Licorice (Gan Cao)

Botanical Name: Western – Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza lepidota (Pacific West, California). Eastern – Glycyrrhiza uralensis.

Licorice is a wonderful tonic herb used in many remedies for its flavor enhancing qualities and antimicrobial effects. It also helps to strengthen and to support the lungs.

Remember to check with your doctor before trying new medicines or herbal remedies, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.

Below is an overview of licorice, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of licorice.

How to use Licorice and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!

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Western Name: Licorice

Also Known As: Liquorice, Sweet Root

Organs/Systems: Lungs, Balance Blood, Support Immunity and Builds Strength

Key Actions: Antiviral, Antimicrobial, Anti-inflammatory, Laxative, Antidiabetic, Antitumor, Anti-ulcer, Immune Enhancer, Demulcent

Medicinal Uses: Sore throats, menstrual cramps, weak post illness, helps lower high levels of fat in the bloodstream. Reduces blood sugar levels, mouthwash, promotes menses, relieves pain, improves appetite, diabetes, cancer, tumors, calming, stomach ulcers, protects the liver, constipation, psoriasis, eczema, acne.


Pin Yin: Gan Cao

Also Known As: Grandfather of Herbs, Great Adjunct, Great Detoxifier, Sweet Grass

Meridians: All 12 meridians (one of the few herbs that has this attribute); especially Spleen, Stomach, Lung, Kidney and Heart

Key Actions: Tonifies Qi, Tonifies the Spleen, Clears Heat,Relieves Toxicity, Moistens the Lungs, Stops cough for either hot or cold syndromes. Licorice enters all twelve meridians, it is often used as a guide herb to assist the flow of Qi throughout the body.

Medicinal Uses: Shortness of breath, weak pulse and/or palpitations, sore throat, bronchitis, food poisoning, respiratory infections, colds and flu, cough, wheezing, stomach aches, constipation, stomach ulcers, builds strength, stimulate appetite, improve concentration, cleanse Qi (Energy) and Blood (Xue), diabetes, lower blood lipid levels, support adrenal glands, cancer, tumors, anxiety, hepatic injuries, irritated skin rashes, carbuncles, and sores. Antidote to toxic substances both internally and externally. Very good at balancing blood sugar levels. Quenches thirst. Key Guide Herb. Promotes longevity.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Licorice is a herbaceous perennial plant in the bean family Fabaceae. It is a legume. (NOT related to anise, star anise, or fennel). It’s flowers are long; purple to pale whitish blue and it’s roots are stoloniferous.

Native to southern Europe, central Russia, India and parts of Asia. It is typically harvested in the Autumn two to three years after planting. It is now grown in China, inner Mongolia, Gansu, Xinjiang, and northeastern China.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Roots and Rhizomes

Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Neutral, Slightly Bitter (Pacific species can be very bitter)

Caution: Very low toxicity, considered safe when used as recommended. Inappropriately high doses of licorice can cause a drop in potassium levels that can lead to muscle weakness and heart rate irregularity issues.

Key Constituents: Glycyrrhizin, triterpenoids,, liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin, liquiritin, calcium, magnesium, flavonoids, steroid hormones, starch, saccharose, glucose, coumarins, choline, progesterone-related substances.

History/Folklore: Licorice root is very popular in Europe as a candy, with salt added to it in Scandinavia. In Italy, people enjoy it in its natural root form, while in Spain and Syria, it is a popular drink. It is the most widely used herb in Oriental medicine TCM and is second only to Ginseng in importance. Licorice is traditionally used to treat digestive disorders, respiratory infections, support the adrenal glands, endocrine system, and boost the immune system.

Early Egyptians used licorice root as a cure-all. Roots were found in King Tut’s 3,000 year old tomb, attesting to the herbs’ value in ancient Egypt. It was later imported to China where it became a fundamental medicinal herb used in many healing formulas and revered for its ability to counter toxins, improve the immune system, and act as a guide herb leading other herbs through the whole body.

The ancient Hindus made a tonic-milk using licorice root to increase vitality and the Chinese have long used the herb as a longevity herb that can help slow the signs of aging and keep a person strong and healthy.

European tradition holds that the roots are so nutritious and thirst-quenching that just a small piece held under the tongue could keep a person alive for 10 to 12 days.

Licorice is known to contain 20 triterpenoids and almost 300 flavonoids, compounds known to have powerful antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties.

The compound glycyrrhizin, found in licorice root, can cause potassium levels to temporarily drop leading to abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, and lethargy. In extreme cases, or if inappropriately high doses are used, it can lead to heart failure in some people. Licorice root is also available in forms that eliminate the compound called DGL licorice (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). This form is safer for taking over longer periods of time if needed.

The name licorice is derived from the old French and Greek words that translate to “sweet root.” Traditionally it has been used as a medicine in Ayurveda for rejuvenation. In Sanskrit, it is called “Yastimadhu.”

Many so-called “licorice” products in the U.S. do not actually contain licorice, but anise (LINK) which has the smell and taste of what is commonly called “black licorice.”

The compound isoliquiritigenin, found in licorice, has been found in a study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, to reduce the expression of genes related to the production of sex hormones and decreasing estrogen production.

Licorice root is commonly used in Oriental medicine as a “guide herb.” Guide herbs help direct herbs to the area of the body and health most needed. Licorice is considered unique in Oriental medicine as one of a very few herbs that can enter all twelve of the energetic meridian systems allowing it to guide herbs through the entire bodily system. It is considered to help Invigorate Qi (Energy), reduce toxicity, and support the digestive and respiratory systems.

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Did you know?

50x Sweeter Than Sugar

Glycyrrhizin is known to be 50 times sweeter than sugar with powerful cortisone-like effects that are almost identical to adrenal steroids.


Chinese studies reveal licorice can help eliminate or neutralize 1,200 known toxins.
Fun fact!

Tobacco Additive

Most tobaccos use licorice as an additive flavor and a moistening agent.

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ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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