen’s function of transformation and transportation with symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, lack of appetite, and loose stools.

For coughing and wheezing from various etiologies. Also used alone to treat Wei Syndrome (atrophy) of the Lung with chronic cough.

For cramping and pain of smooth muscle tissue, especially in the abdomen.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Gordana Smith

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