Codonopsis (Dang Shen)
Latin: Codonopsis pilosula
Parts Used: Roots
Taste/Energetics: Sweet, Neutral in temperature
Properties: Tonic, adaptogenic, nourishing, strengthening to digestion, lungs
Actions: Also known as the “poor man’s ginseng” because of its use as a cheaper, easier to grow substitute for that herb, codonopsis is a wonderful tonic herb that is not as heating as ginseng and can be used by a much wider population because it is gentler in nature. Commonly found in soups in China it is seen as a restorative “qi tonic” that can help nourish vitality.
Though it is called an adaptogen by some, it is best just to think of this herb as a tonic which fortifies immune function, improves digestion, is great for people who are weak, feeble and for those who have endured great stress through trauma or shock. It is best to be used continually for long periods of time to rebuild strength and vitality. It has an affinity for the digestive system, improving overall digestion and absorption and thereby reducing fatigue. It also is helpful for strengthening bronchial function and is good for those who feel weak with long standing asthma and bronchial complaints.
Dosage: Traditionally formulas calling for ginseng required three times as much codonopsis as a replacement because it is much milder in effect. Famed herbalist Subhuti Dharmananda calls for using quite a bit of this herb in any formula (9-30 grams per day) to get a good effect. This is not an herb that works great in tinctures and certainly not in capsules (you just don’t get enough of a dose to be that effective.) It is best used in whole form as part of decoctions or in soups. My favorite way to work with this herb is to add it with other herbs in a stock pot with bones to make a richly herbed strengthening and tonic bone broth.