Fo-Ti root (He Shou Wu) is my all time favorite herb and I include it in my daily intake of adaptogenic herbs and live superfoods.
This anti-aging herb is commonly known in the west as Fo-Ti root (or Fo-Ti-Tieng) and is a member of the buckwheat family. This western nickname was given to it in the 70's and is now its most commonly recognized name. The latin name for the Fo-Ti root's whole plant is polygonum multiflorum. The Chinese name is He Shou Wu which roughly translates as Mr. Wu's hair stays black. This should give you an idea of the potential that fertility herbs can have on your health, especially as you supposedly "get older".
He Shou Wu is a premier yin tonic and anti-aging herb that can be consumed daily to increase your human longevity potential. It is sweet, bitter, astringent and slightly warming. It affects and tones the liver and kidney meridians. He Shou Wu will increase your energy levels, however it is not a stimulant. It is in fact a Jing herb and slightly sedative. It stands out among the top fertility herbs and builds sexual staying power for men and women (as all yin tonics do).
Fo-Ti root is infamous for gray hair reversal. Folklore and legends tell a few different versions of how the Chinese name (He Shou Wu) for this herbal adaptogen came about. One of them describes that a General He was convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to death by confinement to a remote cell that was dug into the ground with no access to food or water. After a year, upon returning to the cell to have his remains removed, his executioners were surprised to find that not only had General He survived, but he had gone through a complete rejuvenation that had been able to reverse gray hair on his head back to black. It turns out he had survived exclusively on a vine that grew in the crevices in his cell walls... the Fo-Ti root.
Li, Ching Yuen was a master herbalist and baguazhang player (Jiulong Baguazhang) who purportedly lived to be 256 years old (according to an article from the May 15th, 1933 issue of "Time" magazine). He consumed an organic tincture of various herbs, one of which was the Fo-Ti root on a daily basis for the last 100 years of his life. He also included Ginseng, Chinese Licorice and Gotu Kola in his rice wine organic tincture. It is highly unlikely that the life of this famous Taoist will ever be proven as fact or fiction, but we can take his teaching about using lifestyle and diet for longevity as a clue for creating changes in life expectancy within ourselves. Many of the Li family descendants were centenarians and even super-centenarians.
The prepared Fo-Ti root has been shown in animal and/or human studies to have the following effects: anti-tumour, anti-pyretic, sedative, anti-progestational, anti-inflammatory, decreases blood coagulability, cardiotonic, hypotensive, vasodilatory. Raw and prepared Fo-Ti roots are understood to be two different herbs in Chinese herbalism. These differences have been validated by modern science. Although raw foodists like myself might like the idea of taking raw He Shou Wu, its tonic effects are absent when un-prepared and it is actually a strong laxative. Prepared Fo-Ti roots, which are stewed in a black bean soup and then dried, have been shown to have the strongest beneficial effects in both human and animal studies.
The best quality Ho Shou Wu you can buy online is from either of these two sources (click the text links):
Animal studies have clearly shown that He Shou Wu creates positive changes in life expectancy, especially in mammals. A decoction of Fo-Ti root at 0.5% strength was able to prolong the lifespan of fruit flies by 12.03%. One study on the survival ability of mice in conditions of extreme cold showed that the group being fed prepared Fo-Ti root could withstand colder temperatures for a longer period of time. This showed how He Shou Wu enhances the adrenocortical function (the adrenals and thyroid are responsible for withstanding external temperature changes). This connection with the adrenals demonstrates how science has confirmed the Chinese classification of He Shou Wu as being a potent Jing tonic herb (the Kidney/"house of Jing" organ in Chinese medicine includes the adrenals).
Fo-Ti root has been found to increase fundamental immunological functions in mice and humans. It increases the weight of the thymus gland (place of maturation for T-cells) and delays its atrophy with age. It also increases the phagocytic function of abdominal macrophages (large white blood cells), immunological function of T and B lymphocytes and the production of g-interferon.
The reputation of this anti-aging herb for enhancing Chinese longevity has been validated.
Superoxide dismutase (there are actually multiple forms of it) is a critical antioxidant enzyme that your body makes as a defense against superoxide. Superoxide is one of the most dangerous free radicals that can occur in your body and superoxide dismutase is your body's solution to its presence. Superoxide when left to do its thing will damage any type of tissue, but most notably has the ability to damage our DNA. Superoxide dismutase is the king of antioxidants (even above resveratrol) since it can prevent the damage to our DNA which is the fundamental cause of all aging.
Superoxide dismutase levels decrease with age and this allows more opportunities for cells to incur genetic defects. These defects are then spread throughout the body as cells divide, eventually leading to all forms of disease. Fo-Ti root has been shown to increase the body's production of superoxide dismutase. One controlled study compared blood SOD (superoxide dismutase) levels of mice at 11 months old. The group that had been fed a He Shou Wu extract for 7 months had SOD levels in their blood equivalent to that of 2 month old mice not on the extract. The control group of mice showed a strong decline in SOD production after the 11 month period.
Stilbene glycosides are powerful antioxidants present in this adaptogenic herb. These combined with the increased production of superoxide dismutase makes the Fo-Ti root better than any antioxidant supplement on the market, plus it's more absorbable since it's a whole food. The increased production of SOD in the body along with the various stilbene glycosides is likely the most significant function the Fo-Ti root has for enhancing longevity in humans.
