English: Codonopsis roots

Chinese: 党参

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Organ affinity: Lung Spleen

Scientific name: Codonopsis pilosula or Codonopsis tangshen

Use of Dang Shen (codonopsis roots) 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 Dang Shen 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 Dang Shen is used*

An Tai Zhu Gao

Source date: 1879 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Strengthens the Qi and Blood. Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys. Calms the fetus.

Conditions targeted*: Restless fetus and others

Dang Shen is a king ingredient in An Tai Zhu Gao. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In An Tai Zhu Gao, Dang Shen tonifies the Spleen and Lung Qi

Read more about An Tai Zhu Gao

Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

Source date: 16th century

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Enriches the Yin. Nourishes the Blood. Clears Heat. Calms the Mind.

Conditions targeted*: Perimenopausal syndromeChronic urticaria and others

Dang Shen is an assistant ingredient in Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan, Dang Shen tonifies the Blood to nourish the Heart without causing Stagnation. 

All eight assistant herbs support those functions of the Heart that have been
damaged by worry, thinking, and mental exertion. 

Read more about Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan

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

Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan

Source date: 1587 AD

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Formula key actions: Strengthens and harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach. Resolves Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Poor appetiteLoss of taste and others

In Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan, Dang Shen tonifies the Spleen and Lung Qi. It also assists in the secretion of Bodily Fluids.

Read more about Xiang Sha Yang Wei Wan

Key TCM concepts behind Dang Shen's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Dang Shen belongs 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 Dang Shen is Neutral in nature. This means that Dang Shen typically doesn'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 Dang Shen means that you don't have to worry about that!

Dang Shen also tastes 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 Dang Shen tends 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 Dang Shen is thought to target the Lung and the Spleen. 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. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.

Research on 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.