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Codonopsis roots

Chinese: 党参

Pinyin: Dǎng Shēn

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Spleen Lung

Scientific name: Codonopsis pilosula or Codonopsis tangshen

Use of codonopsis roots (Dang Shen) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove the smaller fibrous roots and wash, slice and dry.

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies the Spleen and Lung Qi. Assists in the secretion of Bodily Fluids.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which codonopsis roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Loss of appetite Palpitations Diarrhea Fatigue Whooping cough

Contraindications*: This herb should be used with caution when there is acute illness.

Common TCM formulas in which codonopsis roots (Dang Shen) are used*

Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Source date: 1548 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Draws out toxicity. Expels pus from the interior. Tonifies Qi and Blood.

In Tuo Li Xiao Du San, Dang Shen tonifies Qi

Read more about Tuo Li Xiao Du San

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

In Wen Jing Tang, Dang Shen tonifies Qi and harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach to strengthen the source of production and transformation so that Yang can produce Yin and the Blood may not be Deficient.

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

He Che Da Zao Wan

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies the Kidneys. Strengthens the Directing and Penetrating Vessels. Regulates the periods.

Read more about He Che Da Zao Wan

Key TCM concepts behind codonopsis roots (Dang Shen)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), codonopsis roots are plants that belong to the 'Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Qi tonics are typically sweet and they tend to enter the Spleen and Lungs because these Organs are most involved with the production of Qi.

Furthermore codonopsis roots are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that codonopsis roots typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang Excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin Excess. The Neutral nature of codonopsis roots means that you don't have to worry about that!

Codonopsis roots also taste Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like codonopsis roots tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such codonopsis roots are thought to target the Spleen and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on codonopsis roots (Dang Shen)

An acidic polysaccharide from the roots of Codonopsis pilosula may be a potential candidate compound for the prevention of tumor metastasis, presumably by inhibiting invasion, migration and adhesion of tumor cells, as well as the CD44 expression on the tumor cells.1


1. Tao Xin, Fubin Zhang, Qiuying Jiang, Chunhong Chen, Dayong Huang, Yanju Li, Weixi Shen, Yinghua Jin, Guangjie Sui (2012). The inhibitory effect of a polysaccharide from Codonopsis pilosula on tumor growth and metastasis in vitro. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 51(5): 788-793. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2012.07.019.