Common Name: Codonopsis

Pinyin Name: Dang Shen

Botanical Name: Codonopsis pilosulae

Part Used: Root

Properties: Sweet, Neutral

Constituents: pectic polysaccharide, glycosides, flavanoids, alkaloids, triterrpenoids, hesperidin beta-sophoroside, atractylenolide, lobetyolin, lobetyolinin(, taraxerol,  trihydroxy, octadecenoic acid, sitosterol, daucosterol, essential oils

Channels Entered: Lung, Spleen

Primary Actions:

Western view: immuno-modulator, adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory 

Growing & Harvesting:

Codonopsis is a climbing vine of about 8 feet that is native to Asia. Codonopsis is considered a flowering perennial and prefers shade. It is is easy to grow from seed and germinates readily, although it is susceptible to seedling die-off from over-watering. The biggest challenge in growing codonopsis is that it is difficult to grow to maturation as it is very tasty for critters who ravage the roots and the medicinal roots are typically harvest after several seasons of growth.

Culinary Uses:

The roots of codonopsis are often added to soups like a carrot, and in breakfast cogees or oatmeal for its health benefits.

Medicinal Uses

Codonopsis closely mimics ginseng’s qualities while expressing a gentler affect that is does not over-stimulate like ginseng can. While codonopsis is one of the more expensive Qi tonic herbs, it is substantially less expensive than ginseng which can only be afforded by the 1% or in critical health situations. Whereas, codonopsis important tonic that can be used practically as an effective substitute for Ginseng and is often favored over Ginseng by Chinese medical doctors with the advantage of safe, daily use because of its mild nature. Codonopsis is typically used in combination with other herbs and is not usually taken as a single remedy.

Immune Support

A key immune system tonic as it helps to build both red blood cell counts and white blood cell counts. It's immune benefiting qualities are largely attributed to polysaccharides contained in the roots and the ability of the herb to quell inflammation in the body.

Stress Adaptogen

It is an adaptogenic herb due to its ability to strengthen the body's ability to adapt to change, moderate stress and balance metabolic functions of the body.

Spleen Qi Tonic

As an adaptogenic herb it is able to moderate the interactions of the Spleen and Stomach and is used with peptic ulcers. As a Spleen Qi tonic it strengthens digestion and assimilation of foods and fluids, prevents gas and bloating, treats acid reflux, and improving poor appetites. It is effective in regulating sugar metabolism reversing or preventing insulin resistance, hypoglycemia and diabetes. It also addresses extreme indications of Spleen Qi Deficiency such as irregular uterine bleeding and organ prolapses.

Lung Tonic

Codonopsis relieves chronic coughs, shortness of breath and chronic excessive phlegm of the Lungs and sinuses. In cases of dryness and heat of the Lungs, Codonopsis has a moistening effect on the tissue. It also eases asthma attacks by reducing the production of hormones that cause constriction of the bronchia passages.

Energy Tonic

The Lung and Spleen are responsible for receiving both air and food Qi, which are the main sources of Qi energy for the whole body. Therefore, Codonopsis is an excellent energy tonic for all organ systems. 

Chronic Illness with Weakness

It has traditionally been used with extreme debility, weakness and wasting disorders, especially where there is damage to the fluids of the body demonstrating heat signs(fever/thirst). It strengthens the immune system  and not only supports the immune functions in cancer patients, but also protects the cells in the body from the damaging effects of radiation. However, it has not been determined if codonopsis may cause drug-herb interactions with patients utilizing chemotherapy.

Beautiful Skin and Hair

Codonopsis builds blood, especially red blood cells and hemoglobin. Additionally, it detoxifies the blood providing for smooth, elastic and radiant skin. It also dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

Liver Diseases

Codonopsis may help protect against alcoholic fatty liver disease according to a December 2009 study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food.” In traditional Chinese medicine it is used to lower high blood pressure which would suggest that it benefits the Liver.

Contra-indications:  Codonopsis is mild and doesn't have any potent side effects, especially when used in an herbal combination.


Chen, J. K. and Chen, T. T. (2003) Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press. Pages 930-934.

Bensky, D., Gamble, A. (1986) Chinese herbal medicine: Materia medica. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press. Pages 331-332

Wang, Y., Sheir,W., OnoM. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing. (2010) Da Capo Press 

July-August 2004 study published in “Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.”

Sun YX1. Immunological adjuvant effect of a water-soluble polysaccharide, CPP, from the roots of Codonopsis pilosula on the immune responses to ovalbumin in mice. Chem Biodivers. 2009 Jun;6(6):890-6.

Xu C1, Liu Y, Yuan G, Guan M. The contribution of side chains to antitumor activity of a polysaccharide from Codonopsis pilosula. Int J Biol Macromol. 2012 May 1;50(4):891-4.

Chu X1, Liu XJ2, Qiu JM1, Zeng XL1, Bao HR1, Shu J1. Effects of Astragalus and Codonopsis pilosula polysaccharides on alveolar macrophage phagocytosis and inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mice exposed to PM2.5. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2016 Dec;48:76-84.

Chu X1, Liu XJ2, Qiu JM1, Zeng XL1, Bao HR1, Shu J1. Effects of Astragalus and Codonopsis pilosula polysaccharides on alveolar macrophage phagocytosis and inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mice exposed to PM2.5. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2016 Dec;48:76-84.

Jiang, Y., Liu, Y., Guo, Q., Xu, C., Zhu, C., & Shi, J. (2015). Sesquiterpene glycosides from the roots of Codonopsis pilosula. Acta pharmaceutica Sinica. B, 6(1), 46-54.

Trinh TT, Tran VS, Wessjohann L. Chemical constituents of the roots of Codonopsis pilosula. J Chem. 2003;41:119–123.

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.