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Adenophora Root (nan sha shen)

What is adenophora root? What is it used for?

Adenophora is a close cousin of glehnia, another important component of herbal medicine.

Native to east Asia, adenophora grows throughout the mountains and lowlands of China, Japan and Korea, usually reaching a height of about three feet. The medicinal part of the plant is the root. The roots are harvested in spring and autumn, stripped of any loose fibrous material, then dried in the sun for use.

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, adenophora is sweet, slightly bitter and cold, and is affiliated with the Lung and Stomach meridians. Its main functions are to treat coughs caused by yin deficiency, along with bronchitis, pulmonary infections, and dry throat. It is often used in herbal cough remedies given to children.

How much adenophora root should I take?

The typical dosage of adenophora root is between 10 and 15 grams, boiled in water and drunk as a decoction. If fresh adenophora root is being used, a larger dose (15-30 grams) may be necessary. Adenophora root is often combined with other herbs, including ophiopogon, ginseng and schisandra.

What forms of adenophora root are available?

Dried adenophora root can be found at some herbal shops. However, fresh adenophora is also available in some regions, although it is more difficult to obtain than dried adenophora. Good adenophora should be clean and firm, yet pliable.

What can happen if I take too much adenophora root? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Adenophora is considered safe; the American Herbal Products Association has given it a class 1 rating, meaning that it can safely consumed when used appropriately. However, research has also shown that adenophora root counteracts the effects of veratrum and should not be taken in conjunction with that herb. It should also not be taken by patients diagnosed with cough due to wind cold, or patients diagnosed with spleen deficiency.

As of this writing, there are no well-known drug interactions associated with adenophora. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking adenophora or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Chen Q, Chen X, Cai Y, et al. Isolation, purification and analysis of polysaccharides from adenophora potaninii korsh. Zhong Yao Cai January 2002;25(1):25-6.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al. (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 4.
  • Tu P, Xu L, Xu G, et al. Histological studies on the roots of twelve species of sect. microdiscus and sect. adenophora of the genus adenophora. Yao Xue Xue Bao June 1998;33(6):469-76.
  • Zhang W, Liu X, Liu G, et al. Root growth dynamics of adenophora potaninii populations and its relation with environmental factors in northwest Sichuan province. Ying Yong Sheng Tai Xue Bao January 2004;15(1):39-43.
  • Zhang Z, Zhan Q, Wang X. A new triterpenoid from adenophora polyantha. Zhong Yao Cai May 1998;21(5):238-9.
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