Fo-Ti herb and root health benefit, extract and supplement - Chinese herbal medicine used for hair health, does it help with hair growth?
August 27 2015 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

According to Chinese herbal medicine, Fo Ti is used to invigorate the kidneys and liver, and serve as a tonic to increase overall vitality. In China, Fo-Ti is known as Ho Shou Wu (or He Shou Wu) and has a reputation for enhancing longevity and energy. I have not seen any long term human studies regarding the anti-aging benefits of this herb.

What's in Fo-Ti herb? What does it contain?
Fo Ti contains a number of compounds, including stilbene glucosides, , anthraquinone glucosides and anthraquinone derivates physcion, emodin, and questin.

Nature's Way - buy Fo-Ti Root, 610 mg each pill
Fo Ti herb (Polygonum multiflorum) is known in China as He Shou Wu. Considered one of China's four great herbs, it is used on an alternating basis with Ginseng.

Supplement Facts
Fo-Ti root 610 mg

Recommendation: Take 1 Fo-Ti capsule before breakfast or lunch.

Buy Fo-Ti supplement on sale

Fo Ti has several properties, including the ability to lower triglyceride levels and can also act as a good antioxidant. Studies in rodents indicate Fo-Ti can enhance memory.

Review article
Pharmacognosy Res. 2015. Review of clinical studies of Polygonum multiflorum and its isolated bioactive compounds. Polygonum multiflorum, officially listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, is one of the most popular perennial Chinese traditional medicines known as He shou wu in China and East Asia, and as Fo-ti in North America. Mounting pharmacological studies have stressed out its key benefice for the treatment of various diseases and medical conditions such as liver injury, cancer, diabetes, alopecia, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases as well.

The radical scavenging effects of stilbene glucosides from Polygonum multiflorum.
Arch Pharm Res. 2002.
The extract of the root of Fo-Ti exhibited a significant antioxidant activity. The bioassay-guided fractionation of the extract yielded a stilbene glucoside, as an active constituent responsible for the antioxidant property.

Aphrodisiac properties
Fo Ti is sometimes claimed to be a sex enhancer. I have not come across any studies regarding this property.

Brain cell protection
Protective effect of polygonum multiflorum thunb on the cerebral cholinergic neurofibers in rats
Hunan Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2003.
Fo-Ti has a protective effect on AchE projecting fibers in rats.

Cognitive enhancement, memory
Polygonum multiflorum extracts improve cognitive performance in senescence accelerated mice.
Am J Chin Med. 2003.
The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of Polygonum multflorum on the learning and memory ability in one and seven-month-old male senescence accelerated mice. The mice were fed with two different diets for 18 weeks; they were casein dietary group (control group) and casein diet supplemented with Fo-ti extracts. It was concluded that the supplement of the Fo-ti extracts could improve the learning and memory ability and reduce the brain pathological changes in mice. This might be due to the antioxidant phytochemicals of the Fo-ti extracts.

Beneficial effects of different Polygonum multiflorum Thunb extracts on memory and hippocampus morphology.
J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2002.
Four groups of 1-mo-old male senescence-accelerated mice (SAMP8) were fed Fo-Ti extract for 18 wk to determine the effect of PM on memory ability and histopathological changes in mice. The baseline diet consisted of a casein diet group, and the three test diets were supplemented with 50% ethanol, 95% ethanol, or water extracts of Fo-Ti. It was found that the mice fed with Fo-Ti extracts had better active shuttle avoidance response, fewer vacuole numbers, less lipofuscin in the hippocampus, and lower MDA concentrations in the brain. Our data showed that the ethanol Fo-Ti extract groups had lower lipofuscin percentages and MDA concentrations, and higher total thiol concentrations than the water PM extract group. The 50% ethanol Fo-Ti extract group showed significantly lower total cholesterol and triglyceride values than the other groups, but the HDL cholesterol level was the same. These results suggest that dietary supplementation with either ethanol or water extracts can reduce brain pathological changes and promote learning and memory ability.

Is Fo Ti herb for hair loss?
Some people claim Fo Ti helps hair loss, but we have not seen such research.

Hair loss or regrowth
What is your opinion of the DHT inhibiting effects of He Shou Wu?
   We have not come across research evaluating the relationship of DHT to Fo-Ti .

