Also known as Bonnet Bellflower and Poor man’s Ginseng, this climbing perennial is a member of the bellflower family hailing from forests, meadows and stream banks in North-eastern China.
A twining vine to a height of 2 metres, solitary bell shaped flowers occur at the branch tips in summer. The flowers are small (approx 2 cm) long and undramatic – yellow-green with purple spots inside.
The long sweet tap roots of Codonopsis are used in Chinese Medicine and are one of the most well known of Chinese tonic herbs, used for replenishing vital energy, or qi. Codonopsis is an adaptogenic herb -aiding the body adapt to and defend against the effects of environmental stress. Codonopsis is said to invigorate the functioning of the spleen and lungs and promote the production of body fluids. It is rich in immune boosting polysaccharides, restoring vitality and relieving fatigue. It also contains chemicals that seem to slow down the growth of cancer cells. It has expectorant and demulcent properties that can soothe mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. Being very mild and without side effects, it is considered an excellent herb for children.
The plant is sometimes called ‘Poor Man’s Ginseng’ because it is used in commercial products as a cheaper substitute for Panax ginseng. Despite having a completely different phytochemical profile, it is believed to have an action similar to that of Ginseng, but gentler.
The dried root can be made into tea, or even cooked with food – It is often cooked with rice until it is glutinous and used as a tonic food.
Codonopis prefers light, sandy soil but can grow in richer soils too. The soil should be moist but well-drained. Codonopsis prefers a semi-shady spot and will need a trellis or something to climb up. Take care when transplanting as the roots do not like to be disturbed. Frost hardy once established but new growth is susceptible in spring, so best protected from morning sun. Plants should be left to establish for two years before harvesting the roots.
Two year old certified organic plant in 9cm pot.