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GAN CAO, Licorice Root
English: Licorice Root
Botanical: Radix Glycyrrhiza
Mandarin: Gan Cao
What is GAN CAO?
GAN CAO is licorice root. 'GAN' means sweet, and 'CAO' means herb; This is the sweet herb, a versatile medicine with some rare qualities. You'll find a small amount of GAN CAO in many different formulas. This is because GAN CAO can increase the potency other herbs. This property is known as 'harmonizing', and it is said that the herb "enters all 12 channels".
What Does It Do?
GAN CAO is one of the rare few herbs that can Harmonize a formula. This means that when a small amount is combined in a formula with other herbs, licorice root increase the potency of all herbs in the formula. GAN CAO is classified as a Spleen Tonic (Builds Digestive Energy). As such, it may help the absorption of an herb's chemical constituents. This harmonizing aspect is potentiated by cooking it (usually with honey). Honey processed licorice root is known as ZHI GAN CAO. You'll find licorice root used this way in the famous Spleen tonic known a SI JUN ZI TANG or Four Gentlemen.
Another property of licorice root is that it is detoxifying. So formulas made to Detoxify Fire Poison, Cool the Blood, and Clear Heat often contain GAN CAO. Larger amounts are usually used for detoxification. It is used this way in YIN CHIAO CHEH TU PIAN (Honeysuckle and Forsythia Clean Toxin Pill), the popular TCM formula that stops and relieves the common cold.
Licorice root also Moistens the Lungs and Stops Coughing, and it's neutral temperature allows it to be prescribed for both hot and cold lung conditions. Find it used this way in BAI HE GU JIN WAN Lily Bulb to Preserve the Metal
Another use for GAN CAO is to Stop Spasms. It can be used for leg and calf spasms and for abdominal cramps as well. This use is greatly heightened when GAN CAO is combined in equal parts with BAI SHAO (white peony root). This combination is known as SHAO YAO GAN CAO TANG Peony and Licorice Combination.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is powerful and reliable, but it can be complex. As TCM is not based on symptoms alone, self-diagnosis and self-treatment aren't recommended. Best to start a low cost online-herbal-consultation.
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