Ho Shou Wu used in China
November 2 2016 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Ho Shou Wu is a Chinese herb obtained from the roots of Polygonum multiflorum. Ho Shou Wu is promoted for preventing or delaying graying of hair, even reverting gray hair to its original color, as well as treating hair loss. I have not come across any human studies regarding the role of Ho Shou Wu and hair growth or reversal of graying hair, so I don't know if this Chinese herb works for these purposes.

Ho Shou Wu herb has the following substances
Anthraquinones, polydatin, tetrahydroxy stilbene-2-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, arbutin, and resveratrol are found in Polygonum multiflorum. Types of anthraquinones in Ho Shou Wu include physcion, emodin, and questin. Other substances include chrysophanol, rhein, polygonimitin B, and gallic acid.

Ho Shou Wu for atheroslerosis, hardening of the arteries
Reduction of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits and decrease of expressions of intracellular adhesion molecule-1 and vascular endothelial growth factor in foam cells by a water-soluble fraction of Polygonum multiflorum.
J Pharmacol Sci. 2005. School of Pharmacy, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China.
Polygonum multiflorum stilbeneglycoside is a water-soluble fraction of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb. Ho Shou Wu, one of the most famous tonic traditional Chinese medicines, that has protective effects on the cardiovascular system. The purpose of the present study is to elucidate the effects of Ho Shou Wu on macrophage-derived foam cell functions and the reduction of severity of atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits. The results showed that Ho Shou Wu  is a powerful agent against atherosclerosis and that Ho Shou Wu action could possibly be through the inhibition of the expression of ICAM-1 and VEGF in foam cells.

Ho Shou Wu for brain health
Protective effect of Polygonum multiflorum on amyloid beta-peptide 25-35 induced cognitive deficits in mice.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2006. Food Function Research Division, Korea Food Research Institute, Seongnam 463-746, Republic of Korea.
Amyloid beta protein (Abeta) may be neurotoxic during the progression of Alzheimer's disease by eliciting oxidative stress. This study was designed to determine the effect of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb water extract Ho Shou Wu on Abeta25-35-induced cognitive deficits and oxidative stress in mice. Mice were fed experimental diets comprising either 0.5 or 1% Ho Shou Wu for 4 weeks, and then received a single intracerebroventricular injection of Abeta25-35. Behavioral changes in the mice were evaluated using passive avoidance and water-maze tests. The consumption of Ho Shou Wu significantly ameliorated the cognitive deficits caused by i.c.v. injection. Our findings suggest that Ho Shou Wu exerts a preventive effect against cognitive deficits induced by Abeta25-35 accumulation in Alzheimer's disease, and that this effect is mediated by the antioxidant properties of Ho Shou Wu.

Neuroprotective effects of Polygonum multiflorum extract against glutamate-induced oxidative toxicity in HT22 hippocampal cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Oct 28.

Untoward reaction
Acute hepatitis due to shen-min: a herbal product with Polygonum multiflorum Ho Shou Wu
J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 August. Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe and Gastro-Hepatology Group, University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.
Shen-Min is a Chinese herbal product with a mixture of several plants and vitamins including Polygonum multiflorum, a root that has been previously associated with hepatotoxicity. Nonetheless to our knowledge this is the first reported case of herbal-induced hepatotoxicity in a patient taking Shen-Min per se.
   Comments: It is not clear whether Ho Shou Wu or the other plants in this product were involved in damaging the liver.