Liquorice

Chinese: 甘草

Pinyin: Gān Cǎo

Parts used: Dried root and rhizome

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Heart Lung

Scientific name: Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Other names: Licorice

Use of liquorice (Gan Cao) in TCM

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.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which liquorice may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Palpitations Coughing Spasmodic pain Abcesses Sore throat Sputum Abdominal pain

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.

Common TCM formulas in which liquorice (Gan Cao) are used*

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Conditions targeted*: Nervous exhaustionMyasthenia gravis and others

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.

In Gui Pi Tang, Gan Cao tonifies the Spleen and augments the Qi.

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.

Read more about Gui Pi Tang

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

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.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic hepatitisArrhythmia and others

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.

In Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Gan Cao is sweet and warm and tonify the Qi of the Middle Burner.

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Bi Yu San

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.

Conditions targeted*: Heatstroke and others

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 Bi Yu San, Gan Cao harmonizes the Middle Burner and has a mild ability to clear Heat and resolve toxicity.

Together with Talc, they not only promotes urination, but also generates Body Fluids, thereby enabling the formula to perform its tasks without injuring the Qi or Body Fluids.

Read more about Bi Yu San

Liu Yi San

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Summer-Heat. Drains Dampness. Supplements Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Stomach fluGastroenteritis and others

Gan Cao is a deputy ingredient in Liu Yi San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Liu Yi San, Gan Cao harmonizes the middle and has a mild ability to clear Heat and resolve toxicity. Its combination with Talc (Hua Shi) not only promotes urination, but also generates Fluids, thereby enabling the formula to perform its tasks without injuring the Qi or body Fluids.

Read more about Liu Yi San

Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Nourishes the Heart. Calms the spirit.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaNonhealing ulcers and others

Gan Cao is a deputy ingredient in Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang, Gan Cao helps Ginseng tonify the Qi and harmonize all ingredients. 

Read more about Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang

Source date: the Qing dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Yin. Nourishes Blood. Calms the Liver. Extinguishes Wind.

Conditions targeted*: EncephalitisMeningitis and others

Gan Cao is a deputy ingredient in E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang, Gan Cao calms the Liver to extinguish Wind. The combination Gan Cao with Bai Shao (White Peony Roots) and is very effective in treating painful spasms.

Read more about E Jiao Ji Zi Huang Tang

Ju Yuan Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Heavy menstruationMetrorrhagia and others

Gan Cao is a deputy ingredient in Ju Yuan Jian. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ju Yuan Jian, Gan Cao is sweet and warm and tonify the Qi of the Middle Burner.

Read more about Ju Yuan Jian

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Conditions targeted*: InfertilityMenorrhagia and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Jia Wei Xiao Yao San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Jia Wei Xiao Yao San, Gan Cao tonifies the Spleen and, when combined with White peony roots (as is the case here), helps reduce the spasms that are often a symptoms for patients that use this formula.

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisCholecystitis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Yao San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiao Yao San, Gan Cao tonifies the Spleen and, when combined with White peony roots (as is the case here), helps reduce the spasms that are often a symptoms for patients that use this formula.

Read more about Xiao Yao San

Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Diuretic, clears Excess fluid and removes edema. Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Calms External Wind.

Conditions targeted*: AscitesEdema and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang, Gan Cao helps tonify the Spleen.

Read more about Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsChronic bronchitis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Er Chen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Er Chen Tang, Gan Cao tonifies the Spleen

Read more about Er Chen Tang

Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Source date: Qing Dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and relieves acute conditions of the Gallbladder. Relieves acute Damp-Heat syndromes. Resolves Phlegm. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: CholecystitisIcteric hepatitis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang, Gan Cao , together with Talc (Hua Shi), Poria-cocos mushroom (Fu Ling) and Natural Indigo (Qing Dai), the other assistants in this formula, drain Damp Heat through the urine to break Stagnation in the Triple Burner

Read more about Hao Qin Qing Dan Tang

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisChronic cholecystitis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Chai Hu Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Conditions targeted*: HiccupsChronic gastritis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Da Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes sweating. Releases the Exterior. Clears Interior Heat.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsInfluenza and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Da Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Da Qing Long Tang

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang, Gan Cao tonifies the Spleen 

Read more about Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang

Source date: the 18th century

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Improves throat. Resolves toxicity. Clears the Lungs.

Conditions targeted*: DiphtheriaTonsillitis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang, Gan Cao resolves toxicity, improves the condition of the throat, and harmonizes the actions of the other herbs in the formula.

