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Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen)

Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen) on a dish

What is Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen)?

Fourleaf Ladybell Root (nan sha shen, 南沙参), also known as Radix Adenophorae, is known as one of the highest-graded herbs in ancient times. Native to East Asia, Adenophora grows throughout the mountains and lowlands of China, Japan and Korea. The plant thrives in areas with bright sunlight and moist soil, reaching a height of about three feet.

The roots of Adenophora are usually harvested in spring and autumn, where loose fibrous material is removed from them, and the roots are then dried under the sun for medicinal usage. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Radix Adenophorae is Cold in nature. This means that this herb can help individuals with too much Heat in their body, such as those experiencing a Yin Deficiency or a Yang Excess, to restore a harmonious yin-yang balance. In TCM, Radix Adenophorae is mainly used to treat coughs caused by Yin Deficiency, along with related symptoms such as bronchitis, pulmonary infections and dry throat. The herb is also often used in herbal cough remedies given to children.

Bitter and sweet, Radix Adenophorae can cleanse the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. The herb can also slow down acute reactions, detoxify the body and has a tonic effect by replenishing qi and blood. In particular, Radix Adenophorae targets the Lungs.

Functions and Benefits of Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Radix Adenophorae has the following health benefits.

Radix Adenophorae can nourish yin and tonify qi in the lungs, disperse phlegm, address Dryness in the Lungs and clear Lung Heat. The herb is thus indicated for symptoms such as chronic cough, dry cough with little phlegm, blood in phlegm, Dryness in throat and hoarseness due to Yin Deficiency in the Lungs. 

Radix Adenophorae can also nourish yin in the stomach, clear Stomach Heat and promote the production of fluids to check thirst. The herb is thus indicated for symptoms caused by stomach Yin Deficiency such as dry mouth, constipation, hunger without appetite, retching. The herb can also tonify qi in the Spleen, which makes it effective in treating the remaining Heat during the later stages of Heat diseases.

Other than the above Radix Adenophorae benefits, modern studies have shown that Radix Adenophorae may possess antifungal effects. Fungal growth is promoted in a body environment that is ideal for proliferation. Radix Adenophorae extract supplementation may be quite useful in controlling fungal growth among patients who are at risk for fungal infection.

The herb also works as an effective antipyretic agent. This means that Radix Adenophorae may help to reduce temperature and control fever among patients. In addition, Radix Adenophorae may help to heal weak pulses by improving pulse strength.

Close up of Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen)
Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen) is effective in easing dry coughs.

How to Use Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen)

The recommended daily dosage of Radix Adenophorae is 10 – 15g, when boiled in water and drunk as a decoction. If fresh Radix Adenophorae is being used, a larger dose of 15 – 30g may be necessary. 

Radix Adenophorae is often combined with other herbs such as Ophiopogon, Ginseng and Schizandra in herbal formulas.

Dried Radix Adenophorae can be found in some herbal shops. Fresh Radix Adenophorae is also available in some stores, but it is more difficult to obtain than dried Radix Adenophorae.

Cautions and Side Effects of Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen)

Radix Adenophorae should not be used by individuals who are experiencing cough caused by excess Cold. 

Also, Radix Adenophorae should not be consumed together with Veratrum as it may counteract the effects of the latter.

We strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before adding Radix Adenophorae to your healthcare routine.


Here is a summary for Radix Adenophorae (Nan Sha Shen):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 南沙参
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): nán shā shēn
  • Herb name (English): Fourleaf Ladybell Root
  • Herb name (Botanical): Radix Adenophorae
  • Origin of species: Adenophora tetraphylla (Thunb.) Fisch.; Adenophora stricta Miq.
  • Part(s) of herb used: Root
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet; Slightly cold; Administrates the Lung and Stomach Meridians
  • Actions: Replenishes bodily fluids; Eases dry coughs; Provides relief from symptoms such as constant thirst, nausea or lack of appetite caused by stomach discomforts

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