Herb: Dang Shen

Latin name: Codonopsis pilosula

Synonyms: Campanumoea pilosula

Family: Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Medicinal use of Dang Shen:

Dang Shun is an important herb in Chinese medicine, it is a gentle tonic that increases energy levels and helps the body adapt to stress. The root contains saponins, triterpenes and steroids, it is similar in action to ginseng (Panax species), but it is milder and has a shorter-lasting effect. It is a sweet, warm, soothing herb that is taken as an energy tonic. It acts mainly on the spleen, lungs and stomach, raising secretion of body fluids and blood sugar levels, and stimulating the immune system. Research has shown that it increases haemoglobin and red blood cell levels and lowers the blood pressure. It also helps increase endurance to stress and promotes alertness. The root and the whole plant are adaptogen, appetizer, digestive, galactogogue, sialagogue, stomachic and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of low energy, poor appetite and digestion, anaemia, shallow breathing and debility after illness. It is often cooked with rice until it is glutinous and used as a tonic food. The dried root is decocted with other herbs and used to treat a wide range of ailments. The roots of plants at least three years old are harvested in the autumn and can be used fresh or dried.

Description of the plant:

Perennial Climber

170 cm
(5 1/2 foot)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Dense shrubby thickets, the shade of trees at forest edges, streambanks etc.

Edible parts of Dang Shen:

Root - raw or cooked.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - surface sow in spring to early summer in an ericaceous compost in a greenhouse. Do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 6 weeks at 20C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer and protect them from slugs until the plants are well established. Division in spring, with care, since the plant resents root disturbance. We have found it best to take small divisions that are teased out from the sides of the main clump so as to cause the least possible disturbance to the plants and to avoid having to dig up the clump. These small divisions need to be potted up and placed in light shade in a greenhouse until they are rooting well. They can be planted out into their permanent positions in the summer if they are large enough, otherwise in the following spring.

Cultivation of Dang Shen:

Dense shrubby thickets, the shade of trees at forest edges, streambanks etc.

Known hazards of Codonopsis pilosula:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.