Dang Shen is the Pin Yin (Chinese) name for the botanical name of Codonopsis pilosula. A common nickname for this herb is “Poor Man’s Ginseng.” This is because the actual Ginseng is too expensive, and Dang Shen can offer similar benefits without the high cost. As an energy tonic, Dang Shen can also offer other health benefits. Since it is gentler than Ginseng, it can be taken as a supplement more often with less side effects.
Dang Shen – Codonopsis pilosula
Dang Shen is a shrubby flowering plant that grows along the river banks or streams and shaded areas under larger trees. It is native to Northeast Asia, which includes China and Korea. It can grow up to eight feet high and has a tendency to climb onto other larger trees. The leaves are heart-shaped and the flowers are bell-shaped with purple and yellow coloration on the petals.
In Chinese medicine
Dang Shen in Chinese medicine is often used to increase one’s qi, or roughly translated as “energy.” As a result in the increase of qi, one’s immunity is also increased, leading to overall better health. The channels that Dang Shen acts on are the spleen and the lungs.
The spleen is considered the transformer of the body; transforming food and fluids into qi and blood to nourish the body. If there is illness, the spleen will be affected and its main function of transformation will be decreased leading to overall lack of energy. Reduced energy will make it difficult for the patient to recover from illness. Thus, targeting the spleen’s function will allow the patient to overcome overall weakness, as well as poor appetite, loose bowels, and blood deficiency. The lungs are responsible for the flow of air and qi, especially that of Wei Qi (which is defense energy). If there is weakness in the lungs, defense energy will not be dispersed throughout the body, including the skin, leading to susceptibility of foreign invasions. The patient will also suffer from symptoms such as overall weakness, and possible shortness of breath. Thus, strengthening the lungs will improve its main functions and allow the patient to recover faster.
The herb has a pleasant sweet taste to it, making it easy to tolerate. The dosage ranges from 9 to 15 grams, much more than Ginseng, because it is not as strong. The property is warming neutral energy. Because it is warming, it is not always recommended when the patient has a cold, flu, or viral infection, accompanied by fevers. This is because according to Chinese medicine theory, these infections are called “warm, febrile disease.” If there is fever, taking warming herb will make the fever worse. Thus, Dang Shen is more appropriate for a patient who is weak after combating an illness and is in recovery stage.
As supplement for health benefits
If one is to take Dang Shen as a supplement, the dosage will not be in decoction form, but as supplement pills. The dosage will be significantly less. As a supplement, Dang Shen can provide health benefits such as strengthening one’s immunity by increasing red and white blood cells, stress-fighter, improving appetite, and overall energy booster. Since the herb is warming, it is not to be taken if the person is already in excess of energy (extroverted, easily-angered, high blood pressure). It is best for those who has a weaker constitution and suffers from lack of energy and daily stresses. It is a great alternative to caffeinated drinks and other energy drinks. Because it is gentler than Ginseng, Dang Shen does not have to be restricted to occasional uses, as long as the person is not already in excess. Dang Shen can be ordered online or can be purchased through Chinese herbal medicine shops. Consult a local Chinese herbal medicine practitioner for other appropriate uses as well as the correct dosage based on your current conditions.