Codonopsis pilosula

Herbs gallery - Codonopsis

Common names

  • Codonopsis
  • Poor Man's Ginseng

The plant species called the codonopsis can reach five feet in length. This herb is a twining perennial characterized by possessing oval shaped leaves and green colored flowers with distinct purple colored veins. The long and sweet taproot of the codonopsis is used in herbal medicine around the world. Codonopsis is cultivated around the world, but it is originally native to Asia and was traditionally used in the herbal medical system of many ancient Asian cultures.

Parts used



Herbal remedies made from the codonopsis can help prevent problems such as stomach pain and chronic headache. Codonopsis remedies have been used in the treatment of asthma and even cancer - herbalists recommend using the remedy to treat such conditions. Remedies made from the codonopsis help lower stress and boost the ability of the body to tolerate stress when used regularly. Codonopsis remedies also increase stamina and endurance.

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Specific disorders can be treated using codonopsis. A person suffering from any of the health conditions given below can benefit from remedies made from the codonopsis.

Codonopsis remedies have been used in the treatment of cancer and tumors. One beneficial effect of the codonopsis on the body is that it increases the red and white blood cell count. This results in a reduction of the side effects induced by the use of toxic compounds - normally used as a part of the chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer and tumors. Codonopsis aids the body by boosting the healing process following radiation therapy; patients who have been irradiated can recover faster when given codonopsis. Codonopsis can be used in the treatment of chronic headaches. Remedies made from the codonopsis are extensively used in the traditional Chinese medicine - TCM. In this Asian system of herbal medication, codonopsis is used to alleviate headaches that come along with high blood pressure problems. TCM practitioners also recommend codonopsis remedies to relieved tension in the muscles, as well as an aid in treating indigestion and related abdominal disorders. Codonopsis remedies have also been used in the treatment of the auto-immune disorder known as lupus. The dysfunctional immune system in a body affected by lupus is restrained by the remedy. Lupus is a dangerous auto-immune disease, where the immune system goes haywire and starts destroying the DNA found in the cells of the skin - in other words, the body is bent on destroying itself. Codonopsis remedies have also been employed to treat peptic ulcer and other ulcerations in the body. The effect of codonopsis on peptic ulcers was researched during animal studies, the remedy was found to be capable of preventing the formation of peptic ulcers induced in the body by excessive long term stress.

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Remedies made from the codonopsis are particularly beneficial for the treatment of ulcers that have been compounded by the loss of appetite, chronic diarrhea, or bouts of vomiting over an extended period of time. Codonopsis is also useful in alleviating a chronic tendency to vomit or retch. Traditionally, in some Asian cultures, a remedy made from the codonopsis plants was used to treat people affected by loss of appetite, chronic diarrhea, or vomiting - this remedy is in fact centuries old. Extracts of the codonopsis were analyzed in the laboratory; these studies suggest that a substance in the extract acts on the body by reducing the secretion of pepsin - an enzyme found in the stomach. The extract also reduces the rate at which food is passed from the stomach to the large intestine - these findings show that codonopsis is indeed capable of treating problems in the stomach.

Several herbalists have employed codonopsis in the form of an astringent to heal profuse uterine bleeding and also to treat rheumatic as well as other types of aching joints. This herb is known to possess general tonic, aphrodisiac and styptic (binding) properties. In addition, pharmacological studies have also corroborated that codonopsis facilitates digestion as well as metabolism, which, in turn, aids in fortifying the immune system, widening the secondary blood vessels, invigorating the nervous system and, at the same time, works to slow down the actions of adrenal cortex that helps in lowering the blood pressure.

It is worth mentioning here that codonopsis is one herb that is employed to cure an assortment of health condition, such as digestive problems, asthma, exhaustion, high blood pressure (hypertension) and anxiety.

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The taproot of this herb encloses nearly all the therapeutic agents of this herb. Precisely speaking, the codonopsis taproot encloses alkaloids, saponins, polysaccharides, steroids and several different natural amalgamations that make this herb useful for the entire body. The use of Codonopsis pilosula helps to rejuvenate the spleen and, hence, it is often used in the form of a stimulant or tonic.

This herb also helps to augment the amount of red and white blood cells and is, therefore, employed to cure anemia. The aptitude of codonopsis to fortify the immune system is considered to be among the greatest benefits offered by this herb. The polysaccharides present in the taproot of codonopsis encourage the manufacture of interferon within the body and, at the same time, perk up the immune building attributes of this herb even more.

Codonopsis taproot also contains adaptogenic substances that reinforce the capability of the body to endure stress or anxiety. This, in fact, aids in providing relief from several symptoms related to stress, including exhaustion, persistent headache as well as high blood pressure. In addition, these adaptogenic constituents of codonopsis taproot also work in the form of a tonic for the stomach as well as the entire digestive tract, thereby easing a number of disorders related to the gastrointestinal system, including indigestion, nausea, and diarrhea as well as vomiting.

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It may be noted here that contemporary medicine has found a number of novel utilities for the herb Codonopsis pilosula. The curative attributes of this herb ease the adverse effects that are often endured by cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy as a part of their total therapeutic program. The side effects generally experienced by such cancer patients include indigestion, lassitude, nausea and shortness of breath, while the energy-augmenting and immune-enhancing properties of codonopsis assist in reinstating their vivacity. Codonopsis is a good substitute for the Chinese herb ginseng and has often been employed for treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Codonopsis is thought to possess therapeutic attributes comparable to those of ginseng, but in a much weaker variety. In fact, occasionally the herb Codonopsis pilosula is referred to as the ginseng for the poor man as it is comparatively inexpensive and is employed as an alternate for the more costly ginseng to prepare several natural curative medications. In general, codonopsis is employed to cure the conditions for which ginseng is used. In China, people take this herb internally in the form of a tonic prepared using both herbs with a view to reinstate the abating energy as well as to prevail over lassitude. Occasionally, codonopsis is also blended with another Chinese herb, gingko biloba, because the Codonopsis pilosula possesses antioxidant properties which augment the aptitude of gingko biloba in enhancing memory.

