Introduction of Gan Cao:Licorice Root or Radix Glycyrrhizae.

TCM Herbalism:Medicinals and Classifications. ✵The TCM herbalism is also known as pharmaceutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or Chinese pharmaceutics, is the branch of health science dealing with the preparation, dispensing, and proper utilization of Chinese herbs. It is majorly composed of Introduction of Chinese Medicinals, Classification of Chinese Herbs, Formulas, and Patent medicines.

Classifications of Herbs:Qi Tonics,Herbs for Replenishing Qi.

 TCM Herbs Icon14 Introduction: Qi Tonics,herbs for replenishing Qi: also known as Qi-tonifying herbs, an agent or substance that tonifies Qi, used in treating Qi deficiency.

Radix Glycyrrhizae(Licorice Root).

Radix Glycyrrhizae Pin Yin Name: Gān Cǎo.
 English Name: Licorice Root, or Liquorice Root
 Latin Name: Radix Glycyrrhizae.
 Property and flavor: neutral nature, tastes sweet.

 Brief introduction: The herb Radix Glycyrrhizae is the dried root and rhizome of Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch., Glycyrrhiza inflata Bat., or Glycyrrhiza glabra L.(family Leguminosae), used (1).to replenish Qi and tonify the heart for treating arrythmia in cases of heart Qi deficiency, (2).to tonify the spleen for treating lassitude, anorexia and loose bowels in cases of spleen insufficiency, (3).to relieve epigastric colic and spastic pain of the limbs, (4).to dispel phlegm and arrest cough, (5).to clear heat and counteract toxins for treating sore throat, boils, sores and herbs overdose, and (6).most frequently for modulating the ingredients in a prescription. The herb is commonly known as Radix Glycyrrhizae, Licorice Root, Gān Cǎo.

 Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. Botanical source: Common official herbal classics and other famous herbal classics defined the herb Liquorice Root(Gan Cao) as the root and rhizome of the plant species:(1). Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch., or (2). Glycyrrhiza glabra L., or (3). Glycyrrhiza inflata Batal. They are plant species of the Glycyrrhiza Linn. Genus, the Papilionaceae family(Leguminosae family) of the Rosales order. These 3 commonly used species are introduced as:

 (1).Cinnamomum cassia Presl.:
 Botanical description: (1).Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch.(Gan Cao): It is commonly known as Gān Cǎo. Perennial herb, grows up to 30~100 cm. Very thick and rhizomes, skin is reddish-brown. Stem is erect, with wood, white short hairs, and bristle-like glands. Odd-numbered complex leaf length is 8~20 cm; 7~17 leaflets, ovate or broadly ovate, 2~5 cm long, wide 1~3 cm, apex acute or blunt, base rounded, both sides of short hair and glands; care leaves broadly lanceolate, white cilia. Racemes are axillary, flowers dense; calyx campanulate, 5 calyx teeth, lanceolate, outside short hairs and prickly hairy glands; corolla blue-purple, 1.4~2.5 cm, glabrous, flag is large, oval shaped, claw, keel flap straight, shorter than the wing to defend, have long claw; stamens body, (9+1). Pods stripe, curved sickle or ring, outside the dense hairy thorn. 4~8 seeds, kidney-shaped. Its flowering period is from July to August, fruiting from August to September.

 Ecological environment: This species grows in the dry calcareous steppe, riverbank sandy soil, and other places. The plant mainly distributes in the north, northwest, and other areas of China.

 Growth characteristics: The above ground parts of licorice die at the end of autumn every year, the roots and rhizome pass winter in the soil, the following spring from March to April, new buds grows from the roots, grow new branches and leaves, leaves are luxuriant from May to June, flowering and fruiting from June to July, pods mature in September. It resists cold, drought and prefers light, is the indicator plant of calcareous soil. It should be planted in sandy loam with a deep soil layer, good drainage, and low groundwater level, but not in areas with waterlogged low land, and high groundwater level. Soil pH better is neutral or slightly alkaline, its growth is poor in acid soil.

 Characters of herbs: Licorice root is long cylindrical, 30~100 cm long, 0.6~3.5 cm in diameter. The surface is reddish-brown, dark brown or taupe, with obvious wrinkles, furrow lines, and transverse lenticels, and sparse fine root marks, the outer skin is elastic, both ends of the central section are slightly sunken. Solid and heavy, cross-sectional fiber, yellow and white, pink, cross-section with clear cambium ring and radial texture, crack. Rhizome surface has bud mark, cross-cut and center has pith. Light smell, taste very sweet and special. The herb with fine tight skin, color red-brown, quality solid, cross-section yellow and white, powder content sufficient is better.