I read an article on a web site written by a Chinese herbal doctor Dr. Maoshing Ni that "Shou wu" (also called "fo-ti" or polygonum root) is a hair nurture supplement available in Asian herb stores, used to restore hair growth and reverse graying. Rich in vitamin E and the B-complex vitamins, Shou wu has many other health benefits: It supports healthy estrogen profiles in women, stimulates red blood cell production, builds your immune system, maintains healthy cholesterol levels, and improves intestinal regularity. I just want to know if Dr. Maoshing Ni is right about this herb helping with hair growth. He also says, "The Chinese have long discovered that black sesame seeds, black beans, and walnuts reverse graying. For healthy and shiny hair, eat foods everyday that are rich in essential fatty acids and omega-rich nutrients: flaxseed oil, sesame oil, olive oil, virgin coconut oil, avocado, beans, nuts and seeds."
    As of 2014, I have not seen any human studies that have shown this herb to reverse hair loss. I doubt that eating sesame seeds, black beans and walnuts reverses graying hair.

I've been taking 6 pills a day of Now Foods Fo Ti for about 4 months now. Whilst it has done nothing for grey hair, I do have a skin rash on my right forearm that gets sore after a shower, and at other times. I read Fo Ti can cause a skin rash if you're allergic to it. At the moment I'm taking a break from it because it has done nothing for my hair and I want to see if the rash goes. I really wanted a tonic for grey hair. I really did. The rash is slightly raised red spots about 1-2 mm across in a small patch of a few square inches.

I have been taking prepared FO TI capsules the dark reddish colored 550 mg, 2 times a day for a month now, I am taking basically to cure my premature hair greying. Does it really reverses grey to black if i continue to take it for the following months,and are there any other effective solutions for my premature greying.
   A. I am not aware of any natural supplements that reverse gray hair but I will look for and keep up with any such research.

Fo Ti side effects and cautions, risk
There have been rare reports of chronic consumption of high doses of Fo-Ti inducing liver damage or hepatitis.
The title of the medical report is "New case of acute hepatitis following the consumption of Shou Wu Pian, a Chinese herbal product derived from Polygonum multiflorum." Mind Power Rx has very small amounts of Fo-Ti.

Complement Ther Med. 2014 Feb. Eighteen cases of liver injury following ingestion of Polygonum multiflorum. Polygonum multiflorum is a popular Chinese herbal medication. In this case series, we report on 18 otherwise healthy non-viral hepatitis patients who developed liver dysfunction following consumption of P. multiflorum alone. Concurrent and retrospective analysis was used in this study. The causality of Fo-Ti in liver injury was graded by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) toxicity scale. From 2005 to 2012, 18 cases of hepatotoxicity potentially involving P. multiflorum. The median age was 42 years old (range from 18 to 63). Median time of onset of symptoms was 27 days (1-120). Prevailing clinical symptoms were fatigue, loss of appetite and jaundice. Sixteen patients had elevated level of total bilirubin (>21mol/L); liver enzymes elevated markedly in all patients (ALT>40U/L, AST>40U/L, GGT>50U/L), except for alkaline phosphatase which elevated only in nine patients. Based on the liver enzyme pattern, the type of liver injuries were hepatocellular according to CIOMS. In terms of causality, 14 of 18 patients were evaluated as being highly probable. All patients were responding well to Fo-Ti stoppage, and liver protective-supportive care. P. multiflorum products can be associated with hepatotoxicity in otherwise healthy non-viral hepatitis infected patients, regardless of herbal processing.

New case of acute hepatitis following the consumption of Shou Wu Pian, a Chinese herbal product derived from Polygonum multiflorum. Ann Intern Med. 2004.

I was reading your analysis page regarding this Chinese herb. I am wondering if you have received any responses / feedback concerning negative reactions to taking this herb. I have been taking 1500 mg daily in divided doses, and I seem to feel a lot less energy and just a general unmotivated feeling. I have heard of certain supplements causing a "detox" or "die-off" effect when first starting them. Do you know if Fo Ti may result in something similar? If not, is there any logical reason why it would cause such a reaction?
    Sometimes taking a high dosage of any herb can reduce wellbeing. It may have to do with exhausting certain levels of hormones or neurotransmitters. A good option is to take a break for a week and then resume at a third of the dosage a day and to take frequent breaks from use.

Fo Ti extract
Fo Ti is sold by raw material suppliers in various extract potencies, including 2% Phosphatide.
The main anthraquinones in fo ti herb are emodin, physcion and questin.

