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Glycyrrhiza uralensis - Fisch.

Common Name Gan Cao
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Meadows, riparian woodlands and solonetzic slopes in Siberia, Mongolia, China and Japan[74].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan, Siberia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Glycyrrhiza uralensis Gan Cao

Glycyrrhiza uralensis Gan Cao


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Glycyrrhiza uralensis is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers 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 -15°c[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].


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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.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Glycyrrhiza aspera 10
Glycyrrhiza echinataWild Liquorice, Chinese licorice43
Glycyrrhiza glabraLiquorice, Cultivated licorice44
Glycyrrhiza lepidotaAmerican Liquorice43
Glycyrrhiza malensis 20
Polypodium glycyrrhizaLicorice Fern12


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Readers comment

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?

   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

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.

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