Dong Sum (黨參) (scientific name: Codonopsis pilosula) is also known as “poor man’s ginseng” because its properties are similar to the more expensive ginseng. Like ginseng, it has many functions. It can improve energy, appetite, boost immunity, nourish the blood, lower blood pressure and promote digestion. In soup making and traditional chinese medicine, the dried root is used. Again, like ginseng, it resembles a light brown, gnarled twig and is about the size of a finger. Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors consider dong sum to be milder than ginseng. Some say it will take about three times the dose of dong sum to be near the potency of ginseng.
Dong sum is known to be sweet and neutral. It can enter the lung and spleen meridians but unlike ginseng, cannot enter the kidney meridian and therefore cannot be used in acute conditions when the yang collapses. Dong sum is therefore more suited to gently maintain the lung and spleen and generate yin. This is especially useful for people with chronic lung or spleen issues (or specifically, deficiencies in the lung qi or spleen qi).