Home / Chinese Herb / CODONOPSIS [党参, Dang shen]

CODONOPSIS [党参, Dang shen]

Name : Codonopsiscodonopsis pilosulae

Chinese Name : 党参

Latin Name : Radix Codonopsis Pilosulae


This herb is the dried root of Codonopsis Pilosula or C. Tangshen Oliv. of the family Campanulaceae.It grows chiefly in the Gansu, Shaanxi, and Shanxi provinces in northern China, and is dug up in the autumn, dried in the sun, and cut into segments. Codonopsis is an excellent Qi tonic herb and was used traditionally as a substitute for ginseng root in many pescriptions in an effort to lower the cost to the patient. It is also used for diseases of the lungs.

The root is quite long and slender, tapering at the end, marked with wrinkles and fissures or transverse rings. Depending on its age, the root averages about a foot in length and varies in texture from tough to brittle. Codonopsis has a sweet mucilaginous taste, is used as a tonic similar to ginseng, and is an antiaging herb.

Use of Codonopsis in TCM

Sweet and bitter in taste, codonopsis is neutral or slightly cool. It acts on the spleen and lung meridians.

Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations

  1. Invigorates the Spleen-Qi and Lung-Qi
  • To treat anorexia, loss of appetite, and chronic diarrhea, codonopsis is used alone or with atractylodes rhizome, poria, and licorice root.
  • To treat shortness of breath, it is combined with astragalus root and schisandra fruit.
  1. Invigorates the production of body fluids and nourishes the blood: for sallow complexion, dizziness, and edema as a result of blood deficiency, codonopsis is combined with prepared rehmannia root, white peony, and millettia (ji xue teng).
  2. Invigorates the Lung-Qi: for shortness of breath, cough, dyspnea, and a weak, low voice, sweating, and a propensity of catching colds and flu, codonopsis is commonly prescribed with schisandra fruit, fritillary bulb, ginger root, licorice root, and ophiopogon root.
  3. Eliminates dampness and edema: for nephritis edema and chronic nephritis, codonopsis is prescribed with hoelen, wu jia shen, and areca peel (da fu pi).


In a decoction of 10 to 15 g, up to 30 g for acute or severe conditions.


People with excess yang and Heat syndromes, and Qi stagnation should not use codonopsis. Avoid dispensing veratrum root together with codonopsis root. A dosage over 60 g may cause chest pains and irregular heart-beats.

Side Effects and Toxicity

Therapeutic doses do not produce side effects or toxic reactions. An overdose (exceeding 60 g per dose) may cause precordial discomfort and arrhythmia but these rreactions disappear spontaneously upon discontinuation of the herb. The LD50 of the herb’s injection solution was 79.21 ± 3.60 g/kg in mice by intraperitoneal administration.

Chemical Costituents

The root C. pilosula contains phytosterols and triterpenes, phenolic compounds including syringaldehyde, vanilla acid, syringin, tangshenoside I, and alkaloids perolyrin, together with furane and pyridine. Butyloxyear-bonylurea, 5-(hydroxymethly)-2 furaldehyde, essential oil (methyl palmitate, octadecane, nonadecane, heptadecane) and carboxylic acid have also been identified. Other ingredients are proteins, seventeen amino acids, sugars, and vitamin B1 and B2.

Pharmacological Findings

  1. Increases both cellular and humoral immunity. Oral administration of 0.25 g the decoction of the herb in mice for two weeks accelerated the clearance of intravenously injected 131 I-plasma colloidal particles from the blood, suggesting an increase in reticuloendothelial phagocytosis and an increase in the ability to fight disease.
  2. The methanol extract of the root caused a marked but not significant secretion of ACTH in primary cultures of rat pituitary cells. It inhibits the hypertensive action of adrenaline, dilates peripheral blood vessels, and reduces blood pressure.
  3. Increased the production of both white and red blood cells in cancer patients with decreased numbers of white cells caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  4. Codonopsis reduced the incidence of ulcers in rats due to stress or pylorus ligation. It also protected rats from gastric mucosal damage due to intragastric administration of absolute alcohol, 0.2N NaOH, or 0.6N HCL. The antiulcer action may be mediated by increasing PGE2 and decreasing TXA2 contents in gastric mucosa.
  5. Codonopsis was also demonstrated to be anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, hypotensive, and antiaging.
  6. Regulates digestive system functions, and increases motility and the secretion of digestive juices.
  7. Stimulates the central nervous system (CNS).