He Shou Wu/ Fo-Ti Root

He Shou Wu root is an important Chinese Herb and also know as Fo-ti, Ho Shou Wu, Chinese Knotweed, Fleeceflower, Polygonum Multiflorum and Foti.

"It is said to have similar properties to that of ginseng. Fo-Ti is one of China's great four herbal tonics (Fo-Ti, Angelica, Lycium, and Panax Ginseng)..." (The Root of the Matter 1)

"The literal English translation of [fo-ti's] name is "vine to pass through the night." With a distinctive sweet yet bitter taste, fo-ti was thought to unblock the channels of energy through the body, allowing the escape of the pathogenic influences that cause generalized weakness, soreness, pain, and fatigue. Depending on the method of processing, there are four different types of Fo-Ti on the market: raw, cured, wine, and steamed. [...]

"The Chinese nickname for the herb, ho shou wu, literally means "Mr. He's Black Hair," Mr. He being a man of Chinese legend who restored his youth and sexual potency by taking Fo-Ti tea. Chinese tradition teaches that the herb should be used by itself or cured in the water used to cook black beans for this purpose. [...] The production of traditional Fo-Ti root according to traditional Chinese medicine is revered and is kept as a close secret, however the basic process involves curing raw Fo-Ti roots in a soup of black bean sauce and wine."

- Mountain Rose Herbs***

The Reported Benefits of He Shou Wu Root

The reported benefits of the amazing He Shou Wu root are listed below. I will use the different names for this herb throughout the text.

  • He Shou Wu stimulates the production of feel-good neurotransmitters (David Wolfe*)
  • Longevity tonic according to Chinese Herbalism (Natural News**)
  • He Shou Wu fights premature aging (Natural News**)
  • Fo-ti root provides effective hair loss treatment, cure for balding (Natural News**)
  • Reverses hair colour loss and helps gray hair regain its pigment (Natural News**)
  • Has been reported to restore energy and strength (Natural News**)
  • Fo-ti is helpful against weakness, infectious diseases, angina pectoris and impotence (Natural News**)
  • Beneficial as a digestive aid (Natural News**)
  • Regulates many of the ills that appear with excess aging (Natural News**)
  • Helps prevent thinning hair and restore dry, brittle and damaged hair (Natural News**)
  • Helps with hair loss from diseases, such as hypothyroidism (Natural News**)
  • Jing Longevity Herb (David Wolfe*)
  • Calms the Spirit and nourishes the heart (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mountain Rose Herbs***)
he shou wu, fo-ti, chinese herb, ho shou wu
A bag of fo-ti root powder purchased from Tree Harvest.
  • He shou wu helps against weakness, soreness, pain, fatigue (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mountain Rose Herbs***)
  • Used as a wash against itching and skin rashes (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mountain Rose Herbs***)
  • Great for kidney and liver health because it stimulates the adrenal glands and helps to detoxify the body. (Savvy Teas and Herbs2)
  • Cleanses the liver (Savvy Teas and Herbs2)
  • Used to help promote fertility, and is used to treat male impotency, increasing sperm count. (Savvy Teas and Herbs2)
  • He Shou Wu is great to take for lowering bad cholesterol levels in the body. It also is great for heart health in that it helps to decrease blood pressure, and also helps to stop the buildup of plaque in the arteries. (Savvy Teas and Herbs2)
  • Contains an alkaloid that is said to have a rejuvenating effect on the nerves, brain cells, and endocrine system. It is also said to help slow the aging process and promote longevity. (Savvy Teas and Herbs2)
  • Can help protect the brain from the damaging effects of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. (Savvy Teas and Herbs2)
  • Fo-ti contains two anti-tumor agents, emodin and rhein. It is said to maintain a persons youthfulness and general good health. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • It is a tonic to the liver and kidneys. It strengthens the muscles and bones. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • It makes women fertile. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Fo-Ti is a tonic for the endocrine glands, it improves health, stamina and resistance to disease. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • It is used to reduce cholesterol because of its lecithin. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • It is used for angina pectoris, hypoglycemia, diabetes, night sweating, schizophrenia, chronic bronchitis, epilepsy, head injuries, impotence, malaria, sores, cuts, and ringworm. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • It promotes red blood cells, intestinal peristalsis, and resistance to cold. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Reduces fever, lowers blood sugar, helps destroy and inhibit tumors. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Works as a sedative: exerts a quieting, soothing or tranquilizing effect (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • He shou wu is a classic Yin essence (Jing) tonic, as well as a major blood tonic. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Polygonum multiflorum can very significantly increase superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. SOD is a powerful natural antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been demonstrated to have powerful anti-aging benefits in humans. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Polygonum multiflorum has been demonstrated to help strengthen the membranes of erythrocytes (red blood cells) and to promote the growth and development of erythrocytes. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Polygonum multiflorum is being used clinically in China for patients suffering from Schizophrenia. It is generally combined with Shen stabilizing herbs such as Ziziphus and Polygonum stem. Reportedly, results have been good. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Has been shown in clinical studies, combined with astragalus and salvia, to help against alopecia (Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon 3)
  • Processed ho-shou-wu was shown to have effects on the antioxidant system superoxide dismutase (SOD), accumulation of lipid peroxidase, and enhancement of cell-mediated immune responses, while the unprocessed ho-shou-wu showed much less effect (Subhuti Dharmananda 3)


Keep in mind the following things when thinking of consuming He Shou Wu:

