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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Codonopsis - The Poor Man's Ginseng

Codonopsis is the root of Codonopsis pilosula (Franch.) Nannf. and other Codonopsis spp. Having the properties of qi tonic, central stimulant, radioprotective, antistress, immunomodulating, and hypotensive, its recent and modern uses include high blood pressure, chronic anemia, and leukemia. Codonopsis is more commonly and traditionally used for general weakness, tiredness, lack of appetitie, chronic diarrhea, asthma, cough, palpitations, shortness of breath, thirst, fever, and diabetes.

Considered as the poor man's ginseng, codonopsis is also known as dangshen. It is frequently used as a ginseng substitute to treat many of the same conditions as ginseng. Its documented use dates back only about three hundred years, but it has since become a highly valued qi tonic of status equal to that of some ancient ones (such as astragalus, ginseng, and jujube). It is frequently used in combination with other herbs or in soup mixes to treat conditions due to Spleen and blood deficiencies as well as damaged qi. It is often used in "energy" formulas for its central stimulant effect as well as in formulas for boosting one's immune system.

Codonopsis contains large amounts of polysacharides and sugars (inulin, starch, glucose, sucrose, fructose, etc.), saponins (tangshenosides, but no ginsenosides), amino acids, alkaloids, triterpenes, sterols, volatile oil, oroxylin A, and trace minerals, among others.

Its extracts have been shown to increase blood sugar levels in animals, yet codonopsis is traditionally used to treat diabetes. This appears to be another case of contradiction in herbal research. Nevertheless, many of the other traditional uses have been corroborated by Western Science.

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including codonopsis on page 18. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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