Plants For A Future Logo Full Contact Details
Registered Charity No. 1057719

Back to main Search Page

Glycyrrhiza uralensis - Fisch.

Gan Cao

AuthorFisch. Botanical references74, 266
FamilyLeguminosae GenusGlycyrrhiza
Known HazardsNone known
RangeE. Asia - China, Japan, Siberia.
HabitatMeadows, riparian woodlands and solonetzic slopes in Siberia, Mongolia, China and Japan[74].
Edibility Ratingapple iconapple iconapple icon 3 (1-5) Medicinal Ratingapple iconapple iconapple iconapple icon 4 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

icon of man icon of perennial/biennial/annual Perennial growing to 0.6m by 0.4m.
It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)It can fix Nitrogen.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.


Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Root.

Edible Uses: Sweetener.

The fibrous root is used as a sweetener for foods[183]. It is boiled in water to extract the sugars etc and used as a liquorice substitute in sweets, medicines, drinks etc[74, 174, 177]. The root contains glycyrrhizin, which is 50 times sweeter than sugar[218].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiphlogistic; Antispasmodic; Antitussive; Cholagogue; Emollient; Expectorant.

Gan Cao is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs[218]. It is considered to be second in importance only to Ginseng (Panax spp)[218]. Used in excess, however, it can cause cardiac dysfunction and severe hypertension[218]. The root is a sweet tonic herb that stimulates the corticosteroidal hormones, neutralizes toxins and balances blood sugar levels[238]. It is also antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, antispasmodic, antitussive, cholagogue, demulcent, emollient, expectorant and laxative[61, 176, 218, 238]. It is used internally in the treatment of Addison's disease, asthma, coughs and peptic ulcers[238]. Externally, it is used to treat acne, boils and sore throats[238]. It is included in almost all Chinese herbal formulae, where it is said to harmonize and direct the effects of the various ingredients[238]. It precipitates many compounds and is therefore considered to be unsuitable for use with some herbs such as Daphne genkwa, Euphorbia pekinensis and Corydalis solida[238]. It increases the toxicity of some compounds such as ephedrine, salicylates, adrenaline and cortisone[238]. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women or for people with high blood pressure, kidney disease or anyone taking digoxin-based medications[238]. Excessive doses cause water retention and high blood pressure[238]. It can cause impotence in some people[238]. The roots are harvested in early autumn, preferably from plants 3- 4 years old, and is dried for later use[238]. The flowers are alterative and expectorant[218].

Other Uses

Fire retardant; Insulation.

Liquorice root, after the medicinal and flavouring compounds have been removed, is used in fire extinguishing agents, to insulate fibreboards and as a compost for growing mushrooms[218].

Cultivation details

Requires a deep well cultivated fertile moisture-retentive soil for good root production[200]. Prefers a sandy soil with abundant moisture[238]. Slightly alkaline conditions produce the best plants[238]. Plants are hardy to at least -15c[238]. This species is widely cultivated in China as a medicinal plant. Unless seed is required, the plant is usually prevented from flowering so that it puts more energy into producing good quality roots[238]. A very deep-rooted plant, it can be difficult to eradicate once it is established[238]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].


Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow spring or autumn in a greenhouse[200]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on for their first winter in a greenhouse. Plant out in late spring or early summer when in active growth. Plants are rather slow to grow from seed[238]. Division of the root in spring or autumn. Each division must have at least one growth bud. Autumn divisions can either be replanted immediately or stored in clamps until the spring and then be planted out[200]. It is best to pt up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a cold frame until they are established before planting them out in the spring or summer.



[61] Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.

[74] Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR. Israel Program for Scientific Translation 1968
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers.

[174] Kariyone. T. Atlas of Medicinal Plants. 0
A good Japanese herbal.

[176] Yeung. Him-Che. Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas. Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles 1985
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species. Rather technical and probably best suited to the more accomplished user of herbs.

[177] Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption. Koeltz Scientific Books 1984 ISBN 3874292169
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.

[183] Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications 1990 ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.

[200] Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press 1992 ISBN 0-333-47494-5
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

[218] Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.

[238] Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. 1995 ISBN 0-7513-020-31
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.

[266] Flora of China 1994
On-line version of the Flora - an excellent resource giving basic info on habitat and some uses.

Readers Comments

Plants for a Future does not verify the accuracy of reader comments, use at your own risk. In particular Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. You should always consult a professional before using plants medicinally.

Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Cecilia Mullanaphy Mon Apr 18 15:15:28 2005

I never had high blood pressure before. I had a hysterectomy, total, last year. Since than my total cholesterol has gone up. My good cholesterol is fine as well as my bad cholesterol. I also began experiencing high blood pressure. I have gotten that under control with garlic and grape seed extract. I am experiencing swelling in my knees and ankles. The Orthopedist says I have Bakers cyst due to meniscul tears, even though they did not show up on a cat scan. I am scheduled for surgery in mid-May. Before I go through with it though, I would like to try Fevera which was recommended to me. My only concern is it might elevate my pressure. I was told if I followed the recommendations for use I would be fine. What do you think?

Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Sat Apr 19 2008

not from a medical practitioner, but a keen observer of others and cures...I would say you might need hormone therapy, be it herbal or pharmaceutical. Yoga might help with the knee thing, Plus, surgery. I've had two on my left knee. It's much better now! i wish you all the luck in the world. I know yoga - listeneing to my body and letting it heal itself through movement and practice- helped me rehab after a dislocated hip. I was back shaking a tail feather in less than 6 months. Sometimes, literally. Cecilia, it sounds like you have a lot of things going for you right now, and I know it will just keep going. , Christa

Glycyrrhiza uralensis

S. M. Desai Fri Sep 26 2008

I am from India. all this hype about yoga is simply because it is exotic to westerners. Nearly a billion Indians do not use yoga. If it is really that effective, then it must be popular in the land of its birth. S. M. Desai.

Add a comment/link:

Enter your comment about this page here.
Note: please don't expect a quick reply to comments/questions posted here? We don't have the resources to answer questions ourselves. You can ask questions on our mailing list.

Subject: Glycyrrhiza uralensis


LinksTo add a link to another website with useful info add the details here.
Name of Site:
URL for Site:

Your Name:
email address:
Email addressed added here will not be displayed on the website or be passed to third parties.
They are used incase we need to get in touch with you.
To prevent spam all comments are moderated, comments with spam or swearing are blocked.

Discussion Monitor

To have posts to this page mailed to you enter your email address here:

email address: 

(Your email address will not appear on the webpage or be passed on to third parties).

All the information contained in these pages is Copyright (C) Plants For A Future, 1996-2008.

Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567, 

HTML version prepared by Rich Morris - Home Page

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You can copy, distribute, display this works and to make derivative works but: Attribution is required, and it's Share Alike (GNUish/copyleft) i.e. has an identical license. We also ask that you let us know ( if you link to, redistribute, make a derived work or do anything groovy with this information.