Fo-Ti Root (He Shou Wu)
Polygonum multiflorum, Polygonaceae
Fo-ti root (or He Shou Wu, its Chinese name) consists of the dried tuberous root of Polygonum multiflorum, an evergreen climbing vine of the family Polygonaceae. Fo-ti is native to Japan and China and is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. It should not be confused with Fo-ti Tieng, a registered trademark name for an herbal product containing gotu kola (Centella asiatica), cola nut (Cola nitida), and Indian physic root (Gillenia trifoliata). Fo-ti root is white in color in its unprocessed form, but the roots are often processed by boiling them in a liquid derived from black beans which changes their color to a deep reddish brown and supposedly contributes to their medicinal properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, fo-ti root is considered a “long-life elixir” and its medicinal properties supposedly differ according to the size and age of the root. The roots have been used to combat aging as a rejuvenative tonic for preserving one’s natural hair color, restoring youthful energy, etc. It has also been used for weakness, impotence, inflammation, vaginal discharge, constipation, lowering blood cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. It is also considered to be a circulatory tonic, preventing atherosclerosis.
Modern scientific investigations have not been able to validate all of these uses of fo-ti root. Research conducted in China on the processed root extracts have suggested fo-ti root to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce symptoms of atherosclerosis, and to possibly enhance immune function and promote formation of red blood cells. However, further scientific investigation is warranted in order to substantiate these claims. P. multiflorum contains stilbene glycosides similar to resveratrol and with superior antioxidant activity. Resveratrol is extracted from P. multiflorum’s close relative, Japanese knotweed (P. cuspidatum). Resveratrol has been suggested to be beneficial by a variety of mechanisms. Studies have also revealed the presence of anthraquinone derivatives such as rhein, emodin and chysophanol and their glycosidic forms. These compounds are known to be laxative in action and their presence substantiates the use of fo-ti for treating constipation. The white, unprocessed fo-ti root is known to cause diarrhea. No toxic effects are known.
 I.K. Hwang, K.Y. Yoo, D.W. Kim, S.J. Jeong, C.K. Won, W.K. Moon, Y.S. Kim, D.Y. Kwon, M.H. Wo and D.W. Kim (September 2006). “An extract of Polygonum multiflorum protects against free radical damage induced by ultraviolet B irradiation of the skin”. Braz J Med Biol Res 39 (9): 1181–1188.
 L.V. Li-Shuang, Xiaohong Gu, Chi-Tang Ho (June 2006). “Stilbene Glycosides from the Roots of Polygonum Multiflorum Thunb. and Their Antioxidant Activities”. Journal of Food Lipids 13 (2): 131–144.
 Tyler VE, Brady LR, Robbers JE Pharmacognosy, 9th Ed. (1988) Lea & Febiger, p.472-3. ISBN 0-8121-1071-4.