Myocardial protective effect of an anthraquinone-containing extract of Polygonum multiflorum ex vivo.
Planta Med. 1998.
An ethyl acetate extract of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb. was fractionated into an anthraquinone-containing fraction and a non-anthraquinone-containing fraction. The more complete myocardial protection afforded by the anthraquinone-containing fraction of fo ti extract may be related to its ability to sustain the glutathione antioxidant status under the condition of oxidative stress.

I really like your formula Mind Power Rx. Recently I see that the herb fo ti is a part of the formula, and that fo ti contains anthraquinones. Are these toxic? I read that California has listed these substances as a liver carcinogen. Also, the FDA has recently added a black box warning to Cipro which is a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Are anthraquinones and fluoroquinolnes related? Thanks for your great formulas and educational service.
   Anthraquinones and fluoroquinolnes are very different substances in terms of their physiologic effects. The amount of fo it herb in Mind Power Rx is very small. Any harm from the use of most herbs comes when excessive amounts are ingested.
I doubt that the small amounts of anthraquinones in fo ti would be carcinogenic unless a person ingests a very high amount of fo ti herb for many months and years. Shou Wu Wan (Fu Fang Shou Wu Pian, HairVive is an herbal formula with fo ti as a prominent herb ingredient but it contians other herbs such as Radix Rehmanniae. Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae, Fructus Ligustri Lucidi, Folium Mori, Semen Sesami Nigrum, Semen Cuscutae, Fructus Psoraleae, Herba Siegesbeckiae, Flios Lonicerae, Fructus Mori, Herba Ecliptae, Fructus Rosae Laevigatae and perhaps others. It is difficult to say at this time whether fo ti causes hepatitis, if it does, it is a rare occurrence.

Research studies
Estrogen bioactivity in fo-ti and other herbs used for their estrogen-like effects as determined by a recombinant cell bioassay.
PJ Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003.
One of the most important issues in women's health concerns the risks and benefits of estrogen replacement therapy. Continual uncertainty and lack of consensus regarding estrogen replacement therapy has driven many women to seek alternative sources of estrogen, including herbal remedies. We adapted a recombinant cell bioassay to measure estrogen bioactivity in herbs. We studied, in vitro, estrogen bioactivity in red clover, dong quai, black cohosh, soy, licorice, chaste tree berry, fo-ti, and hops. Soy, clover, licorice, and hops have a large amount of measurable estrogen bioactivity, as suspected, based on previous reports using other methods. We discovered surprisingly high estrogen activity in extracts of fo ti not previously reported. Chaste tree berry, black cohosh, and dong quai did not have measurable activity with this method. We also discovered that removal of a glycone group from soy increases its estrogen bioactivity significantly. We conclude that this recombinant cell bioassay for estradiol can be used to measure bioactivity in herbal products. The preparations of fo-ti studied had estrogen activity of 409 +/- 55 pmol/liter estradiol equivalents per microgram of herb, which is 1/300 the activity of 17 beta-estradiol. Clinical studies are underway to determine the estrogen bioactivity in women using dietary supplements containing these herbs.

Antimutagenic property of an herbal medicine, Polygonum multiflorum Thunb. detected by the Tradescantia micronucleus assay.
J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncology 1999.
The root extracts of a Chinese herb, Polygonum multiflorum have been used for centuries as an internal medicine to improve liver and kidney functions. In this study, we evaluated the antimutagenic property of this drug with the Tradescantia micronucleus (Trad-MCN) assay. This antimutagenic effect could be attributed to the antioxidant action of Fo-ti, enhancement of DNA repair, or the radical elimination from the irradiated plant cells.

Effect of the root of Polygonum multiflorum and its processed products on fat accumulation in the liver of mice
Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 1992.
Experiments have shown that the root of Fo Ti exhibits inhibitory effect on triglyceride accumulation in the liver of mice induced by CCl4, cortisone acetate and thioacetamide (TAA). Its processed products (I, II) were found to be effective in lowering the accumulated triglyceride induced by cortisone acetate. The root of Fo-Ti and its processed products also reduced the enlargement of liver by CCl4.

Polygonum multiflorum --
Fleeceflower -- He Shou Wu -- Shouwu --

I've noticed different Fo Ti supplements have different doses. Swansons and Now Foods are both just dried, powdered plant root. I've asked both companies. But Swansons say 1 per day (500mg) and Now Foods say take 6 per day (over 3000 mg). Please tell me about the differences in doses and maximum doses.
   The dosing of different herbs is still a largely unexplored area of herbal medicine and there are few guidelines established which allows different companies to have a wide range of suggestions.