  • You may not want to eat this if you are sensitive to gluten (Mountain Rose Herbs***)
  • Remember that there are different grades of this herb and the quality of a product is dependent upon the selection of raw material. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Ho-shou-wu is essentially non-toxic and without any serious side-effects. However, it contains anthraquinones which tend to cause soft stool and may even cause slight diarrhea in some users. The processed ho-shou-wu has less of this effect than the dried ho-shou-wu. Because of this effect, it is recommended that persons who already suffer from loose stool use this herb cautiously. There is a very slight chance of liver hypersensitivity to intestinal metabolites of the ho-shou-wu active ingredients. Recently, a clinical report of one such case was published (18). However, given the very wide-spread use of this herb, it is reasonable to assume that the chances of such an adverse response are quite small. (Subhuti Dharmananda 3)

He Shou Wu Quotes and Folklore

Chinese ancient myths regarding the He Shou Wu root are continued here from above:

"Ho-Shou began with the legend of the impotent Chinese man who was 58 years old and was trapped by a flood in the mountains for seven days. The only food he ate was the Fo-ti herb, later known as Ho-Shou-Wu. He developed a strong sexual desire and fathered several offspring. One of which was named Ho-Ven-Shiu which was an outstanding offspring who lived to be 160 years of age. Hisson Ho-Shou-Wu lived to the age of 130 and died with black hair. A modern Chinese herbalist Li-Chung-Vun lived 256 years of age, was married 24 times and looked like a young man of 50 when he died. His secret: one should have a quiet heart, sit calmly like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon, and sleep soundly like a dog. He drank Ho-Shou-Wu and ginseng daily."
- The Root of the Matter 1
he shou wu, black bean soup, fo-ti, ho shou wu
He Shou Wu soup with black beans. Thank you for the image: eat.omy.sg
"For a further look at the real herbal lore behind ho-shou-wu, the herb is described in the following passage in Li Shizhen's famous compendium of 1578 (published posthumously in 1596), Bencao Gang Mu (8):

"The root of the 50-year-old plant is called "mountain slave:" taken for a year, it will preserve the black color of the hair. The root of the 100-year-old plant is called "mountain brother:" taken for a year, it will bring a glowing complexion and a cheerful disposition. The root of the 150-year-old plant is called "mountain uncle:" taken for a year, it will rejuvenate the teeth. The root of the 200-year-old plant is called "mountain father:" taken for a year it will banish old age and give the power to run like a deer. The root of the 300-year-old plant is called "mountain spirit:" taken for a year, one becomes an earthly immortal"
- (Subhuti Dharmananda 3)

Fo-ti Root Testimonials

Below are testimonials of using Fo-Ti from therootofthematter.net. These refer to the black bean processed fo-ti.

"I make a slow cooker tea (Yes, we purchased a slow cooker on your recommendation) of your Fo Ti and Schizandra berries Wow! It almost makes me wonder how people can do without food like this."

"[Fo Ti] is great stuff, and both our aches and pains are being felt again without it. [...] Al has had back pain, stiffness and less flexibility than he would like. With the Fo Ti daily he is much better, less to no pain, more flexibility, quicker recovery from sports exertion. I was having neck stiffness and mild joint pain before using it. With daily use my neck feels great, I can turn a greater (normal) radius, my joints feel great!"

"Just wanted to let you know I have been taking the maral root and fo ti root and I LOVE THEM! They give me energy, clear thinking and a peacefulness during very stressfull times. I also noticed my tendon pains are less in my arms! Awesome stuff."

"Both my husband and I (age 50 and 56) have had trouble sleeping--getting to sleep as well as often not sleeping through the night. Now, a cup or two of the Fo Ti almost always guarantees falling asleep as well as sleeping right through the night. We keep a room temp jug of it on hand at all times."

"I've gotten myself a crock pot and have been crocking Fo-Ti, I think its pretty great stuff. And really like the smell & taste. I really like how relaxed it makes me feel, it beats the hell out of valium or xanex which occasionally I've had call upon. Also, the prospect of being a kidney tonic has me quite excited..."

"I just tried the fo ti by leaving a handful in boiling water for 10 mins and then drinking; I loved it. I felt very slightly stoned and giggly afterwards - is that normal?"

Fo-ti Root Dosage and How to Use

"Must take in moderate doses. Do not use over 15 grams of pure root at a time as it may cause stomach pain." - Savvyteasandherbs.com

  • Can be used in teas, tinctures, or in encapsulated form. (Savvy Teas and Herbs 2)
  • Best when consumed on a regular basis. (Savvy Teas and Herbs 2)
  • Mix with Ginseng Root Powder and Cinnamon Powder and add honey, to make a spread for toast or crackers. (Savvy Teas and Herbs 2)
  • Polygonum is one of the rare herbs that is often consumed by itself. However, it is still better used by combining with other tonic herbs such as Ginseng, Acanthopanax (Siberian Ginseng), Lycium, Dang Gui, Astragalus, etc. (The Root of the Matter 1)
  • Polygonum is prepared by boiling it in a soup of black beans. This preparation changes the characteristic of the herb.
    (The Root of the Matter 1)

Fo-ti Root Price

I bought 100g of organic fo-ti root powder from Tree Harvest here in the UK for £4.55. It is much cheaper to get it as wholefood instead of capsules or supplements.

He Shou Wu Sources Referenced Above

* David Wolfe: p. 249 in Superfoods: Food and Medicine of the Future
** Natural News: Age Old Chinese Herb Fo-Ti is Widely Used to Restore Hair and Reverse Gray
*** Mountain Rose Herbs: Fo-Ti Root and Powder Profilev 1 TheRootoftheMatter.net: "High Quality Certified Organic Fo-Ti Root"
2 SavvyTeasandHerbs.com: "Health Benefits of Fo-Ti"
3 Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon: Ho-Shou-Wu: What's in an Herb's Name?

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