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Codonopsis – (Codonopsis pilosula)


Often used as an inexpensive substitute for Panax ginseng, codonopsis is an attractive vine with bell-shaped flowers. While it is milder than real ginseng, it has similar properties, and is now routinely used in Chinese remedies in place of ginseng. The plant is native to China and grows to a length of five feet. After a period of three to four years the tree is harvested for its root.


Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Codonopsis has been used for centuries for loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. It can prevent peptic ulcers from forming. It eases asthma attacks and may also be used to ease the effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients. It is also an aid to fighting colorectal cancer, lymphoma, melanoma and kidney cancer. It also helps lupus patients by restraining the immune system.

It is used as a tonic for general weakness and fatigue, cough, palpitations, fever, thirst, shortness of breath and even diabetes. Studies are underway to determine the effects codonopsis has on HIV and other autoimmune diseases. Children in China are given the herb to help them grow strong. Breastfeeding women use this herb as a tonic to help produce more milk. It can alleviate side effects of stress like muscle tension, headache, adrenaline and high blood pressure.

Externally – Babies in China are sometimes given the root to teethe on.

Herbs to Combine/Supplement

Codonopsis is widely used in Chinese medicine, and as such is frequently combined with other herbs to treat specific symptoms. A common tonic soup is made in China by combining astragalus (huang qi), codonopsis (dang shen), dioscorea opposita (shan yao) and lotus seed (lian zi).

Parts Used

Root – The root is used medicinally.


Codonopsis can be used safely by almost everyone. There are no known side effects for this herb. There do not appear to be any known drug interactions with this herb.

Preparation and Dosage

This herb is typically taken as herbal tea, tablets and tinctures. Although the root is sometimes taken raw, you can find commercial preparations easily. The dosage varies depending on the ailment being treated, so follow the directions on the label or that you have been given by a skilled herbalist.

For a preventative tonic, try 4 teaspoons of codonopsis with 4 teaspoons of astragalus and 2 teaspoons of lyceum berries in 3 cups of simmering water. Steep this solution for 40 minutes. Drink this tonic regularly. One half cup of this decoction taken twice a day will reduce fatigue. One half teaspoon of the tincture taken with water 3 times per day can be used as a tonic.

Codonopsis Herbal Remedies Top