gan cao

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Related to gan cao: zhi gan cao


A preparation from the root of a legume, usually Glycyrrhiza glabra, which contains asparagine, betaine, chalcones, choline, coumarins, flavonoids, glycyrrhizin, gums, isoflavonoids and saponins. Liquorice has a high content of glycyrrhizic acid—glucuronic acid + glycyrrhetinic acid—which is structurally similar to steroids, explaining its anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and antirheumatic effects; it is antitussive, demulcent, expectorant, laxative, sedative and reduces serum glucose and cholesterol.
Chinese medicine
Liquorice is used topically for abscesses and wounds, and internally for abdominal pain and spasms, alcohol and other intoxications, asthma, cholecystitis, cirrhosis, colds, coughing and wheezing, constipation, diabetes, fever, gastritis, gastric ulcers, heartburn, hepatitis, lung congestion, and sore throat.
Herbal medicine
In Western herbal medicine, Glycyrrhiza glabra is used topically for eczema, herpes and skin infections, and internally for arthritis, colic, constipation, cough, gastric ulcers, hepatitis and for many of the same conditions as Chinese medicine.
Excess liquorice causes mineralocorticoid excess (e.g., suppresses 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and the RAA axis), with sodium and water retention, hypertension, hypokalemia and myopathy with myoglobulinuria; it should not be used in patients with glaucoma, hypertension, renal disease or pregnancy.

Liquorice has an unsubstantiated reputation as an aphrodisiac. Its erotic power is mentioned in the Kama Sutra, and liquorice potions are recommended for “sexual vigour”. Liquorice odours are said to increase blood flow to the genitalia.

gan cao

(gon tsow) [Chinese gān cĭo]
Licorice root.