Gan Cao - Licorice Root

TCM Materia Medica

Gan Cao TCM Herb Classifications and Usages

The TCM herb "gan cao" which in english is Gan Cao herb"licorice root", is categorized within the "herbs that tonify qi" functional grouping. It is thought to enter the gall bladder, heart, kidney, large intestine, liver, lung, pericardium, small intestine, spleen, stomach, triple heater and urinary bladder channels and exhibits neutral (ping), sweet (gan) and warm (wen) taste/temperature properties.

Dosages and preparations will vary according to each individual and the overall approach of a formula, but generally this herb has the following dosage and/or preparation guidelines:

  • Dosage: 2-12g

Of many possible clinical applications, it may be considered to influence the following issues/symptoms:

  • 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 has some precautions to be considered (see our precautions list).

  • 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.

Our clinical staff have made the following notes, regarding gan cao:

  • 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 may potentially be used, in coordination with a well tailored formula (in most cases), to influence the following conditions: abdominal pain, fatigue, leg pain and/or sore throat

While it may not always be included depending on the manufacturer or herbalist making the formula, gan cao is generally included in the following 63 formulas:

  • Bai He Gu Jin Wan (Lily Bulb to Preserve the Metal) - General yin deficiency signs may present as night sweats, h…
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  • Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Wan (Pinellia, Atractylodis and Gastrodia Combination) - Nausea with possible vomitting from combination of damp wit…
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  • Ban Xia Xie Xin Wan (Pinellia Drain Epigastrium Pills) - Distension and fullness of the epigastrium usually without …
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  • Bi Yan Wan (Nose Inflammation Tablets) - For acute or chronic rhinitis resulting from the combinatio…
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  • Chai Hu Gui Zhi Gan Jiang Wan (Bupleurum, Cinnamon Twig and Ginger Decoction) - Shaoyang disorder with water accumulation - A modification …
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  • Chen Xiang Hua Qi Wan (Aquilaria Qi Transforming Pills) - For spleen qi deficiency with damp heat accumulation in the…
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  • Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao Wan (Ligusticum Tea Pills) - Headaches, primarily from wind-cold (but used with wind-hea…
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  • Chu Kou Wei Wan (Chu Kou Wei Wan) - Acid reflux and/or burning sensation in the epigastrium, th…
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  • Dan Gui Yin Zi (Tangkuei Decoction) - Exterior wind skin conditions with underlying blood defic…
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  • Ding Chuan Wan (Calm Wheezing Pills) - Directs the lung qi downward and clears phlegm heat from th…
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  • Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan (Solitary Hermit Teapills) - For chronic pain due to obstruction (bi zheng) with liver a…
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  • Er Chen He San Zi Yang Qin Wan (Two Aged Herbs & Three Seeds Nursing Pills) - Modified version of er chen wan - formula for clearing phle…
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  • Fang Feng Tong Sheng Wan (Ledebouriella Pills to Sagely Unblock) - High fever with aversion to cold. Thick phlegm that may …
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  • Fang Ji Huang Qi Wan (Stephania and Astragalus Teapills) - Wind damp / wind edema (feng shui, literally "wind water") …
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  • Gan Bing Zhi Ben Wan (Liver Disease Recovery Pills) - Irritibility or easily prone to outburts or anger. Liver d…
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  • Gan Mai Da Zao Wan (Licorice, Wheat, and Jujube Formula) - Anxiety/depression/manic issues with a tendency towards los…
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  • Gan Mao Ling (Miraculous Cold Pills) - Common cold and flu patterns, particularly at the early sta…
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  • Ge Gen Wan (Kudzu Decoction) - Wind-cold invasion with upper neck and back pain - cold or …
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  • Ge Xia Zhu Yu Wan (Drive Out Blood Stasis Below The Diaphragm Decoction) - For blood stasis below the diaphgram - abdominal masses, li…
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  • Hui Chun Wan (Recovery Special Pill) - Most often used for childhood convulsions (possibly with …
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  • Jiang Tang Wan (Lower Blood Sugar Pill) - Nourish the yin and tonify qi with particular emphasis on d…
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  • Jian Pi Wan (Strengthen Spleen Pills) - For stomach and spleen qi deficiency with dampness that has…
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  • Jiao Ai Wan (Ass-Hide Gelatin and Mugwort Formula) - Uterine bleeding/spotting. Abdominal/Uterine/Ovarian cramp…
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  • Jia Wei Gui Pi Wan (Augmented Restore The Spleen Decoction) - A combination of jia wei xiao yao wan and gui pi wan - simi…
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  • Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan (Free and Easy Wanderer Pills) - Derived from the base formula, xiao yao wan, an important f…
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  • Jing Fang Bai Du Wan (Schizonepeta and Siler Powder to Overcome Pathogenic Influences) - Early stages of disease arising from wind cold damp - commo…
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  • Jin Gu Die Da Wan (Tendon and Bone Injury Healing) - Bruising, sprains, swelling from soft tissue injuries. Bro…
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  • Juan Bi Wan (Remove Painful Obstruction Decoction) - Wind-cold-damp bi syndromes in qi deficient patients - join…
