Last update March 2, 2016

Gan Cao, Gancao

Limited compatibility

Unsafe. Moderate/severe adverse effects. Compatible under certain circumstances. Follow-up recommended. Use safer alternative or discontinue breastfeeding from 5 to 7 T ½ . Read Commentary.

Root of leguminous herb is used.

Content: essential oil, flavonoids, tannins, saponins, hydroxi-coumarins....

Unproven effects: anti-ulcerative and expectorant.

Indication after Commission E of German Ministry of Health: gastritis, gastric ulcer, cough, bronchitis.

Because of mineralocorticoid effects, Pseudoaldosteronism, Hypokalemic palsy, Hypernatremia, Edema, Heart arrhythmias and Arterial Hypertension, a longstanding use or abuse of licorice may be a cause of severe health disorders.

May be a cause of abortion and premature labor if taken while pregnancy.

Since it has anti-prolactin and estrogenic effects, decrease of milk production can occur within the first weeks after birth. Reportedly, one case of hyperprolactinemia has occurred.

There is no proof on its galactagogue effect.

Glycyrrhizin is responsible of many effects of Licorice which is excreted in small amount into breast milk. Two infants younger than one months were severely intoxicated (lethargy) after their mothers had drunk an daily average of 2 liters of a beverage containing a mixture of Licorice, Fennel, Anise and Goat's rue. It was assumed to be related to anethol contained in the fennel and anise.


We do not have alternatives for Gan Cao, Gancao.

Suggestions made at e-lactancia are done by APILAM team of health professionals, and are based on updated scientific publications. It is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your doctor but to compound it. The pharmaceutical industry contraindicates breastfeeding, mistakenly and without scientific reasons, in most of the drug data sheets.

Jose Maria Paricio, Founder & President of APILAM/e-Lactancia

Your contribution is essential for this service to continue to exist. We need the generosity of people like you who believe in the benefits of breastfeeding.

Thank you for helping to protect and promote breastfeeding.

José María Paricio, founder of e-lactancia.

Other names

Gan Cao, Gancao is also known as Liquorice. Here it is a list of alternative known names::

Gan Cao, Gancao in other languages or writings:


Gan Cao, Gancao belongs to this group or family:


Main tradenames from several countries containing Gan Cao, Gancao in its composition:


Variable Value Unit
Theoretical Dose 0.17 (glicirricina) mg/Kg/d
Ped.Relat.Dose 2.5 %


  1. Powers CN, Setzer WN. A molecular docking study of phytochemical estrogen mimics from dietary herbal supplements. In Silico Pharmacol. 2015 Mar 22;3:4. Abstract Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  2. The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria Australia. Herbal and Traditional Medicines in Breasfeeding. Fact Sheet. 2013 Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  3. Robles BJ, Sandoval AR, Dardon JD, Blas CA. Lethal liquorice lollies (liquorice abuse causing pseudohyperaldosteronism). BMJ Case Rep. 2013 Abstract
  4. Panduranga P, Al-Rawahi N. Licorice-induced severe hypokalemia with recurrent torsade de pointes. Ann Noninvasive Electrocardiol. 2013 Abstract
  5. Oztürk S, Karaman K, Cetin M, Erdem A. Polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (Torsades de pointes) due to licorice root tea. Turk Kardiyol Dern Ars. 2013 Abstract
  6. EMEA. Glycyrrhiza glabra L. and/or Glycyrrhiza inflata Bat. and/or Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch., radix. Community herbal monograph. 2012 Full text (in our servers)
  7. Omar HR, Komarova I, El-Ghonemi M, Fathy A, Rashad R, Abdelmalak HD, Yerramadha MR, Ali Y, Helal E, Camporesi EM. Licorice abuse: time to send a warning message. Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Abstract Full text (link to original source)
  8. Mannion C, Mansell D. Breastfeeding self-efficacy and the use of prescription medication: a pilot study. Obstet Gynecol Int. 2012;2012:562704. Abstract Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  9. Amir LH, Pirotta MV, Raval M. Breastfeeding--evidence based guidelines for the use of medicines. Aust Fam Physician. 2011 Sep;40(9):684-90. Review. Abstract Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  10. WHO. World Health Organization. WHO monographs on medicinal plants commonly used in the Newly Independent States (NIS). WHO monographs. 2010 Full text (in our servers)
  11. Zhou S, Koh HL, Gao Y, Gong ZY, Lee EJ. Herbal bioactivation: the good, the bad and the ugly. Life Sci. 2004 Abstract
  12. Strandberg TE, Andersson S, Järvenpää AL, McKeigue PM. Preterm birth and licorice consumption during pregnancy. Am J Epidemiol. 2002 Abstract
  13. WHO. World Health Organization. Geneva. WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants. Volume I. WHO monographs 1999 Full text (link to original source) Full text (in our servers)
  14. Le Moli R, Endert E, Fliers E, Mulder T, Prummel MF, Romijn JA, Wiersinga WM. Establishment of reference values for endocrine tests. II: Hyperprolactinemia. Neth J Med. 1999 Abstract
  15. Zava DT, Dollbaum CM, Blen M. Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1998 Abstract
  16. Rosti L, Nardini A, Bettinelli ME, Rosti D. Toxic effects of a herbal tea mixture in two newborns. Acta Paediatr. 1994 Jun;83(6):683. No abstract available. Abstract
  17. Shimada K, Sakaguchi T, Sato Y, Moridaira H, Omata K. [Simultaneous determination of ephedrine and glycyrrhizin in human breast milk by high performance liquid chromatography]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1984 Abstract
  18. Werner S, Brismar K, Olsson S. Hyperprolactinaemia and liquorice. Lancet. 1979 Abstract
  19. Wong HB. Effects of herbs and drugs during pregnancy and lactation. J Singapore Paediatr Soc. 1979 Abstract

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