Theory

Gan Cao Licorice Root - Chinese Herbal Medicine


Gan Cao Names

  • English Name: Licorice Root
  • Pinyin Name: Gan Cao

Gan Cao Image

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Gan Cao Cautions


    Contraindication Notes:

    • Avoid with excess dampness, nausea, vomiting.
    • Incompatible with Gan Sui, Da Ji, Yuan Hua, Hai Zao (although used in some formulas with Hai Zao).
    • If taken for long periods of time, may cause hypertension and/or edema.


Gan Cao Clinical Usages and Indications

  • Tonifies the spleen and augments qi - spleen deficiency w/shortness of breath, fatigue, loose stools (si jun zi tong).
  • Qi and/or blood deficiency w/irregular pluse or palpitations (Zhi Gan Cao Tang).
  • Moistens the lungs and stops cough - heat/cold in the lungs (Ma Xing Shi Gan Tang).
  • Clears heat and toxic fire (raw) - carbuncles, sores, sore throat due to fire toxin (internally or topically).
  • Alleviates pain and stops spasms - abdomen or legs (Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang).
  • Often used to harmonize and/or moderate characteristics of other herbs.
  • Antidote for toxic substances (internally and topically).


Gan Cao Dosage and Prep Notes

  • Dosage: 2-12g




Clinician Notes

  • Affects all 12 meridians, but most used with the heart, lung, spleen, and stomach meridians.
  • When raw it has more neutral properties, when dry-fried it is more warming.

Gan Cao Appears In 39 Formulas

Bai He Gu Jin Wan

  • Lily Bulb to Preserve the Metal
  • For lung and kidney yin deficiency with signs such as dry cough, possibly with blood streaked sputum, dry and sore throat, heat in the five palms, nightsweats, wheezing.

    The Pulse will be thin and rapid and the Tongue will be red with little coating.

  • Treat Dryness
  • Enrich the Yin and Moisten Dryness

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Wan

Ban Xia Xie Xin Wan

Bi Yan Wan

Chen Xiang Hua Qi Wan

Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan

Er Chen He San Zi Yang Qin Wan

Fang Feng Tong Sheng Wan

Gan Bing Zhi Ben Wan

Gan Mai Da Zao Wan

  • Licorice, Wheat, and Jujube Formula
  • Used for anxiety/depression/manic issues with a tendency towards losing self-control (crying fits, excessive yawning, etc.).  This set of symptoms is known as restless organ disorder in TCM.  General symptoms are disorientation, crying spells, depression, fitful sleep, excessive yawning, anxiety, possible night sweats and other yin deficient signs.  May be used for menopause or similar post-partum issues.

    The Pulse will be thin and rapid and the Tongue will be red with a sparse tongue coating.

  • Calm The Spirit
  • Nourish the Heart and Calm the Spirit

Hui Chun Wan

  • Recovery Special Pill
  • Most often used for childhood convulsions (possibly with wheezing, nausea, nighttime crying, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive mucus/saliva) or other conditions that involve fever, impaired or loss of consciousness, irritability, restlessness such as seizure disorders, meningitis, measles, and gastroenteritis among others.

  • Open the Orifices
  • Clear Heat and Open The Orifices

Jian Pi Wan

Jiao Ai Wan

  • Ass-Hide Gelatin and Mugwort Formula
  • This formula is generally a tonifying agent with herbs to invigorate the blood it is used for excessive menstruation, excessive spotting between periods or bleeding during pregnancy.  Other uses would be uterine bleeding and restless fetus syndrome.

    The Tongue is generally pale with a thin white coat and the Pulse will be thin and frail.

  • Stop Bleeding
  • Tonify and Stop Bleeding

Long Dan Xie Gan Wan

  • Gentiana Purge Liver Formula
  • Hypochondriac pain, bitter taste in the mouth, irritability, easily angered, headache, dizziness, red, and possibly sore, eyes, diminished hearing and/or swollen sensation in ears/head.  May have urinary symptoms such as painful, hot urination perhaps with swollen genitalia.  Women may have leukorrhea with a strong odor.

    The Pulse will be wiry, rapid and forceful and the Tongue will be red with a yellow tongue coating.

  • Clear Heat
  • Clear Heat From The Organs

Mu Xiang Shun Qi Wan

Qi Xue Da Bu Wan

Ren Shen Bai Du Wan

Shen Ling Bai Zhu Wan

Shen Tong Zhu Yu Wan

Shi Quan Da Bu Wan

Su Zi Jiang Qi Wan

  • Perilla Fruit Pill to Direct Qi Downward
  • Cough with watery, copious sputum, breathing issues such as wheezing, asthma, shortness of breath (particularly difficulty inhaling), chest oppression.  Possibly signs of kidney qi/yang deficiency such as edema, weak low back and/or legs, fatigue.

    The Tongue will have a white coating that can be either greasy or slippery.

  • Regulate the Qi
  • Direct Rebellious Qi Downward

Wu Ji Bai Feng Wan

Wu Lin San Wan

Wu Ling San Wan

Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan

Xiao Feng Wan

  • Clear Wind Pill
  • Itchy and red skin lesions, possibly with weeping, comprising such conditions as psoriasis, eczema, acne, dermatitis, etc.

    The Pulse will generally be forceful, floating and rapid and the Tongue will have a yellow or white tongue coating.

  • Expel Wind
  • Release Wind from the Skin and Channels

Yin Qiao Wan

  • Honeysuckle and Forsythia Formula
  • Common cold, flu, general immunity, fever w/slight or no chills, headache, desire for fluids, cough, sore throat.

    Pulse will be floating and rapid and the Tongue will have a red tip with a thin white or yellow tongue coating.

  • Release the Exterior
  • Release Exterior Wind Heat



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