Read more about Yang Yin Qing Fei Tang

Ba Zhen Tang

Source date: 1326 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and augments Qi. Tonifies and augments Blood.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaHepatitis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Ba Zhen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ba Zhen Tang, Gan Cao supplies Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Read more about Ba Zhen Tang

Mai Men Dong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Stomach. Generates Body Fluids. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Conditions targeted*: Lung atrophyLaryngitis and others

Gan Cao is an assistant ingredient in Mai Men Dong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Mai Men Dong Tang, Gan Cao it has a relatively strong action in tonifying the Stomach. It can also improves the throat issue often encountered by patients who suffer from the patterns solved by this formula. 

Read more about Mai Men Dong Tang

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic gastritisPeptic ulcers and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Si Jun Zi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Si Jun Zi Tang, Gan Cao warms and regulates the Middle Burner and moderates the draining property of Poria-cocos mushrooms.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Conditions targeted*: AnorexiaPeptic ulcers and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Liu Jun Zi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Liu Jun Zi Tang, Gan Cao warms and regulates the Middle Burner and moderates the draining property of Poria-cocos mushrooms.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang

Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Source date: 1602

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Disperses Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. Alleviates pain. Harmonizes Blood.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisChronic gastritis and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Chai Hu Shu Gan San. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Chai Hu Shu Gan San, Gan Cao is used as an envoy to harmonize the various actions of the other herbs.

Read more about Chai Hu Shu Gan San

Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Dispels Heat and. Eliminates Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: LeiomyomaRetained placenta and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Tao He Cheng Qi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Tao He Cheng Qi Tang, Gan Cao protects the Stomach and the Middle Burner by moderating the detrimental effects of the other ingredients in this formula.

Read more about Tao He Cheng Qi Tang

Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Source date: 1573 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Lung and Kidney Yin. Lubricates the Lung and clears phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic pharyngitis and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Bai He Gu Jin Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Bai He Gu Jin Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes the actions of the other herbs and, in combination with Platycodon root (Jie Geng), improves the status of the throat.

Read more about Bai He Gu Jin Tang

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries and dissolves Phlegm. Strengthens the Spleen. Smoothes the Liver and calms Liver Wind (antispasmodic).

Conditions targeted*: Meniere's diseaseHypertension and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes the actions of the other herbs and mildly regulates the functions of the Middle-Burner

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Ding Chuan Tang

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Lung Heat. Expectorant for asthma.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisAsthma and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Ding Chuan Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ding Chuan Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes the actions of the other ingredients in the formula.

Read more about Ding Chuan Tang

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatoid arthritisConnective tissue disorders and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes the actions of the other herbs and regulates the functions of the Middle Burner.

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Juan Bi Tang

Source date: 1178 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and harmonizes the Protective and Nutritive Qi. Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Periarthritis of the shoulderRheumatoid arthritis and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Juan Bi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Juan Bi Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes the functions of the other herbs.

Read more about Juan Bi Tang

Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Anti-rheumatic, clears Wind, Cold and Damp Stagnation. Strengthens the function of the Liver and Kidney. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic lower back painSciatica and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang, Gan Cao tonifies the middle Qi and harmonizes the actions of the other herbs in the formula.

Read more about Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang

Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Lungs. Transforms congested Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisChronic asthma and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes the Middle Burner and the actions of the other herbs in the formula.

Read more about Ling Gan Wu Wei Jiang Xin Tang

Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Reverses the flow of Rebellious Stomach Qi. Relieves both Heat and Cold Stagnation in the gastrointestinal tract.

Conditions targeted*: Peptic ulcersGastroesophageal reflux disease and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang, Gan Cao helps the assistant herbs tonify the middle Qi and harmonizes the actions of the other ingredients.

Read more about Ban Xia Xie Xin Tang

Xiao Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Warms the Lungs. Directs Rebellious Qi downward.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsBronchitis and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Xiao Qing Long Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Xiao Qing Long Tang, Gan Cao augments the Qi and harmonizes the interaction of the other herbs.

Read more about Xiao Qing Long Tang

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Conditions targeted*: FurunclesPurulent otitis and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes the Middle Burner and regulate the actions of the other herbs in the formula.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Zuo Gui Yin

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Tonifies the Kidneys.

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Zuo Gui Yin. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Zuo Gui Yin, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients. 

Read more about Zuo Gui Yin

Ba Zheng San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and Fire. Promotes urination. Unblocks painful urinary dribbling.

Conditions targeted*: GlomerulonephritisCystitis and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Ba Zheng San. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ba Zheng San, Gan Cao harmonizes the actions of all ingredients and relieves the abdominal pain. The combination of Liquorice and talc also assist to ease irritability.

