Introduction of Gan Cao:Licorice Root or Radix Glycyrrhizae.

TCM Herbalism:Medicinals and Classifications. ✵The article gives records of the herb Licorice Root, its English name, Latin name, property and flavor, its botanical source three plant species, ①.Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch., ②.Glycyrrhiza glabra L., ③.Glycyrrhiza inflata Batal., with a detailed introduction to the botanical features of these three plant species, the growth characteristics, and ecological environment of these three plant species, the features of the herb Licorice Root, its pharmacological actions, medicinal efficacy, and administration guide.

Radix Glycyrrhizae (Licorice Root).

Radix Glycyrrhizae:herb photo Pin Yin Name: Gān Cǎo.
 English Name: Licorice Root, or Liquorice Root
 Latin Name: Radix Glycyrrhizae.
 Property and flavor: neutral in 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., 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 stop 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.:flowering plant Botanical source: Herbal classic book 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 Fabaceae family (Leguminosae, Papilionaceae, legume, pea family) of the Rosales order. These 3 commonly used species are introduced:

(1).Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch.

 Botanical description: The plant, Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch., is commonly known as Gān Cǎo. A perennial herb, it grows up to 30~100 cm high. Its root and rhizome are thickset, bark is reddish-brown. Stems are upright, ligneous, and have white pubescence and setiform glands. Odd-pinnate compound leaves (imparipinnate leaves), 8~20 cm long; 7~17 lobules (leaflets), oval (egg-shaped) or broad-ovate (broadly ovate), 2~5 cm long, 1~3 cm wide, apex is sharp-pointed or blunt, base is rounded, both surfaces are covered with pubescence and glands; stipules (peraphyllum) are broadly lanceolate, covered with white cilia.

 Racemes are axillary, flowers are dense; calyx is campanulate, 5 calyx teeth, lanceolate, outside pubescence and setiform glands; corolla is royal purple (bluish violet), 1.4-2.5 cm long, glabrous, vexilla is big, oval (egg-shaped), has claws, tropis (keel pelals) is straight, shorter than alae (winged stem), all have long claws; stamens are disomic,(9+1).

 Legumes (pods) are stripe-shaped, sickle-shaped, or annular-curved, outside is densely covered with setiform glands. 4-8 seeds, reniform. Its flowering period is from July to August, the fruiting period is from August to September.

 Ecological Environment: This plant grows in the dry calcareous steppe, sandy soil on riversides, and other places. The plant is mainly distributed in the northern, northwest, and other areas of China.

 Growth characteristics: The above-ground parts of Glycyrrhiza uralensis wither 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 grow from the rhizome, new branches and leaves grow out, branches and leaves are flourishing from May to June, flowering and fruiting from June to July, legumes are mature in September. It resists cold, drought and prefers light, and is an indicative plant of calcareous soil. It is appropriate to choose a field with deep soil layers, sandy loam with lower phreatic water level (underground water level), and soil pH (pH scale:acidity-basicity) is neutral or subalkaline (slightly alkaline) for cultivation; should not choose the field with the high phreatic water level, its growth is poor in acid soil.

 Licorice Root:sliced herb of wild rootLicorice Root:sliced herb of cultivated root Characters of herbs: The root is long cylindrical, with a length of 30~100 cm, or 25~100 cm, and 0.6~3.5 cm in diameter. The surface is reddish-brown, dark brown, or taupe (dust color or grayish brown), with obvious wrinkles, grooves, and elongated lenticels, and has sparse thin root marks, the out bark is different in looseness or tightness, and slightly saggy in the center of the cross surface at both ends. The texture of the herb is solid and firm, the herb is heavy, the fracture surface is fibrous, yellow-white, mealiness (powdery), and the fracture surface has conspicuous cambium ring patterns and radial lines, has fissuring. The rhizome is cylindrical and has bud marks on the surface, and a pith in the center of the cross-section. The herb has a light odor, it tastes extremely sweet and special. The herb of a better grade has a fine and tight cortex or bark, red-brown, the texture is solid and firm, and the fracture surface is yellow-white, with sufficient mealiness.

 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.spasmolysis effect on intestinal smooth muscle; ④.hepatoprotective effect, increase bile secretion; ⑤.effects on the cardiovascular system; ⑥.expectorant and antitussive effect on the respiratory system; ⑦.effects on the central nervous system; ⑧.adrenal corticosteroid action, glucocorticoid-like action; ⑨.effect on the genitourinary system; ⑩.effect on immune function; 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; ⒁.anti-tumor effect:glycyrrhizic acid, glycyrrhetinic acid, liquiritin show inhibitory effects on cancer cells; ⒂.other effects.

