- Chinese Name He Shou Wu 何首乌
- Latin Name Polygonum multiflorum Thunb
- Other Names Fleeceflower Root, Flowery Knotweed Root, Climbing Knotwood, Fo Ti, Chinese Cornbind, Radix Polygoni Multiflori (Preparata)
- Used Part Root
- Specification Powdered Extract
Fo Ti He Shou Wu Extract Powder
He Shou Wu (Fo-Ti) is one of the most popular and highly revered tonic herbs in Asian herbalism. He Shou Wu is the prepared tuberous root of Polygonum multiflorum, a plant that grows in the mountains of central and southern China. It shares the position as the primary essence (Jing) tonic of Chinese herbalism with the Goji berry.
By virtue of its ability to accumulate tremendous quantities of Qi into its root, this herb can tonify the human and animal organs and can tonify and nourish the blood. He Shou Wu is not a stimulant. However, it is one of the greatest energy tonics known to mankind. Its action is cumulative, as any truly healthy tonic dietary supplement would be. Because it is a very mild sedative, it will calm the nervous system. So it can be said that He Shou Wu is both energizing and calming. That is the magic of a great tonic herb.
He Shou Wu helps maintain the strength and stability of the lower back and knees. It is used to maintain youthful sexual drive, normally abundant sperm count in men and to support the health of the ova in women. It is widely used in Asia to maintain the youthful condition and color of the hair. It can calm the nervous system. It has components that are potent antioxidants with gentle actions in the liver and the eyes.
Its strength partially comes from its remarkable ability to support and maintain the healthful cleaning functions of the kidney and liver, which in turn clean the blood.
He Shou Wu is a good source of iron. He Shou Wu contains potent antioxidants and in antioxidant-potentiating molecules. He Shou Wu supports the body’s innate ability to efficiently clear superoxide, the highly reactive free radical, from the body. Free radicals are produced at every moment of our life as part of the living process and our health depends upon our clearing them from our body on a moment to moment basis. This support generally comes from foods and herbs humans consume. It is widely believed that the SOD-generating capacity of He Shou Wu is one of the reasons it is considered by many to have “anti-aging” and “longevity increasing” activity. These actions help maintain healthy physical and mental functions and structures.
He Shou Wu contains zinc. Zinc is an essential trace mineral required by all forms of life. Numerous aspects of cellular metabolism are zinc-dependent. Zinc plays important roles in growth and development, the immune response, neurological function and reproduction. Zinc is important to our sexual and reproductive functions.
He Shou Wu has been found to support fundamental immunological functions. He Shou Wu has been found to improve adrenal gland functioning.
He Shou Wu is unsurpassed in its ability to provide deep, primordial energy (Jing, essence) to the cells of the body via the Kidney system as described in Chinese health philosophy. He Shou Wu supports the human body’s “functional reserve.”
He Shou Wu is widely used in Chinese tonic herbalism as a tonic to promote healthy aging by tonifying the Kidney and Liver functions, toning up Jing (vital essence), nourishing the blood, and fortifying the muscles, tendons and bones.
“Prepared” or “Not Prepared,” that is the difference.
The tuber of He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum) must be “prepared” in order to be used as a regularly-consumed tonic herb. Unprepared He Shou Wu does not possess the tonic effects and can have unwanted side effects. The freshly picked tubers are sliced, stewed in black bean soup (in a proportion of 10 parts He Shou Wu to 1 part black beans) until the soup is exhausted. The “prepared” roots are then dried. That is all there is to the “preparation.” Of course, no chemicals are used in the making of “prepared” He Shou Wu.