Read more about Ba Zheng San

Wan Dai Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Middle Burner. Removes Dampness. Stops vaginal discharge. Strengthens the Spleen.

Conditions targeted*: PreeclampsiaOtitis media and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Wan Dai Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Wan Dai Tang, Gan Cao assists the chief herbs in tonifying the Middle Burner and harmonizes the actions of the other ingredients.

Read more about Wan Dai Tang

Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and transforms Phlegm-Fluids. Strengthens the Spleen. Resolves Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Meniere's diseaseBasilar insufficiency and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang, Gan Cao strengthen the Qi of the Middle Burner. It has a slight
tendency to cause Stagnation, but it can be effectively counteracted by Fu Ling (Poria-cocos mushroom)

Gui Zhi (Cinnamon twigs), when combined with Gan Cao, transforms its sweetness into Yang through its own acrid and moving nature.

Read more about Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang

Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates the Blood. Dispels blood Stagnation. Spreads the Liver Qi. Unblocks the channels.

Conditions targeted*: Coronary artery diseaseRheumatic valvular heart disease and others

Gan Cao is an envoy ingredient in Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, Gan Cao regulates and harmonizes all ingredients. 

Read more about Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldBronchitis and others

Read more about Xing Su San

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: HypertensionAngina and others

Read more about Wen Dan Tang

Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Source date: 1817 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Dampness and Phlegm.

In Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients

Read more about Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Gua Lou San

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Remove breast carbuncle (mastitis) after birth giving.

In Gua Lou San, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients 

Read more about Gua Lou San

Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Source date: 1548 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Draws out toxicity. Expels pus from the interior. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

In Tuo Li Xiao Du San, Gan Cao harmonizes all other ingredients

Read more about Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Conditions targeted*: AmenorrheaPainful menstruations and others

In Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

In Wen Jing Tang, Gan Cao tonifies Qi and harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach to strengthen the source of production and transformation so that Yang can produce Yin and the Blood may not be Deficient. It also harmonizes the actions of the various herbs in the formula. 

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Ba Zhen Yi Mu Tang

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Invigorates the Blood.

Conditions targeted*: Infertility and others

In Ba Zhen Yi Mu Tang, Gan Cao tonifies Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Read more about Ba Zhen Yi Mu Tang

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Source date: 2002 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi.

In Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San, Gan Cao tonifies the Spleen and, when combined with White peony roots, helps reduce the spasms that are often a symptoms for patients that adopt this formula.

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang

Source date: 1826 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Removes Stagnation. Drains Fire. Unblocks the Meridians.

In Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients

Read more about Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang

Tiao Gan Tang

Source date: 1827 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin.

In Tiao Gan Tang, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients

Read more about Tiao Gan Tang

Da Bu Yuan Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Yin and Blood. Nourishes Qi and Yang.

Conditions targeted*: Uterine prolapse and others

In Da Bu Yuan Jian, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients

Read more about Da Bu Yuan Jian

Da Ying Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Expels Cold.

In Da Ying Jian, Gan Cao tonifies Qi to nourishes Blood

Read more about Da Ying Jian

Wu Yao Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Moves Qi. Stops pain. Nourishes Liver Blood. Eliminates Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and others

In Wu Yao Tang, Gan Cao is sweet, cool and relaxing. It serves as envoy to moderate the acrid and warming actions of the other herbs and harmonizes the diverse functions of the various ingredients.

Read more about Wu Yao Tang

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1675 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi. Removes Dampness. Moves Qi. Alleviates pain.

In Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang, Gan Cao warms and regulates the Middle Burner and moderates the draining property of Poria-cocos mushrooms.

Read more about Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Dang Gui Di Huang Yin

Source date: 1640 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes Blood. Tonifies Kidney and Liver Yin. Regulates the menstrual cycle.

In Dang Gui Di Huang Yin, Gan Cao harmonizes all ingredients

Read more about Dang Gui Di Huang Yin

Shi Quan Da Bu Tang

Source date: 1180 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies Qi. Warms and tonifies Blood.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaNervous exhaustion and others

In Shi Quan Da Bu Tang, Gan Cao warms and regulates the Middle Burner and moderates the draining property of Poria-cocos mushrooms.

Read more about Shi Quan Da Bu Tang

Key TCM concepts behind liquorice (Gan Cao)'s properties

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.

Research on liquorice (Gan Cao)

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

Sources:

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

Use of liquorice (Gan Cao) as food

Liquorice are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Liquorice creme brulee or Licorice Caramel Candy.