Gāncǎo, Reveal Date: 3/16/24

Article published at: Mar 8, 2024 Article author: Lily Michaud
Gan Cao, Chinese Licorice, Herb of Chinese Classical Herbalism
All Brown Bear Herbs Herbalism & Tactics for Thriving Together Article comments count: 0

Gāncǎo, or Chinese licorice root was the herb that we tasted this week.

Gāncǎo, Chinese licorice root


This herb has a distinctive flavor, that is sweet, and reminded more than one person of "Throat Coat" tea, which includes licorice as a primary herb. Felt in the back of the throat and sweetness on the sides of the tongue. 


Pain in chest (upper). Coating, soothing, grounding (out of head), mucilagenous. Takes weight of fluid out of ears and clears front of face (sinuses). Participant who had a sore throat prior to starting the meditation immediately felt relief and fell asleep. Restful, pacifying, palliative. Dispersed energy in lungs...like blowing out a cloud of white Spring flower petals.


Inky black spreading and deep purple rising to white. In both cases these color visions were like ones that the participants have had in the past that they liked. "Sweetness is good for the heart." Heart: purple. Eventually purple turned into the same lavender as my binder for the Plant Meditation Club. I felt this plant is one that supports many other plants ("all plants that would be in the binder"). Perhaps the feeling is that it supports the other plants in their actions and supports the desires of the person taking the plant. Here to spread love and support in whatever way it is desired. Wise enough not to judge. This plant reminded me a bit of the Fairy Godmother from Brian Froud's Fairy Oracle:


Brian Froud's Fairy Godmother from his oracle deck.
Summary and Traditional Use:

It is estimated that licorice is used in 9 out of 10 Chinese herbal formulas!  I believe a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as every good fairy godmother and grandmother knows! It is also believed that it can reduce toxicity and increase efficacy of many herbs. I have seen this before in chocolate--I created many herbal chocolate recipes and found that the herbs are much more potent in the chocolate than in isolation. 

Licorice is sweet and thereby enters through the spleen channel (in Chinese medicine). This goes right along with its behavior soothing early cold and virus symptoms like sore throat, lung and upper respiratory tract irritation. I loved how it was so soothing to the our participant with cold symptoms that they immediately and thoroughly slept! This has given me new appreciation for this sweet herb. 

I found it interesting that the herb presented itself in visions that were of things we already appreciated from our herb experiences. I liked hearing that Alyssa felt licorice "had their back" and felt some defiance. Both with the vision of purple and the inky black I know their is some rebelliousness or "not what the world wants" feelings but still what we enjoy/desire. I think nature or a fairy godmother or a grandmother's version of thriving and health has more to do with enjoying life than most systems that govern us, including medical systems, spirituality and religion, governments, and even the most benevolent leaders with power and rules. I am curious to hear more experiences with licorice, tuning into the flavor of its support. If at all possible I make my herbal formulas taste good. I find people are more likely to take something they will enjoy. A good provider is wise to practice some indulgence.

Other physical uses: diabetes and balancing blood sugar (preventing low blood sugar, possibly other ways), supporting the adrenals, reducing toxins/antidote, supportive for tumors, cancer, longevity. Licorice can reduce estrogen production, which can reduce fertility in younger women if used very frequently. Recent studies are looking licorice's ability to reduce hot flashes, and reduce risk of breast cancer in post menopausal women. 


Leave a comment