Herb: Balloon Flower

Latin name: Platycodon grandiflorus

Synonyms: Campanula glauca, Campanula grandiflora

Family: Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

Medicinal use of Balloon Flower:

This species has a history of herbal use in China going back over 2,000 years and modern clinical tests have demonstrated its efficacy. It is widely used there in patent remedies and is also made into cough tablets. The root contains saponins and is anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, anticholesterolemic, antiphlogistic, antitussive, astringent, carminative, expectorant, haemolytic, hypoglycaemic, sedative, stomachic, tonic and vermifuge. It lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the liver and inhibits the release of histamine. It is used internally in the treatment of coughs with profuse phlegm, colds, bronchitis, pleurisy, pulmonary abscesses and throat infections. It is also used to treat hypertension and diabetes in Korea. The root of plants 2 - 3 years old are harvested in the spring or autumn, peeled and used fresh or dried.

Description of the plant:


50 cm
(1 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Grassy slopes in hills and mountains all over Japan.

Edible parts of Balloon Flower:

Young leaves - cooked. The radical leaves are said to be slightly toxic so only the top leaves should be used. Old leaves are powdered and used as a flavouring. Root - cooked. Eaten in soups as a tonic vegetable. It is also peeled and pickled or preserved in sugar. A nutritional analysis is available.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Free and quick germination. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the winter when the plants are dormant. Basal cuttings of non-flowering shoots in spring, preferably with a piece of root attached. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Cultivation of Balloon Flower:

Grassy slopes in hills and mountains all over Japan.

Known hazards of Platycodon grandiflorus:

The root is poisonous. The older, basal leaves are also said to be slightly toxic. If these reports are true then this is an exceptional species in a family that is generally free of toxins and often used for food.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.