Remedies made from the codonopsis are available in herbal stores in different forms. Herbal stores usually sell tablets, herbal teas, and tinctures made from the codonopsis. Since, the codonopsis is a relatively inexpensive compared to ginseng, this herb that is often substituted for real ginseng in many herbal tonics that are sold as "ginseng" based remedies. The addition of codonopsis instead of ginseng in such herbal formulas reduces the cost for herbal product makers. There is another side to the story as in many such cases of false marketing, the addition of codonopsis in the remedy often makes the tonic more effective in treating the problem - in fact, it can sometimes be much more effective than the expensive ginseng herb.

The professional supervision of an experienced herbalist is recommended for all individuals interested in the use of codonopsis to the treat the ulcers affecting them.

Habitat and cultivation

Codonopsis (botanical name Codonopsis pilosula) is a flowering herb that grows perennially. Belonging to the Lobelia family, this herb is indigenous to China and Korea, where people have used the herb for therapeutic purposes for many thousand years. Codonopsis is currently grown across the globe, especially for its therapeutic attributes as well as its attractiveness as an ornamental plant.

Codonopsis pilosula has a preference for properly drained, rich, light soil and conditions that are completely sunlit or places having partial shade. Precisely speaking, codonopsis likes a somewhat acidic soil. This herb only thrives well when grown in complete sunlight provided the soil is damp for the major period of its growing season. While the herb has the aptitude to endure cold when it is in a dormant stage, the new growths during spring time as well as the mature codonopsis are susceptible to frosts and, therefore, it is advisable to cultivate this herb in a sheltered location to avoid the early morning sun.

Codonopsis is basically a climbing plant that has the ability to support itself by jostling over and coiling around other plants in the vicinity. As this plant loathes its roots being disturbed, it is best to plant them in their permanent positions outdoors at the earliest. In addition, it is advisable that you grow codonopsis on an elevated bank to allow people to have an excellent view of the ornamental flowers of the herb. It is worth mentioning here that codonopsis plants are vulnerable to destructions caused by slugs, especially the young shoots that appear in spring are at great risk. In fact, even the mature plants are also consumed by the slugs.

Codonopsis pilosula is generally propagated by its seeds that are ideally sown just below the soil surface either in spring or during the beginning of summer in a greenhouse in ericaceous manure. It is important to ensure that the compost always remains damp. Normally, it takes about one to six weeks for the seeds to germinate when kept at a temperature of 20°C. When the plantlets have grown sufficiently large to be handled, prick them out individually, plant them in separate containers and continue to grow them in the greenhouse at least for the duration of their first winter of existence. The young plants may be transplanted into their permanent positions outdoors during the later part of spring or the beginning of summer. Ensure that you provide the plants with adequate protection from slugs invasion at least till they are established properly.

Alternately, you may also propagate codonopsis by means of root division undertaken carefully during spring, as this herb does not like its roots to be disturbed. Ideally, you should make small root divisions that are separated slowly from the sides of the primary clump keeping in view that this does not result in much disturbance to the plants. In addition, this should be done in such a manner that you need not dig out the clump, which may kill the plant. These small root divisions should be planted in separate pots and put in a place having light shade within the greenhouse till the time they have rooted properly. The young plants emerging from the root divisions may be transplanted into their permanent positions outdoors during summer provided they have grown sufficiently large. In case their growth is sluggish, you should transplant them outdoors in the next spring.


Although it has been reported that the herb Codonopsis pilosula has shown that this herb encloses alkaloids, saponins (for instance, codonoposides), and polysaccharides, chemical analysis of this herb is yet to identify some of these elements. Therefore, for instance, perlolyrine is the only alkaloid that has been verified as contained by the herb. However, scientists are yet to ascertain the functions, if any, of perlolyrine. In such a situation, it is believed that the saponins are the most active principal constituents of codonopsis. This herb also encloses polysaccharides in the ratio of approximately 1 per cent of the weight of the plant's dehydrated root.

Side effects and cautions

People using therapeutic formulations prepared from Codonopsis pilosula ought to be aware of the side effects of using this herb and also initiate necessary precautions. For instance, people enduring allergy or hypersensitivity to using Codonopsis pilosula, any of the elements contained by the herb or any associated plant species belonging to the Campanulaceae family should keep away from this herb.

In addition, there is not enough clinical evidence about the safety of using codonopsis. Moreover, it has been reported that the use of this herb by humans has resulted in some adverse effects. Therefore, it is advisable that this herb needs to be used with great caution, especially by patients having bleeding disorders or those who are already taking any type of blood-thinning or antiplatelet medications. In addition, patients who are taking purgatives or medicines to soften the stool or have bowel inflammation or even appendicitis should also use codonopsis very cautiously. Usually, this herb has been used to encourage digestion as well as cleanse the intestinal tract.

It is also suggested that patients who are taking antacids or medications for gastric reflux should also use Codonopsis pilosula with great cautions, since this herb has the potential to diminish the secretion of gastric acid-pepsin. Also people who are using any type of oral medication should take care while using therapeutic formulations prepared from Codonopsis pilosula, since the extract of this herb may possibly slow down the gastrointestinal movement.

This herb should also be avoided by pregnant women as well as those who are planning pregnancy. In fact, even nursing mothers should keep away from codonopsis, as there is an absence of sufficient evidence regarding its safety for use during these conditions.


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