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  • Long Dan Xie Gan Wan (Gentiana Purge Liver Formula) - Hypochondriac pain, bitter taste in the mouth, irritability…
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  • Mai Men Dong Yin Zi Wan (Ophiopogon and Trichosanthes Combination) - Lung and stomach yin deficiency - this is a modified versio…
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  • Mu Xiang Shun Qi Wan (Saussurea Qi Promoting Pills) - Bloating, lower abdominal pain, sluggish bowels. Acid refl…
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  • Nei Xiao Luo Li Wan (Internally Reducing Cervical Lymphadenitis Pills) - Phlegm obstructions - generally benign masses, lumps, swell…
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  • Ping Wei Wan (Calm the Stomach Powder) - Damp cold stagnation in the middle jiao - poor appetite, in…
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  • Pu Ji Xiao Du Wan (Universal Benefit Decoction To Eliminate Toxin) - Acute febrile disorder (wind-heat & damp-phlegm) of t…
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  • Qing Bi Wan (Clear The Nose Decoction) - Sinus issues arising from damp-heat pattern in Chinese Medi…
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  • Qing Fei Wan (Clear The Lungs Decoction) - Clears heat and phlegm and replenishes lung yin - chronic…
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  • Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang Wan (Clear Summer Heat and Augment the Qi) - Please note that there are two formulas with the same name …
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  • Qi Xue Da Bu Wan (Nourish Qi & Blood Pills) - Fatigue, lethargy, sensation of feeling heavy or cold. Low…
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  • Ren Shen Bai Du Wan (Ginseng Detoxification Pills) - Coming Soon...
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  • Sha Shen Mai Dong Wan (Glehnia and Ophiopogonis Decoction) - Important formula for stomach yin deficiency - benefits the…
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  • Shen Ling Bai Zhu Wan (Ginseng, Poria & Atractylodes Pills) - Diarrhea, loose stools, or mucus/greasy stools from damp ac…
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  • Shen Tong Zhu Yu Wan (Remove Stagnant Blood from a Painful Body Pills) - Qi and Blood stagnation blocking the channels and collatera…
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  • Shi Quan Da Bu Wan (Ten Tonics Nourishment Pills) - Coming Soon...
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  • Shu Jing Huo Xue Wan (Relax The Channels and Invigorate The Blood Decoction) - Primarily used for blood stasis with wind-damp in the chann…
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  • Suan Zao Ren Wan (Sour Jujube Decoction) - Shen related issues when arising from liver blood deficienc…
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  • Su Zi Jiang Qi Wan (Perilla Fruit Pill to Direct Qi Downward) - Cough with watery, copious sputum, breathing issues such …
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  • Te Xiao Zao Ren An Mian Wan (Peaceful Sleep Tablets) - Insomnia, vivid dreaming, nightmares. Acute emotional inst…
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  • Wen Jing Wan (Warm the Menses Formula) - Irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, excessive uterine bleed…
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  • Wu Ji Bai Feng Wan (Black Chicken White Phoenix Pills) - Coming Soon...
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  • Wu Lin San Wan (Gardenia & Hoelen Formula) - Painful urination with cloudy or dark urine due to heat. P…
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  • Xian Fang Huo Ming Yin Wan (Immortals Formula For Sustaining Life) - Generally for short-term use with early stage heat toxins -…
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  • Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan (Aucklandia Amomi Nurture Stomach Pills) - Low appetite, apathy towards eating due to spleen qi defici…
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  • Xiang Yin Wan (Golden Voice Pills) - Benefits the yin and qi of the lungs, clears heat and wind …
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  • Xiao Feng Wan (Clear Wind Pill) - Itchy and red skin lesions, possibly with weeping -psoriasi…
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  • Xiao Qing Long Wan (Minor Blue Dragon Pills) - Cold/flu like symptoms such as aversion to cold, cough, cle…
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  • Xi Guan Jie Bi Tong Wan (Knee Joint Pain Relief) - Arthritis from damp heat in Chinese Medicine terms. Knee i…
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  • Xin Yi Qing Fei Wan (Magnolia Flower Drink To Clear The Lungs) - Colds and/or allergies with heat signs (yellow mucus and/or…
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  • Xin Yi Wan (Magnolia Flower Powder) - Colds and/or allergies with cold signs (white mucus and/or …
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  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Wan (Blood Stasis Relief Pills) - Qi and Blood stagnation - pain, cardiovascular issues, phys…
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  • Yi Gan Wan (Restrain The Liver Powder) - Anxiety, palpitations, easily frightened, alternating fever…
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  • Yin Qiao Wan (Honeysuckle and Forsythia Formula) - Common cold or flu presenting with fever w/slight or no chi…
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  • Yi Zi Wan (Decoction B) - Hemorrhoids and/or constipation from an accumulation of dam…
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  • Yu Quan Wan (Jade Spring Pills) - Xiao Ke (wasting and thirsting syndrome), qi and yin defici…
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    As noted above, gan cao is within the herbs that tonify qi functional group. All the herbs in this category are listed below.

    (truncated intro "... herbs in this category are generally sweet and rich. they are most often combined with herbs that move and regulate the qi. )".

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