Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosa)


Codonopsis Overview:

Codonopsis is a common herb in traditional Chinese medicine where it's better known as Dang Shen. It's used as a nourishing tonic for reinforcing qi. It was used for many of the same conditions as ginseng despite having a vastly different chemical makeup. Many refer to it as "poor man's ginseng" due to the much lower cost.

Codonopsis has a particularly impressive effect on the blood, which is likely the mechanism behind the traditional uses for poor "qi". This conditions could be thought of in conventional terms as dysfunctional red and white blood cell production. It's been shown to increase lymphocytes (white blood cells), as well as both hemoglobin (concentration) and red blood cell (count).

+ Indications

  • Anemia
  • Anorexia
  • Cancer (Adjuvant treatment)
  • Chronic cough
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Fatty liver (alcoholic) [6]
  • High cholesterol
  • Loss of appetite
  • Psychoneurosis
  • Shortness of breath
  • To improve blood cell production and hemoglobin concentration

+ Contraindications

  • None noted

Herbal Actions:

  • Adaptogen
  • Hypotensive
  • Nootropic
  • Hypocholesterolemic
  • Cardiotonic
  • Nutritive

Main Uses:

Codonopsis can be used for many of the same conditions Panax ginseng is used for. It's often used as an adaptogen during convalescence, especially when there is a need to stimulate blood cell production. This actions is useful during chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer patients experiencing leukopenia.


Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Root

Family Name

  • Campanulaceae


  • Southeast Asia

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Constituents of Interest

  • Saponins
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Perlolyrin (Alkaloid)
  • Polysaccharides

Common Names

  • Codonopsis
  • Dang Shen (China)
  • Tojin (Japan)
  • Poor Mans Ginseng
  • Bell Bonnet Flower


  • CYP3A4


  • Neutral


  • Adverse reactions not expected.


  • Sweet

Duration of Use

  • May be used long term

Botanical Info:

Codonopsis is a member of the Campanulaceae family of plants. This family contains roughly 2400 species, distributed into 84 different genera. South Africa is particularly rich in members from this family. Codonopsis, however, is native to Southeast Asia, and the Eastern edges of Russia.

Codonopsis can be found growing in grass, thickets, or the edges of woods.


Level Of Research:


Clinical Applications Of Codonopsis:

Codonopsis is useful as a cheaper alternative to ginseng fr many of the same conditions. This may include fatigue, poor appetite, shortness of breath, chronic cough, coronary heart disease, and as a supportive therapy for cancer treatment.

It's even more effective than Panax ginseng for stimulating white blood cell production and hemoglobin production.



None reported.


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For a list of references, visit the full codonopsis monograph.