 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 stop 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: ①.Internally: 2~10 grams; ②.Internally:water decoction, 0.5~3 qian (about 1.5~9 grams), or prepare to pill, powder. Externally: prepare to finely ground herb powder and mix, or wash with water decoction; ③.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 prepare to finely ground herb powder, apply stick.
 Contraindications, Precautions and Adverse Reactions:the herb Radix Glycyrrhizae should not be combined with Radix Euphorbiae Pekinensis, Flos Genkwa, Euphorbia kansui.

(2).Glycyrrhiza glabra L.(Guang Guo Gan Cao).

 Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch.:growing plant 02 Botanical description: The plant, Glycyrrhiza glabra L. is commonly known as Guāng Guǒ Gān Cǎo, or Yáng Gān Cǎo. A perennial herb, it grows up to about 1 meter high. Stems and branches are scaly glandular and white pubescent. Odd-pinnate compound leaves (imparipinnate leaves) are 5~14~20 cm long; 9~17 lobules (leaflets), oval (egg-shaped) or oblong oval, 2~4 cm long, 0.8~2 cm wide, apex is often emarginate (slightly concave), the upper surface is pubescent, the under surface is densely covered with scaly glands; stipules (peraphyllum) are lanceolate.

 Flowers are mauve (lilac), dense, and arranged into axillary spikes (spica); calyx is campanulate (bell-shaped), and has 5 equal lanceolate calyx teeth, both inside and outside of calyx teeth are covered with white glandular hairs; vexilla is oblong oval, about 10-11 mm long, alae (winged stem) is about 9 mm long, the claws are inconspicuous, tropis (keel pelals) is about 8 mm long.

 Legumes (pods) are flat, narrowly ovate-oblong, slightly curved, 20~30 mm long, 4~7 mm wide, glabrous, sometimes has a few inconspicuous glandular tubercules, 3~4 seeds. Its flowering period is from June to August, the fruiting period is from July to September.

 Ecological Environment: This plant grows in interraces on river banks, ditch sides, near fields, roadsides, and other places, it can also grow in dry saline barren fields. The species is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, Central Asia, Siberia, and North Africa, it is mainly distributed in Gansu, Xinjiang, and other northwest areas of China.

 Characters of herbs: The root and rhizomes are relatively firm and solid in texture, some have branches. The bark is not coarse, the surface is mostly taupe brown (grayish brown), and the lenticels are thin and inconspicuous. The fracture surface is fibrous, with fewer fissurings. The herb has a slight odor, it tastes sweet.

(3).Glycyrrhiza inflata Batal.(Zhang Guo Gan Cao).

 Licorice Root:herb slices Botanical description: The plant, Glycyrrhiza inflata Batal., is commonly known as Zhàng Guǒ Gān Cǎo. A perennial herb, the plant grows up to 50~120 cm high, sometimes the base is stout and ligneous. Stems are upright, often locally densely covered with flakes of flavotestaceous (fawn colour) scaly glands, and have no glandular hairs but sparsely pubescent, or glabrate (glabrescent). Odd-pinnate compound leaves (imparipinnate leaves) are 3~16 cm long; 3~7 lobules (leaflets), oval (egg-shaped), narrowly ovate-oblong, oblong (long circular) to elliptic, length is 1.5~5 cm, width is 0.6~2.8 cm, the apex is sharp-pointed or blunt, the base is rounded, the edge is slightly reflexed, often is obviously wave-like and undulate, the upper surface is sap green (dark green), has tawny (yellow brown) glandular dots, the under surface is bright green, has pale olivine (pale yellowish-green) glandular dots, when young, it is colloid (jellylike), glossy, both surfaces are glabrous or glabrate; petiolules are 1~4 mm long.

 In racemes, flowers are small, violet red, arranged loosely.

 Legumes (pods) are oblong, short and small, 0.8~2 cm long, swollen, have no concave or slightly pit-like, puberulent (puberulose), and are covered with a few inconspicuous glandular tubercules. Seeds are small, in 1~7 grains. Its flowering period is from June to August, the fruiting period is from July to September.

 Ecological Environment: The plant grows in sandy soil, it grows in interraces on river banks, watersides, near fields, and barren fields.

 Characters of herbs: The root and rhizomes are stout and ligneous, some have branches, the bark is coarse and rough, and mostly are taupe brown (grayish brown) to taupe (dust color). The texture of the herb is firm and hard, easily affected with damp. The fracture surface is faint yellow (pale yellow) or yellow, fibrous, and has less mealiness. The herb tastes sweet or bitter. The rhizome has many thick and big adventitious buds (adventitious sprouts).
Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata(Prepared Licorice Root).

Radix Glycyrrhizae Preparata:herb photo 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 Chinese herbal works of around 2,000 B.C.. Theophrastus of Lesbos, writing in the fourth century B.C. 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 heat 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 flavoring 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.

Article Links.



 QR codeURL QR code:
 Website Address QR-code 

  • 1.Introduction of Gan Cao:Licorice Root or Radix Glycyrrhizae.

 Last edit and latest revision date:
   cool hit counter