Dried ginger (Gan Jiang) Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang

Chinese: 甘草干姜汤

Pinyin: Gān Cǎo Gān Jiāng Tāng

Other names: Licorice and Ginger Decoction

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula category: Formulas that warm Interior Cold

Conditions for which it may be prescribed: EnuresisHayfeverEpistaxis and six other conditions

  1. Warms the Lungs
  2. Strengthens the Stomach

Source date: 220 AD

Source book: Essentials from the Golden Cabinet

Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang is a 2-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang) as a principal ingredient.

Invented in 220 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that warm Interior Cold. Its main actions are: 1) warms the Lungs and 2) strengthens the Stomach.

In Chinese Medicine health conditions are thought to arise due to "disharmonies" in the body as a system. These disharmonies are called "patterns" and the very purpose of herbal formulas is to fight them in order to restore the body's harmony.

In this case Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang is used by TCM practitioners to fight patterns like Lung Yang Deficiency. From a Western Medicine standpoint, such patterns can give rise to a range of conditions such as enuresis, excessive drooling or allergic rhinitis for instance.

On this page, after a detailed description of each of the two ingredients in Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang, we review the patterns and conditions that Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang helps treat.

The two ingredients in Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang

Gan Jiang is a king ingredient in Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

1. Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang)

Part used: Dried rhizome

Nature: Hot

Taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: StomachHeartKidneyLung

Category: Herbs that warm the Interior and/or expel Cold

Gan Jiang warms the Lungs and disperses Cold. Its primary function is to restore the Yang in chest. However, its acrid and hot nature can hurt the Lungs by depleting the source Qi. To overcome this problem, blast fried Ginger is recommended as its acrid and dispersing effect is reduced.

Learn more about Dried Ginger (Gan Jiang)

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

2. Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Part used: Dried root and rhizome

Nature: Neutral

Taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenStomachHeartLung

Category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

Gan Cao tonifies the Qi. Together with Dried ginger, they warm and strengthen the Stomach, which in turn assist in resolving the Lungs disharmony.  According to the the five phases theory, nurturing the earth (Stomach) can generate the metal (Lungs).  The combination of sweet and acrid herbs warms the Yang and augments the Qi in a balanced manner.

Learn more about Liquorice (Gan Cao)

Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang is used to treat Lung Yang Deficiency

It's important to remember that herbal formulas are meant to treat patterns, not "diseases" as understood in Western Medicine. According to Chinese Medicine patterns, which are disruptions to the body as a system, are the underlying root cause for diseases and conditions.

As such Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang is mostly used to treat the pattern "Lung Yang Deficiency" which we describe below.

But before we delve into Lung Yang Deficiency here is an overview of the Western conditions it is commonly associated with:

Enuresis Excessive drooling Allergic rhinitis Hayfever Epistaxis Abnormal uterine bleeding Peptic ulcers Chronic gastritis Emphysema

Again it wouldn't be correct to say "Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang treats enuresis" for instance. Rather, Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang is used to treat Lung Yang Deficiency, which is sometimes the root cause behind enuresis.

Now let's look at Lung Yang Deficiency, a pattern that TCM practitioners commonly treat with Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang.

The Lungs is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Lungs in Chinese Medicine

Lung Yang Deficiency

Gan Cao Gan Jiang Tang is sometimes prescribed by TCM practitioners to treat Lung Yang Deficiency. This pattern leads to symptoms such as poor appetite, frequent urination, coughing with copious clear thin sputum and cold limbs. Patients with Lung Yang Deficiency typically exhibit slow (Chi), slowed-down (Huan) or wiry (Xian) pulses.

The general symptom of Lung Yang Deficiency is coughing and wheezing with profuse sputum, but the sputum is thin and watery. There is also Cold characters such as cold limbs and back, feeling of cold and easy to get cold or flu. It is because the lacking of Yang fails to warm the body. 

If this... read more about Lung Yang Deficiency

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