Things found in nature often resemble the things that they treat in the body. For example a tomato is red and has four chambers like the human heart, which it is known to help protect. This phenomenon is called the law of similars. The Fo-Ti root has a vine that spirals and coils much like how the double helix of human DNA. Resveratrol is found in the seeds and skins of dark grapes (a vine plant) as well as in Japanese Knotweed (another vine). Resveratrol is also a very powerful antioxidant specific for protecting DNA... Interesting isn't it? Of course not every single plant that grows vines has properties that are so powerful for protecting the DNA!
Fo-Ti root is extremely rich in zinc and its daily consumption prevents deficiency of this vital trace mineral. Animal foods that are considered high in zinc usually have 3-8mg per 100g (with the exception of oysters which are on par with Fo-Ti root), whereas He Shou Wu contains 42mg per 100g! Here are a few important facts and functions of zinc in connection to your human longevity potential:
~Male semen has a high concentration of zinc. When semen is lost without replenishing zinc through a longevity diet, it will soon lead to a deficiency for men, especially after a lifetime of reckless ejaculation. A zinc deficiency will cause low libido, low fertility and a greatly increased risk of prostate cancer! This is definitely one of the top fertility herbs for men!
~The synthesis of nucleic acids and proteins requires zinc. Many of the proteins that help with DNA repair are zinc-associated (contain zinc or require zinc to function).
~A common quality in people who live to be centenarians is that they rarely exhibit zinc deficiencies in these advanced years. A study from 2001 on healthy Italian nonagenarians (90+ year olds) and centenarians showed that 84.4% of them did not have zinc deficiencies (citation from "Biology of Aging" by Alvaro Macieira-Coelho).
~Zinc is a critical component in the body's response to inflammation caused by free radicals. Metallothioneins are special proteins which bind to and then release zinc in areas of oxidative stress which then signals for the activity of superoxide dismutase!
Another tonic action of the Fo-Ti root spoken about by Chinese herbalism is its blood-building qualities.
Once again science has confirmed what Chinese herbalists first observed in this potent herbal adaptogen. He Shou Wu is higher in iron then both Dang Gui and Goji Berries, which are known for their high content of iron. Iron is necessary for the body to make red blood cells for the blood. He Sou Wu is also a rich source of lecithin which is suspected as the cause of its ability to strengthen the membranes of red blood cells. Lecithin also makes up nerve tissue and 30% of the dry weight of the brain. This would explain its ability for improving memory and nerve function. The lecithin content of Fo-Ti root would also help lower high cholesterol!
Prepared Fo-Ti root has been shown in test animals to prevent excessive blood platelet aggregation (clumping) and improve blood flow. Blood clotting (platelet aggregation) is necessary to form scabs on external and internal injuries. Health problems occur when blood clots form inside the blood vessels unnecessarily, which can result in a heart attack or stroke. He Shou Wu can prevent this.
The liver helps clean the blood. In experiments on mice, prepared Fo-Ti root has been shown to reduce the buildup of hepatic (liver) fat. Lipid peroxidation can occur from cell membranes having electrons stolen from them by free radicals (known as oxidation). He Shou Wu has been shown to prevent lipid peroxidation in mice liver cells. A liver functioning at optimal capacity is going to be better at cleaning the blood of toxins.
The prepared Fo-Ti root is even an effective anti-aging herb for looking youthful and healthy!
He Shou Wu is legendary for being able to reverse gray hairs and even balding. A study of 36 people were given Shou Wu liquor (a dilute alcohol extract) to see if it would help them with gray hair reversal. At the end of the trial period, 24 people had a complete gray hair reversal! 8 more of them were able to reverse gray hairs to a degree but not completely. The effective rate was 88.9%, which is incredible for something that few people believe is even possible. It must be noted that Fo-Ti root should be taken for long periods of time to get these results along with lifestyle changes such as learning ways to deal with stress so as to not cause more gray hair!
Liver spots in aging people are caused by a brown pigment called lipofuscin collecting in a patch of skin. It is composed of oxidized lipid containing residues of cellular wastes and metals like iron and aluminum. Fo-Ti root has been shown to reduce lipofuscin content specifically in heart tissue, but it could be suspected that this would reduce the overall lipofuscin content in the body and thus perhaps be preventative to the formation of liver spots on the skin. Fertility herbs have a tendency to make you look younger since this is your body's way of being more attractive so you can make use of your increased fertility!
The best quality Ho Shou Wu you can buy online is from either of these two sources (click the text links):
All of the benefits of He Shou Wu mentioned in this article are attainable by taking this adaptogenic herb for an extended period of time. Start now and plan on taking the amazing Fo-Ti root for the rest of your life!
Reverse gray hair and the aging process with He Shou Wu, a.k.a. Fo Ti root (Part 1 of 2)
Reverse gray hair and the aging process with He Shou Wu, a.k.a. Fo Ti root (Part 2 of 2)
~"Chinese Tonic Herbs" by Ron Teeguarden (Japan Publications, 1984)
~"Alive and Well With Wild Foods" by Peter Ragnar (Roaring Lion Publishing, 2006)
~Fo-Ti herb information on Ron Teeguarden's site: