Licorice (gan cao ) — Glycyrrhiza uralensis & sp.

licorice-1Family – Leguminosae

Part used: Root (rhizome).

Herbal Actions and Indications: Demulcent, expectorant, emollient, stomachic, anti-inflammatory, mildly laxative and flavouring.

Contraindications and cautions:

Licorice is a very safe herb in moderate doses. In large doses it can cause sodium retention and potassium depletion and as a result lead to hypertension and edema. It is not recommended for patients with heart or blood pressure problems.

Medicinal uses: Many preparations of Licorice to produce relief in ulcer patients are well documented. Traditionally, the best one is a methanol extract. A modern preparation with glycyrrhizin removed (DGL) is now preferred, as it avoids possible problems with high blood pressure (a recorded effect). The anti-inflammatory properties have been attributed to glycyrrhizin, but most studies and clinical experience shows DGL is quite effective on ulcers, even though there have been conflicting reports. Other constituents also inhibit gastric secretions. It appears that the methanol extract inhibits the liberation of gastrin from pyloric mucosa. Because research has proven that licorice preparation does not inhibit actetylcoline action and does not inhibit spontaneous motility of the stomach.

Licorice has been shown to be estrogenic (with possible other steroidal activities), to have mineralocorticoid properties (causing sodium retention and potassium loss), and to inhibit tumors (due to glycyrrhizinic acid salts). It is anti-inflammatory, an­titrichomonas, antitussive (comparable to codeine), anticonvulsive and antibacterial. It is useful in Addison’s disease because licorice contributes to mineral balancing of the mineralocorticoids. Glycyrrhizin is responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect, and it has some impact on the corticoid mechanism.

From a Chinese point of view, Licorice is often used for upper respiratory catarrhal conditions, and traditionally used for the treatment of sore throats, coughs

  • Tonifies the Spleen and augments the qi in cases of Spleen deficiency. Some of the symptoms are shortness of breath, lassitude and loose stools. It is also useful for qi or blood deficiency patterns with irregular or intermittent pulse and/or palpitations.
  • Moistens the Lungs and stops coughing and wheezing. It can be used for either heat or cold in the Lungs due to its neutral properties.
  • Clears heat and relieves fire toxicity (raw) for carbuncles, sores, or sore throat due to fire toxins. Used internally and/or externally.
  • Moderates spasms and alleviates painful spasms of abdomen or legs.
  • Moderates and harmonizes the character of other herbs. In a natural state it will aid other herbs getting into the meridian, as it can enter in to all 12 meridians.
  • Antidote for various toxic substances; used both internally and externally.