Herbs & Botanicals
Codonopsis (dang shen)
What is codonopsis? What is it used for?
Codonopsis is a fast-growing vine that blooms during the summer and fall.
A perennial herb, codonopsis can reach a height of ten feet, with oval
or heart-shaped leaves and ornate, bell-shaped flowers that range in color
from yellow to light purple. The roots of codonopsis are harvested during
its third year or fourth year of growth and are used medicinally.
The chief chemical components of codonopsis include saccharides such
as fructose and inulin. It also contains glycosides (such as syringin
and tangshenoside I), alkaloids (such as choline and perlolyrine), and
17 kinds of amino acids and micro-elements.
Codonopsis is known as the "poor man's ginseng." In ancient
China, codonopsis was used along with ginseng to create a tonic that helped
replenish one's qi. In more modern times, it is often used to strengthen
the immune system, invigorate the spleen, and treat a variety of disorders,
including high blood pressure, lack of appetite, diabetes, memory loss
and insomnia. Some researchers theorize that codonopsis may benefit patients
undergoing AIDS treatment or chemotherapy, as it reduces the side-effects
of toxic drugs by increasing red and white blood cell counts.
How much codonopsis should I take?
Most practitioners recommend a codonopsis decoction between 3-9 grams
depending on the condition being treated. Other conditions may require
dosages as high as 30 grams per day.
What forms of codonopsis are available?
Codonopsis is available in liquid tonic; powder; capsule; and tablet
What can happen if I take too much codonopsis?
Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should
There is anecdotal research suggesting that codonopsis (when taken with
other herbs and botanicals such as licorice and bupleurum) may interact
with levels of interferon, especially in patients with liver problems.
Patients with liver problems should consult with a qualified health practitioner
before taking codonopsis supplements.
- Chen S, Zhou Z, Sun S, et al. The effect of codonopsis
pilosula (Franch.) Nannf. on gastric acid, serum gastrin and plasma
somatostatin concentration in dogs. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi
May 1998;23(5):299-301, 320.
- Grey-Wilson C. A survey of the genus codonopsis. Plantsman
- Chinese Materia Medica (Zhong Hua Ben Cao).
Shanghai Science & Technology Publishing House, 1996, pp.1825-1836.
- Wang, Xu. Two new species of codonopsis from China.
Acta Phytotax Sin 1993;31(2):184-7.
- Wang ZT, et al. Immunomodulatory effect of a polysaccharide-enriched
preparation of codonopsis pilosula roots. Gen Pharmacol Dec 1996;27(8):1347-50.