Glycyrrhiza uralensis

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  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Glycyrrhiza uralensis Gan Cao

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 Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have 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].
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.


Additional information for Chinese licorice

 Belongs to the following Article

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen fixing plant species suited to temperate climate such as North Canterbury New Zealand

Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth. Certain plants have a useful ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere. This is often achieved through symbiotic relationship with fungi in the root zone. Being able access unlimited nitrogen allows these plants to grow quickly while also making some available to surrounding plants. The practical reality is that including nitrogen fixing plants of various shapes and sizes amongst other productive plantings improves overall health, vigour and fertility,


Winter plant propagation by division

June 30, 2020
Clone or duplicate plants by dividing. May also be useful to reinvigorate or restart aging plants.
The exact process will differ for each species but generally involves digging up part or all of the plant, carefully separating or cutting rooted sections before removing most of the leaf surface area and replanting in new locations. Post care includes watering and weeding as required.
  June   July   August