Chinese Name: Dang shen
Medical Name: Radix Codonopsis Pilosulae
Latin Name: Codonopsis pilosula (Franch.) Nannf., and many other plants of the family Campanulaceae
Origin: Roots of plants at least three years old are harvested in the autumn and can be used fresh or dried.
Taste: Sweet

Quotes from Chinese historical sources:

NEW COMPILATION OF MATERIA MEDICA: "Its primary function is to nourish the energy and spirit of the organs, and to eliminate the chronic thirst due to anxiety. It is most appropriate and efficacious in harmonizing and nourishing the energy and spirit when they have become depleted."

SUPPLEMENT TO THE COMPENDIUM OF MATERIA MEDICA: "It can cure deficiencies of the lung, by nourishing the lung's vital energy."

THE CORRECT MEANING OF THE MATERIA MEDICA: "It can nourish the spleen and promote gastric secretion, moisten the lung, promote the secretion of saliva, and promote the healthy circulation of qi."

Western Research:

Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 Jul-Aug;10(4):52-6.
Dangshen (Codonopsis pilosula) and Bai guo (Gingko biloba) enhance learning and memory.
Singh B, Song H, Liu XD, Hardy M, Liu GZ, Vinjamury SP, Martirosian CD.
Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU), USA.
CONTEXT: An exploration of the usefulness of several common Chinese herbs used for Acquisition and Retention singly or in combination is required. OBJECTIVE: To test (1) whether Gingko biloba (Bai guo) in combination with Codonopsis pilosula (Dangshen) or Gingko biloba (GB) alone could enhance memory acquisition and retention of normal human subjects, better than a placebo and (2) to investigate whether the overall health status can be affected by these supplements. DESIGN: A double blind randomized placebo controlled trial design was used to determine the efficacy of these two products compared to placebo. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Sixty participants, aged 21- 60 years, who were either students or faculty of the Southern California University of Health Sciences. INTERVENTION: Each combination capsule was made up of 75mg of Codonopsis pilosula total glycosides and 40mg GB extract. Each GB capsule consisted of 40mg of Gingko biloba as an aqueous extract and. The placebo pill was similar in shape and color to that of the other two capsules. All the participants regardless of the group were instructed to take one pill twice a day with food. OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was a computerized, standardized acquisition and retention test provided by Digital Acumen, Inc. The secondary outcome measures were the SF-12 and the Medical Symptom Questionnaire ( 1997 healthcomm International, Inc. And Immuno Laboratories, Inc.) RESULTS: Mean age was 28 years; almost two thirds of the sample were males. The study adopted repeated measure analysis using data from three measurement points for between group analysis. GB group was compared to placebo, and CPG/GB group was also compared to placebo. These individual comparisons were made to determine whether the active products produced better results than chance. The between groups findings indicate that both products are better than placebo at producing improvements in acquisition and retention and overall health status. CONCLUSION: In our participant population, the combination product seems to be better than GB alone in improving the cognitive function and overall health.

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2003 Sep;24(9):913-7.
Codonopsis pilosula (Franch) Nannf total alkaloids potentiate neurite outgrowth induced by nerve growth factor in PC12 cells
Liu JH, Bao YM, Song JJ, An LJ.
Department of Biochemical Engineering, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian 116024, China.
AIM: To explore the effect of Codonopsis pilosula (Franch) Nannf total alkaloids (DSA) on differentiation induced by nerve growth factor (NGF) in PC12 cells. METHODS: After culturing PC12 cells with DSA in the presence or absence of NGF, neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells and correlated protein kinases were assayed. RESULTS: DSA alone did not exhibit neuritogenic activity, but caused a significant enhancement of NGF (2 microg/L)-induced neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells, and increased the phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Furthermore, this enhancing effect was completely blocked by a specific MAPK kinase inhibitor, PD98059. CONCLUSION: DSA enhanced the NGF-induced neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells by amplifying an up-stream step of the MAPK-dependent signaling pathway.