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Herbal Monograph

Herb:   HO SHOU WU    (Polygonum multiflorum)

Other Names:    Fo-Ti

Character/Energetics:   warm energy, bitter-sweet   (20)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:   liver, stomach, kidneys, reproductive organs (14); liver and kidney   (20) 

Part used:     root (14)    root  (20)                                                                                                      

Identification & Harvesting:    The dried or cured root of a twining vine in the knotweed family, found in most regions of China.  Occasionally grown in American gardens as an ornamental.  The cured root is dark reddish brown;  dried root is light brown.    (61)

Active Constituents:

Actions:  Primarily stimulant, tonic;  also astringent, diuretic.  Exerts a rejuvenating influence on the endocrine glands which, in turn, strengthen the body.  Acts as a tonic and nutritive herb.  In large doses it is a safe aphrodisiac.  An excellent digestive tonic. (14); kidney tonic;  nourishes the blood (15); energy tonic, antitumor, sedative, antipyretic, antiprogestational. Polygonum multiflorum have (also) been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity, to decrease blood coagulability, to have cardiotonic, hypotensive, and vasodilatory activity.     (20)      

In TCM, the dried and cured root are considered different.  The dried is used as a laxative and blood detoxifier.  The cured is used to strengthen the blood, as a liver and kidney tonic, and as a qi tonic.  Also to enhance longevity, increase vigor, and promote fertility.  In animals, the cured root reduces cholesterol.  The root contains lectins which appear to help prevent cholesterol accumulation in the liver and fat retention in the blood.  In animals, fo-ti reduces formation of arterial plaque, inhibits microbial proliferation, increases adaptability to cold, and promotes formation of red blood cells.  An extract of the cured root has shown antitumor, antioxidant and immunostimulant effects in animals.  The dried root lubricates the bowels, producing a laxative effect.  Studies in China suggest the cured root lowers cholesterol, is helpful in cardiac conditions and in chronic bronchitis.  The evidence supports fo-ti’s use as a tonic.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:  Longevity:  fluid extract, tincture, powder.  Tonic to endocrine glands: decoction, powder.    (14)

Used in China for premature menopause and early greying.    (15)

The roots are tonic and nutritious. Ho Shou Wu is said to build strength in the liver and kidney, and also in the muscles and bones. It is said to preserve, or even rejuvenate, the original color of one’s hair and to increase the “generate energy,” increasing the sperm in men and fertility in women. It will calm the nervous system and clear the eyes. Its strength comes from its remarkable ability to cleanse the body by cleaning the kidney and liver, which in turn clean the blood. By virtue of its ability to accumulate tremendous quantities of Ch’i into its root, this herb will tonify these organs and will fortify the blood. Though Ho Shou Wu provides abundant Ch’i, it is not a stimulant, and is in fact slightly sedative.     (20)

An ingredient in TCM formulas for premature grey hair, lower back pain, angina, debility and other conditions.    (61)

Combinations:    Use as a simple or combine with tonics like nu zhen zi, shu di huang, or buchu in cases of premature greying.  Use 2 parts ho shou wu and shu di huang to 1 part other herbs.  Combine with nu zhen zhi, gou qi zi, shu di huang or cinnamon for menopausal symptoms.    (15)

Precautions:    Avoid in cases of diarrhea  (15)

The dried root can cause loose stools or diarrhea, and occasionally intestinal pain and nausea.  It is considered potentially more toxic than the cured root.  Only one case of allergic reaction to the cured root has been reported.  Large doses have resulted in numbness of extremities and skin rashes (61)

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Decoction:  simmer 5-15 min;  2-4 x daily.  Tincture:  15-30 drops, 3 x daily.  Fluid extract:  5-20 drops 3 x daily.  Powder:  2-3 #0 capsules (10-15 grains), 3 x daily.    (14)


Dosage: Ho Shou Wu is a basic ingredient in many tonic herbal preparations. It may be eaten alone, raw. Sugar coated pilled of raw 100% Ho Shou Wu are popular. These are marketed as “Shou Wu Pian.”

Ho Shou Wu is a main constituent of a great formula known as “Longevity Herbal.” Longevity Herbal is a formula developed by Grand Master Moo San Do Sha, Sung Jin Park’s master. Moo San Do Sha is an herbalist of the highest order. Longevity Herbal is aperfectly balanced combination of well known and rare tonic herbs designed to develop the three Vital Treasures, Ching, Ch’i  and Shin, and thus to enable one to attain “radiant health” and spiritual bliss. The formula is too complex to elaborate (in this book) and contains several rare herbs….   (20) 

Up to 4.2 g. dapsules daily;  or soak 1-3 tsp dried root in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 min.  Tincture 15-30 drops 3 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:     “The root, when old,” says Li Chih Shen, a great Ming Dynasty herbalist, “is said to have mysterious properties. At fifty years it is as large as a fist and is designated ‘mountain slave’ and if taken for a year will will preserve the color of the hair and moustache; that at a hundred years it is as large as a bowl, is called ‘hill-brother’ and if taken for one year, a rubicund and cheerful countenance will be preserved; that at 150 years is as large as a basin, is called ‘hill uncle’ and if taken for one year the teeth will fall out and come back afresh; that at 200 years is the size of a one peck ozier basket, is called ‘hill father,’ and if taken for one year the countenance will become like that of a youth, and the gait will equal that of a running horse; and that at 300 years is the size of a 2 peck ozier basket, is called ‘mountain spirit’ and has a pure ethereal substance, and if taken for some time, one becomes an earthly immortal. Wonderful restorative and reviving powers are ascribed to the ordinary root.”    (20)         



(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 121-22

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 146-47, 168-69

(20) Chinese Tonic Herbs by Ron Teeguarden,  pgs. 92-94

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 90-91


PHOTO: Wikipedia