Fo-ti Root

Fo-ti Root

Fo-ti root comes from the plant Polygonum multiflorum, also known as Fleece Flower Vine, and is known as He Shou Wu in traditional Chinese medicine. It is used for various health purposes. Polygonum multiflorum is native to China. The root has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine where it is believed to have rejuvenating and anti-aging properties.

Two Chinese Medicines from One Plant

It is interesting to note that He Shou Wu is not the only Chinese medicine to be derived from the plant Polygonum multiflorum. Ye Jiao Teng is the vine of the same plant that gives us He Shou Wu (Fo-ti) from its root. The common name is the Fleece Flower Vine. It nourishes the heart, calms the shen and is useful in tackling disturbed emotions.

You may also be interested in our article on Tribulus terrestis (Puncture Vine).

Chinese Legend took Fo-ti Root Daily

Chung Yun, a famous Chinese herbalist who reportedly lived to be 256 years old, used Fo-ti root on a daily basis. This herb is thought to have been responsible for both his long life and his legendary sexual prowess, (he was said to have had 24 wives). In another Chinese legend, Fo ti was thought to be responsible for returning natural black colour to a previously gray-haired man, hence why He Shou Wu means “black haired Mr. He“.

Active Ingredients in Fo-ti Root

Thankfully, we have a little more to go on than folk medicine legends. Modern research indicates that Fo-ti root contains an alkaloid that has rejuvenating effects on the nerves, brain cells and endocrine glands. It stimulates a portion of the adrenal gland and helps to detoxify the body. Hair health, energy and sexual vigour are the products of this rejuvenation.

Fo-ti contains various compounds that contribute to its medicinal properties.

Some of the key active ingredients found in Fo-ti include:

Alkaloids: The primary alkaloid found in Fo-ti is called tetrahydroxystilbene glucoside (THSG), also known as 2,3,5,4′-tetrahydroxystilbene-2-O-β-D-glucoside. THSG is one of the key bioactive compounds in Fo-ti and has been studied for its various pharmacological effects, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and hepatoprotective properties. It is believed to contribute to the therapeutic effects of Fo-ti, including its potential anti-aging and health-promoting properties.

Phytochemicals: Fo-ti contains a variety of other bioactive compounds, including anthraquinones, stilbenes (mentioned above in ‘Alkaloids’) and flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Phospholipids: Fo-ti root contains phospholipids, such as lecithin, which may have benefits for liver health and lipid metabolism.

Emodin: Emodin is a natural compound found in Fo-ti that has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties.

Triterpenes: Fo-ti root contains triterpenes, such as β-sitosterol and daucosterol, which may contribute to its hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) effects.

Lectins: Lectins are protein-sugar complexes found in various plant foods, known for their potential health benefits. These include immune system support, antioxidant activity, cancer prevention, blood sugar regulation, heart health, gut health promotion, weight management aid, and anti-inflammatory effects. While lectins may offer advantages, they can also cause adverse reactions in some individuals, such as digestive discomfort. More research is needed to fully understand lectins’ effects, and individual responses vary.

These active ingredients work together to provide Fo-ti with its purported health benefits. However, more research is needed to fully understand the exact mechanisms of action and effectiveness of Fo-ti.

Health Benefits of Fo-ti Root

Fo-ti root is often recommended as a tonic for various health purposes. It is used to; promote longevity, boost vitality and support overall health and well-being. It is often touted for its potential benefits for hair health, including preventing hair loss, promoting hair growth, and restoring natural hair color.

Additionally, Fo-ti is believed to support liver and kidney health, improve sexual function, enhance immune function, nourish the blood, and for a long list of ailments including; atherosclerosis, constipation, fatigue, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, blood deficiency, nerve damage, eczema, scrofula and inflammation of lymph nodes and heat toxicity.

Fo-ti Root Cardiovascular Benefits

Fo-ti root’s cardiovascular benefits are likely attributed to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, blood pressure-regulating and antithrombotic effects.

Processed Fo-ti contains protein-sugar complexes known as lectins. Because they attach to specific arrangements of carbohydrates on cells in the body, lectins act like antibodies, but they do not cause allergy symptoms.

The lectins in processed Fo-ti may affect fat levels in the blood, helping to prevent or delay heart disease by blocking the formation of plaques in blood vessels. Plaques are accumulations of fat and other cells that restrict the size of blood vessels and limit the flexibility of their walls.

The whole root has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, according to animal and human research, as well as to decrease hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.