The tuberous root of Polygonum multiflorum (He Shou Wu) has many active constituents. He Shou Wu is rich in anthraquinones, including many phospholipids such as lecithin (3.7%). A stilbene glycoside known as 2,3,5,4-tetrahydroxystilbene-2-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (henceforth refered to as “he shou wu super-glycoside”) is considered to be the principle active constituent responsible for He Shou Wu’s very powerful antioxidant activity. There are many similar stilbene glycosides present in He Shou Wu. The stilbene glycosides in He Shou Wu are very similar to Resveratrol. Several of the stilbene glycosides in He Shou Wu are stronger antioxidants than Resveratrol.
Why Prepared He Shou Wu Is Much Milder and Safer than Unprepared He Shou Wu
1. Chemical Constituent Difference:
The conjugated anthraquinones (such as emodin) present in unprepared He Shou Wu are laxative. After preparation, the amount of conjugated anthraquinones in He Shou Wu decreases, while the free form anthraquinones that have many health-supporting and protective benefits significantly increase. This is why prepared He Shou Wu has a much milder or nil laxative effect compared to raw, and why prepared He Shou Wu is so safe and effective.
2. Efficacy and Function Difference:
The “preparation” eliminates the laxative effect of He Shou Wu and brings out the tonic effect. In addition to toxicity elimination, the special preparation process also enhances He Shou Wu’s therapeutic efficacy. He Shou Wu is known to support macrophages. In a test where mice were fed He Shou Wu prepared by different methods, or not prepared at all, at the dose of 6g/kg, only the prepared He Shou Wu that was stewed and steamed with black soybean soup for 32 hours was shown to support the phagocytic activity of abdominal macrophage. He Shou Wu that was raw or prepared differently showed no obvious results.
Raw, un-prepared He Shou Wu is used as a laxative in Chinese herbalism, and is not used in tonic herbalism.
An interesting Chinese Story about He Shou Wu
He Shou Wu, with it’s English name as Fo-Ti, has a very interesting history and the story of discovery. He Shou Wu’s history states all the way back to around 800 AD. That was the time when 58 years old Mr. He woke up with his hangover from a drunken sleep in a field. Some people say that Mr. He drunk often as he was badly depressed from being impotent all his life. That morning when he woke up and saw soon-to-be-called He Shou Wu plants in front of him, Mr. He said that those plants reminded him of two lovers. For this reason, he decided to dug up the roots of a He Shou Wu plant, and to all his surprise they brought to mind two humans – male and female. That got to be a sign!
Mr. He decided to give it a shot. He ground the roots into a powder and took the powder daily from thereafter. Within months he started to have sexual urges for the first time in his life, and within a year his snow-white hair turned back to pitch-black again. Therefore the Chinese name He Shou Wu – Mr. He’s Black Hair.
Mr. He got married, and also his wife started to take He Shou Wu. The legend says that Mr. He got 12 children altogether and he lived up to 130 years old. His children also took He Shou Wu powder, and one is said to have lived even up to 150 years old. Also Li Ching Yuen, a Chinese herbalist and martial artist, who died in 1933 is known for taking He Shou Wu daily. He is claimed to be born in 1736 or 1677, which both suggest a lifespan of 197 to 256 years.
Taste & Property Bitter, Sweet, Astringent, Slightly Warm
Organ Meridians Liver, Kidney
• Tonifies the Liver and Kidneys, nourishes the Blood and nourishes Jing (Zhi He Shou Wu)
– Blood Deficiency with dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia and premature graying of the hair
– Yin Deficiency with lower back and knee weakness and pain, soreness of the extremities, nocturnal emissions and insomnia
– Jing Deficiency
• Expels Wind from the skin by nourishing the Blood (Zhi He Shou Wu)
– Wind-Rash due to Blood Deficiency
• Moistens the Intestines and unblocks the bowels (Sheng He Shou Wu)
– Constipation due to Blood Deficiency
• Relieves Fire Toxin (Sheng He Shou Wu)
– Fire toxin carbuncles, sores, scrofula, goiter and neck lumps (Chuang Yung)
• Checks malarial disorders (Sheng He Shou Wu)
– Malarial disorders with Qi and Blood Deficiency