Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.
Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut thick slices, dry.
Dosage: 2 - 10g
Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.
Contraindications*: Licorice should not be used when there is Excess Dampness, nausea or vomiting and generally should be used with caution by those who tend to retain water. People with heart conditions or high blood pressure should avoid ingesting large amounts of liquorice as it can increase blood pressure. Prolonged use (6 weeks) of excessive doses (50g/day) can lead to pseudoaldosteronism.
Source date: 1529 AD
Number of ingredients: 12 herbs
Formula key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.
Gan Cao is a king ingredient in Gui Pi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.
Together with the 3 other key herbs in this formula it has a strong tonifying effect on the Spleen, which enables it to generate Blood.
Source date: 1247
Number of ingredients: 10 herbs
Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.
Gan Cao is a deputy ingredient in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.
Source date: 1172 AD
Number of ingredients: 3 herbs
Formula key actions: Clears Heat, cools Blood and relieves toxicity. Promotes urination. Eliminates Summer-Heat. Stops convulsions.
Gan Cao is a deputy ingredient in Bi Yu San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), liquorice are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Qi tonics are typically sweet and they tend to enter the Spleen and Lungs because these Organs are most involved with the production of Qi.
Furthermore liquorice are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that liquorice typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang Excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin Excess. The Neutral nature of liquorice means that you don't have to worry about that!
Liquorice also taste Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like liquorice tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.
The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such liquorice are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.
In vivo and clinical studies have reported beneficial effects of both licorice and glycyrrhizin consumption including anti-ulcer, anti-viral, and hepatoprotective responses.1
Flavonoids extracted from Glycyrrhiza uralensis may have a potential antidepressant-like effect for chronic variable stress induced depression2
1. Isbrucker RA, Burdock GA. ( 2006). Risk and safety assessment on the consumption of Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza sp.), its extract and powder as a food ingredient, with emphasis on the pharmacology and toxicology of glycyrrhizin. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. , 46(3):167-92. Epub 2006 Aug 1.
2.Z Zhao, W Wang, H Guo, D Zhou. (2008). Antidepressant-like effect of liquiritin from Glycyrrhiza uralensis in chronic variable stress induced depression model rats. Behavioural brain research, Elsevier
Liquorice are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Liquorice creme brulee or Licorice Caramel Candy.