Fo-ti root has various effects on the body which we will explore in more detail below:

Antioxidant Properties: Fo-ti root contains various antioxidants, including stilbenes and flavonoids, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. By reducing oxidative stress, fo-ti may help protect the cardiovascular system from damage and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Anti-inflammatory Effects: Chronic inflammation is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Compounds found in fo-ti, such as emodin and other bioactive molecules, possess anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the arteries and prevent the development of plaque buildup, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Cholesterol Regulation: Some studies suggest that fo-ti may help regulate cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. By improving lipid profiles, fo-ti may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events.

Blood Pressure Regulation: Fo-ti has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to help regulate blood pressure. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, it is believed that certain compounds in fo-ti may help relax blood vessels, improve blood flow, and lower blood pressure levels.

Antithrombotic Effects: Thrombosis, the formation of blood clots within blood vessels, can lead to serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Some research suggests that fo-ti may possess antithrombotic properties, helping to prevent the formation of blood clots and reduce the risk of thrombotic events.

Fo-ti Root Protects the Liver

In animal studies, processed Fo-ti reduced the amount of fat that is deposited in the liver and it may protect the liver from damage by toxins such as dry cleaning fluid. Fo-ti may reduce fat deposition in the liver through its hepatoprotective properties.

Its antioxidant activity combats oxidative stress, while its anti-inflammatory effects mitigate liver inflammation. Fo-ti may regulate lipid metabolism and improve liver function, potentially preventing fat accumulation.

Anti-Aging Effect of Fo-ti Root

Fo ti research has investigated this root’s role in strong immune function, red blood cell formation, antibacterial action and beneficial effect on hair colour and thickness.

All of these effects combined help to explain it’s popularity as an anti-aging health tonic, which is supported by a small number of animal studies and numerous human case reports from China, where processed fo-ti has been used for centuries.

Fo-ti is believed to possess its anti-aging properties due to several mechanisms:

Antioxidant Activity: Fo-ti contains antioxidants that combat oxidative stress, protecting cells from damage and aging.

Cellular Repair: Some studies suggest fo-ti may promote cellular repair and regeneration, contributing to overall vitality.

Hormonal Balance: Fo-ti supports hormonal regulation, which is essential for maintaining youthful vitality.

Adaptogenic Effects: As an adaptogen, fo-ti helps the body cope with stress, mitigating its aging effects.

Improved Blood Circulation: Fo-ti may enhance blood flow, delivering nutrients and oxygen to tissues for optimal function.

Immune Support: Fo-ti may strengthen the immune system, bolstering defenses against age-related decline.

Preparation of Fo-ti Root

Fo-ti is often processed before use in traditional Chinese medicine. The processing involves various methods, and it’s considered an important step to reduce the potential side effects and enhance the herb’s therapeutic properties.

There are two main forms of Fo-ti:

Raw Fo-ti (Sheng Shou Wu): The raw or unprocessed form of Fo-ti may have certain compounds that could be potentially harmful or cause side effects. Therefore, raw Fo-ti is often not recommended for long-term use.

Processed Fo-ti (Zhi Shou Wu or He shou Wu): The processing methods involve either cooking the root with black soybean juice or steaming it with rice wine. This processing is believed to change the chemical composition of the herb, reducing potential side effects and enhancing its tonic properties.

The processing is a crucial step in traditional Chinese medicine to transform Fo-ti into a form considered safer for regular consumption.

In traditional Chinese medicine, fo-ti is typically prepared by boiling the dried root in a liquid, such as water or wine, to make a decoction. It can also be consumed in various other forms, including capsules, powders, and tinctures. It is believed that processed Fo-ti root is suitable for long-term use.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Fo-ti Root Herb Notes / Side Effects

Some people who are sensitive to Fo-ti may develop a skin rash. Very high doses may cause numbness in the arms or legs.

Latin Name

Polygonum multiflorum


Fallopia multiflora, Helxine multiflorum, Pleuroptterus cordatus, Polygonum convolvulus, Polygonum multiflorus

Common Names

Chinese Knotweed, Climbing Knotweed, Fo ti, Fo-ti root, Fo-ti Teng, Flowery Knotweed, He-Shou-Wu, Kashuu, Fleece Flower Vine

Properties of Fo-ti Root

Astringent, demulcent, tonic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, adaptagenic.

Fo-ti Uses

Atherosclerosis, Constipation, Fatigue, High cholesterol, Hair Health, Rejuvenation, Sexual Vigour, Detox the Body, Lower cholesterol, Blood Pressure.

Fo-ti is Indicated for:

Blood deficiency, premature graying of the hair, nerve damage, wind rash, eczema, sores, carbuncles, goitre, scrofula, inflammation of lymph nodes, heat toxicity, immune boosting.

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