Codonopsis for COPD Defense?

Moodboard/Cultura/Getty Images

Codonopsis (Codonopsis pilosula) is a plant said to offer a broad range of health benefits. Sometimes referred to as "dang shen," it's long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Proponents suggest that codonopsis can help stimulate the immune system and protect against a variety of illnesses.

Codonopsis contains a number of compounds thought to influence health, including hesperidin and beta-sitosterol.

Uses for Codonopsis

In alternative medicine, codonopsis is typically used for the following health conditions:

  • asthma 
  • bronchitis 
  • cough
  • diabetes 
  • diarrhea
  • high blood pressure 

Additionally, codonopsis is said to reduce the side effects of radiation therapy, as well as stimulate circulation, boost endurance, and preserve memory.

The Health Benefits of Codonopsis

While research on the health effects of codonopsis is very limited, there's some evidence that the herb may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on codonopsis:

1)  COPD

Codonopsis has been explored in the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the third leading cause of death in the United States. While there are two main forms of COPD (chronic bronchitis and emphysema), most people with this disease have a combination of both conditions.

For a report published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2015, investigators analyzed 48 previously published clinical trials testing the use of herbal formulas containing codonopsis in the treatment of COPD.

They found evidence that codonopsis-based formulas may help improve lung function in people with COPD, as well as improve quality of life.

Although these findings indicate that codonopsis may be of some benefit to people with COPD, the report's authors note that many of the reviewed trials had flaws in their design.

More research is needed before codonopsis can be recommended in the treatment of COPD.

More: Natural Remedies for Emphysema

2)  Cognitive Function

Taking a combination of codonopsis and gingko biloba may help boost brain health, according to a small study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in 2004.

For the study, 60 adults (ages 21 to 60) were given ginkgo biloba on its own, a combination of codonopsis and ginkgo biloba, or a placebo. Results revealed that the combination of codonopsis and ginkgo biloba was superior to the placebo and to gingko biloba alone in improving cognitive function and overall health.


Because so few studies have tested the effects of codonopsis in humans, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of this herb. However, there's some concern that codonopsis may cause side effects such as stomach upset, dry mouth, and insomnia.

Codonopsis may also inhibit blood clotting. Therefore, it's important to avoid the use of codonopsis before or after undergoing surgery.

Codonopsis should also be avoided by people with bleeding disorders and those taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications.

Alternatives to Codonopsis

To date, research on the use of alternative medicine in the treatment of COPD is limited. Still, some preliminary research indicates that use of the herb turmeric may slow up the progression of emphysema.

Since COPD is almost always caused by smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, avoiding smoking is crucial for COPD prevention. If you smoke, some research shows alternative therapies such as hypnosis and acupuncture can help you quit (also see these remedies).

If you're looking to improve your brain health, certain natural remedies may help with cognitive function. For example, some studies suggest that herbs like Panax ginseng may help keep your memory sharp as you get older.

What's more, there's some evidence that getting your fill of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids  may help shield your brain health through the years.

Where to Find Codonopsis

Dietary supplements containing codonopsis can be purchased in many natural-foods stores and stores specializing in herbal products, as well as online.


Liu C, Chen J, Li E, Fan Q, Wang D, Li P, Li X, Chen X, Qiu S, Gao Z, Li H, Hu Y. "The comparison of antioxidative and hepatoprotective activities of Codonopsis pilosula polysaccharide (CP) and sulfated CP." Int Immunopharmacol. 2015 Feb;24(2):299-305.

Ng TB, Liu F, Wang HX. "The antioxidant effects of aqueous and organic extracts of Panax quinquefolium, Panax notoginseng, Codonopsis pilosula, Pseudostellaria heterophylla and Glehnia littoralis." J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Aug;93(2-3):285-8.

Qi HY, Wang R, Liu Y, Shi YP. "Studies on the chemical constituents of Codonopsis pilosula." Zhong Yao Cai. 2011 Apr;34(4):546-8.

Shergis JL, Liu S, Chen X, Zhang AL, Guo X, Lu C, Xue CC. "Dang shen [Codonopsis pilosula (Franch.) Nannf] herbal formulae for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Phytother Res. 2015 Feb;29(2):167-86.

Singh B, Song H, Liu XD, Hardy M, Liu GZ, Vinjamury SP, Martirosian CD. "Dangshen (Codonopsis pilosula) and Bai guo (Gingko biloba) enhance learning and memory." Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 Jul-Aug;10(4):52-6.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading