He Shou Wu supplement, does it work for longevity, memory, energy and hair growth or hair color?
November 18 2015 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

He Shou Wu is a Chinese herb obtained from the roots of Polygonum multiflorum. He 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 human studies regarding the role of He Shoo Wu and hair growth or reversal of graying hair, so I don't know if this Chinese herb works for these purposes.

He Shoo 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 include physcion, emodin, and questin. Other substances include chrysophanol, rhein, polygonimitin B, and gallic acid.

Overall benefits, 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.

He Shoo Wu for atherosclerosis
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. He Shoo 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 He Shoo 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 He Shoo Wu  is a powerful agent against atherosclerosis and that He Shoo Wu action could possibly be through the inhibition of the expression of ICAM-1 and VEGF in foam cells.

He Shoo Wu for brain health
Protective effect of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb 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 He Shoo Wu on Abeta25-35-induced cognitive deficits and oxidative stress in mice. Mice were fed experimental diets comprising either 0.5 or 1% He Shoo 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 He Shoo Wu significantly ameliorated the cognitive deficits caused by i.c.v. injection of Abeta25-35. Our findings suggest that He Shoo 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 He Shoo Wu.

Hair restoration
Q. Is it possible to take He Shou Wu, Propecia, and Saw Palmetto together, or maybe finasteride Propecia? How should you space them out?
   A. Human studies are not available to give us any clues whether this is a good combination and what dosages to take or how often.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015. Hair Growth Promotion Activity and Its Mechanism of Polygonum multiflorum. Polygonum multiflorum Radix has long history in hair growth promotion and hair coloring in clinical applications. However, several crucial problems in its clinic usage and mechanisms are still unsolved or lack scientific evidences. In this research, C57BL/6J mice were used to investigate hair growth promotion activity and possible mechanism of PM and Polygonum multiflorum Radix Preparata (PMRP). Hair growth promotion activities were investigated by hair length, hair covered skin ratio, the number of follicles, and hair color. Regulation effects of several cytokines involved in the hair growth procedure were tested, such as fibroblast growth factor (FGF-7), Sonic Hedgehog (SHH), β-catenin, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Oral PM groups had higher hair covered skin ratio than oral PMRP groups. However, topical usage of PMRP had about 90% hair covered skin ratio. Both oral administration of PM and topically given PMRP showed hair growth promotion activities. PM was considered to be more suitable for oral administration, while PMRP showed greater effects in external use. The hair growth promotion effect of oral he shou wu radix was most probably mediated by the expression of FGF-7, while topical PMRP promoted hair growth by the stimulation of SHH expression.

Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2013. Promotion effect of constituents from the root of Polygonum multiflorum on hair growth. Two new compounds, gallic acid ester of torachrysone-8-O-β-D-glucoside (1) and (E)-2,3,5,4'-tetrahydroxystilbene-2-O-β-D-xyloside (4), along with eight known compounds (2, 3, 5-10) were isolated from a 70% ethanol extract of Polygonum multiflorum roots. Extracts of P. multiflorum have been reported to promote hair growth in vivo. This study was carried out to evaluate the effects of isolated compounds from P. multiflorum on promoting hair growth using dermal papilla cells (DPCs), which play an important role in hair growth. When DPCs were treated with compounds (1-10) from P. multiflorum, compounds 1, 2, 3, 6, and 10 increased the proliferation of DPCs compared with the control. Specifically, compound 2 (10 and 20 μM) induced a greater increase in the proliferation of DPCs than minoxidil (10 μM). Additionally, treatment of vibrissa follicles with compound 2 for 21 days increased hair-fiber length significantly. On the basis of this result, further investigation and optimization of these derivatives might help in the development of therapeutic agents for the treatment of alopecia.

Adverse reactions
Acute hepatitis due to shen-min: a herbal product with Polygonum multiflorum
J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006. 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 He Shoo Wu or the other plants in this product were involved in damaging the liver.

Q. A friend sent me an email that said: "He Shou Wu is a superior tonic herb of Traditional Chinese Herbalism (TCM), He Shou Wu has been revered for improving longevity as well as the quality of a long life, improving memory, energy, sexual function, even, it is said, hair color." Is this true?
   A. I have seen no long term evidence that these are true statements.