 Pharmacological actions: Glycyrrhetinic acid can inhibit myeloma transplantation in rats. A mixture of mono-ammonium glycyrrhizin, sodium glycyrrhetinic acid, and glycyrrhetinic acid derivatives, has inhibitory effects on Ehrlich's ascites carcinoma and sarcoma of mice. Other functions of licorice mainly include: ①. Anti-ulcer effect; ②. Affect absorption or inhibit gastric acid secretion; ③. It has a spasmolysis effect on intestinal smooth muscle; ④. It has a hepatoprotective effect(extract and glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhetinic acid), increase bile secretion (glycyrrhizin), ⑤. Effects on the cardiovascular system: It has anti-arrhythmia, lipid-lowering, and anti-atherosclerosis effect; ⑥. It has an expectorant and antitussive effect on the respiratory system; ⑦. Effects on the central nervous system: It has an anti-inflammatory effect, sedative effect (glycyrrhetinic acid), and antipyretic effect; ⑧. Adrenal corticosteroid action, glucocorticoid-like action; ⑨. Effect on the genitourinary system: It has an antidiuretic effect; ⑩. Effect on immune function:anti-allergy effect, affects non-specific immune function (glycyrrhizin), enhances reticuloendothelial system activity, affects specific immune function, and regulates the immune function of the body (glycyrrhizin, glycyrrhizin monoamine, etc.); ⑾. Antiviral action (glycyrrhizic acid, licorice polyphenols can destroy HIV cells, inhibiting HIV cell proliferation, licorice polysaccharide has obvious anti-vesicular stomatitis virus, adenovirus type 3, herpes simplex virus type 1, vaccinia virus, inhibits their activity, can significantly inhibit cell pathological changes, the tissue culture cells are protected.); ⑿. Antibacterial effect (licorice alcohol extract and glycyrrhetinic acid can inhibit Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Escherichia coli, Amoeba, and Trichomonas in vitro); ⒀. Detoxification (licorice extract and glycyrrhizin have certain detoxification ability on some medicine poisoning, food poisoning, and metabolite poisoning in vivo. The active ingredient is glycyrrhizin, and the glucuronic acid produced by the hydrolysis of glycyrrhizin can combine with the poison to produce adsorption); ⒁. Anti-tumor effect (glycyrrhizic acid, glycyrrhetinic acid, liquiritin show inhibitory effects on cancer cells); ⒂. Other effects: Glycyrrhetinic acid can improve the auditory function of the guinea pig inner ear.

 Medicinal efficacy: Invigorating spleen and replenishing Qi, invigorating Qi and replenish the middle, clear heat and detoxification, dispel phlegm and relieve cough, moistening lung to arrest cough, relaxing spasm and relieving pain, harmonize the middle and relaxing spasm, moistening the lung, detoxification, discharging fire and detoxification, coordinating the herb actions of a prescription. It is indicated for the weakness of the spleen and the stomach, lassitude and feebleness (tired, lack in strength), lassitude and poor appetite, thin muscle and sallow complexion(lean, emaciation, looks yellowing), palpitation and short breath, swelling and pain in the throat, cough with much phlegm, cough and asthma, epigastric and abdominal pain, loose stool, spasm of limbs and pain, hysteria, carbuncle swelling sores poison, congenital disease(infantile fetal toxicity: infants exposed to maternal heat toxins during pregnancy may be the cause of their susceptibility to sores and rashes after birth), alleviate toxicity of prescriptions, detoxify the medicine poisoning or food poisoning, etc.(Prepared licorice root: it is indicated for the weakness of the spleen and the stomach, poor appetite, abdominal pain and loose stool, lassitude and fever, atrophic lung disease and cough, palpitation, frightened epilepsy; Raw licorice root: it is indicated for swelling pain of the throat, peptic ulcer, carbuncle, gangrene and sore, detoxify herbal toxicity and food poisoning, etc.)

 Administration of Radix Glycyrrhizae(Gān Cǎo): 
Reference: Administration Guide of Radix Glycyrrhizae(Gān Cǎo)
TCM Books: Internally:2~10 grams(CP), Internally:water decoction, 0.5~3 qian(about 1.5~9 grams), or prepare to pill, powder. Externally: grinded into fine powder and mix, or wash with water decoction.(DCTM), Internally: water decoction,2~6 grams, to coordinate the herb actions of a prescription better use smaller dosage, to use as the main herb in a prescription should use a little bigger dosage, could be up to around 10 grams; to use detoxification and poisoning rescue, could be up to 30~60 grams. Better use fried prepared herb in tonic prescriptions, better use the raw herb in prescription with clearing and purgation purpose. Externally: proper amount, wash or stain with water decoction; or grinded into a fine powder, apply stick.(CHMM).

 Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch.02 (2).Glycyrrhiza glabra L.(Guang Guo Gan Cao).:
 Botanical description: The plant is commonly known as Guāng Guǒ Gān Cǎo. Perennial herb, grow up to about 1 meter high. Stems and branches are scaly glandular and white pubescent. Odd-pinnately compound leaves 5~14~20 cm; 9~17 leaflets, ovoid or oblong, 2~4 long, 0.8~2 cm wide, apex often emarginate, pubescent above, densely petiole below scaly glandular; stipules lanceolate. Flowers lavender, dense, arranged into axillary spikes; calyx is bell-shaped, with 5 equal lanceolate calyx teeth, both inside and outside of calyx teeth covered with white glandular hair; flag long oval, about 11 mm, flap about 9 mm, the claw is not obvious, keel flap length of about 8 mm. Pod flat, long and narrow oval, slightly curved, 20~30 mm long, 4~7 mm wide, glabrous, sometimes with a few obvious adenomas, 3~4 seeds. Its flowering period is from June to August, fruiting from July to September.

 Ecological environment: The species is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, Central Asia, and Siberia, it mainly distributes in Gansu, Xinjiang, and other northwest areas of China.

 Characters of herbs: Rhizome and root texture more solid. The surface is grayish brown, the lenticels are fine but not obvious. The section is fibrous with few cracks. Smells emblem, sweet taste.

 Licorice Root (3).Glycyrrhiza inflata Batal.(Zhang Guo Gan Cao).:
 Botanical description: It is commonly known as Zhàng Guǒ Gān Cǎo. Perennial, high 50~120 cm, sometimes thick and woody base. Stems are erect, often locally densely connected into pieces of yellowish-brown scales glands, glandular hairless and pubescent, or rarely glabrous. Odd-pinnate leaves 3~16 cm; 3~7 leaflets, oval, narrowly ovoid, oblong to oval, length 1.5~5 cm, width 0.6~2.8 cm, apex acute or blunt, base all round shaped, the edge of the emblem of anti-roll, often obvious as a wave-like, above the dark green, yellowish-brown gland, bright green below, with yellowish-green gland, when young, such as gelatinous, shiny, glabrous; petiole length 1~4 mm. Racemes; flowers small, purple, arranged loosely. Pod is oblong, short, 0.8~2 cm long, inflated, with or without dimples, puberulent and slightly inconspicuous adenoma. Seeds are small, 1~7. Its flowering period is from June to August, fruiting from July to September.

 Ecological environment: the plant grows in sands.

 Characters of herbs: Rhizome and root are stout, much grayish brown to taupe. Hard and damp. Cross-section is light yellow or yellow, fibrous, less powder. Sweet or bitter. Rhizome's adventitious bud is much and thick.
Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata(Prepared Licorice Root).

Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata Pin Yin Name: Zhì Gān Cǎo.
 English Name: Prepared Licorice Root.
 Latin Name: Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata.
 Property and flavor: neutral nature, tastes sweet.

 Brief introduction: The herb Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata is the processed Radix Glycyrrhizae, Licorice Root by stir-baking with honey, used to tonify the spleen and heart, and particularly used for treating arrhythmia. It is commonly known as Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata, Prepared Licorice Root, Zhì Gān Cǎo.

 ✵Liquorice was one of the most widely known medicines in ancient history, and records of its use include Assyrian tablets of around 2,000 BC and Chinese herbals of the same period. Theophrastus of Lesbos, writing in the fourth century BC wrote that 'it has the property of quenching thirst if one holds it in the mouth'. Dioscorides gave the plant its botanical name (Greek glukos = sweet, riza = root). Its 13th-century English name was Lycorys, a corruption of Glycyrrhiza. The plant originated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but has been cultivated in Europe since at least the 16th century. In China, G. uralensis or Gan Cao, known as the great detoxifier, is thought to drive poisons from the system. It is also an important tonic, often called the grandfather of herbs. Gan Cao is used as an energy tonic, particularly for the spleen and stomach, and the root is added to many Chinese formulae to balance other herbs. It is also used for asthmatic coughs, as an antispasmodic and ulcer remedy, and to cool hot conditions. The dried root is given to children to promote muscle growth. Liquorice is often used as a method for disguising the taste of medicines and as a flavouring in confectionery.

 Medicinal efficacy: Replenish the spleen and harmonize the stomach, tonifying Qi and  restore pulse. It is indicated for weakness of spleen and stomach, lassitude and feebleness(tiredness, lack in strength), severe palpilation, intermittent pulse.

 Administration of Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata(Zhì Gān Cǎo): 
Reference: Administration Guide of Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata(Zhì Gān Cǎo)
TCM Books: the same as licorice root.

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  • 1.Introduction of Gan Cao:Licorice Root or Radix Glycyrrhizae.
  • 2.TCM Books:DCTM(Dictionary of the Chinese Traditional Medicine),CHMM(Chinese Herbal Materia Medica).

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