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He Shou Wu: The Origin Story Of A Legendary TCM Anti-Aging Herb

We can’t know for sure if a creeping vine that’s been used for 1000 years in traditional medicine helped a certain “Mr. He” transform from a wan, sickly-looking, infertile, nearly 60 year-old graying man into a virile stud with thick black hair who lived to be 130 years old. 

After all, we weren’t there. 

But the legend of the herb that in China is named after Mr. He—He Shou Wu—continues to live large. In the West, the popularity of the herb, known as  Fo-Ti in America, is on the rise. And preliminary research seems to support the myth of He Shou Wu as an effective herb for supporting the aging process. 

Let’s get to know more about what may very well be the best anti-aging herb in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), He Shou Wu. 

What is He Shou Wu in TCM?

Let’s revisit the legend of Mr. He to know how “He Shou Wu” (Polygonum multiflorum) translates. The story goes that Mr. He noticed that the vines of the plant, ye jiao teng, criss-crossed, mirroring two lovers in an embrace. As much of TCM theory was developed over eons of observing patterns in nature and the cosmos, Mr. He used his own keen powers of observation to deduce that ye jiao teng might help fuel his libido. Another legend claims that a monk told Mr. He to consume ye jiao teng. Whether it was through his own volition or through spiritual guidance, not only did ye jiao teng help Mr. He in that department, it also helped reverse the visible signs of aging on his head, namely his thinning, gray hair. 

Preliminary research seems to support the myth of He Shou Wu as an effective herb for supporting the aging process.

Again, this is just the legend talking. We are not suggesting the story is true or supported by a study you’d find on PubMed. 

However, we’ll stick with the story here, which says that ye jiao teng was so successful in turning Mr. He’s hair a darker shade, that eventually, the herb jian teng would be called He Shou Wu. Translation: Mr. He’s dark hair.  

You can believe it or not whether Mr. He lived to the ripe old age of 130. (In comparison to Biblical Noah—950 years old—Mr. He’s lifespan was that of a dog’s.) Legend also has it that Mr. He’s many sons, conceived only after Mr. He started taking ye jiao teng almost at age 60, were also blessed with centenarian lifespans. 

Centuries later, there aren’t any large clinical trials on He Shou Wu. But it is one of the most widely-used TCM herbs. And it’s officially listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, which is an official compendium of drugs, covering TCM and western medicines. 

What Does He Shou Wu Do in TCM For Anti-Aging?

According to TCM theory, He Shou Wu/Fo-Ti is a tonic for the Liver and Kidney organ systems. As such, it helps nourishes the Blood and revitalizes the body’s essence, or Jing, as well as supports the bones and tendons.

In China, the herbal formula, FotiHair (Shou Wu Pian) was used by the noble class for vitality and graceful aging. FotiHair works by nourishing points on the Liver meridian that correspond to hair growth, namely on the scalp. In addition, by fortifying Kidney essence, FotiHair acts like an anti-aging supplement due to the fact that Kidney organ system is the chief organ system responsible for the aging process. 

FotiHair comes in tablet form. For those who prefer capsules (which require a lower dosage), ActiveHerb’s Modern Essentials formula, HairVive is a convenient option. Both these formulas contain He Shou Wu, which is also available as extract granules, which can be used to make instant tea or added to oatmeal, yogurt, etc. 

What Does The Research Say About He Shou Wu For Anti Aging?

A 2015 clinical study review published in Pharmacognosy Research suggests that He Shou Wu supports the following:

  • Liver health
  • Cellular function
  • Blood sugar levels
  • Hair growth
  • Circulation
  • Cognition

Polygonum multiflorum is “rich in chemical components like stilbenes, quinones, and flavonoids which have been used as anti-aging agents in modern medicines,” says a 2019 study published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.

When taking He Shou Wu (or any other herb or formula for that matter), make sure you follow the suggested dosage. For He Shou Wu extract granules, the suggested dosage is 1 gram one to two times daily. Each bottle comes with a scoop, which provides a 1 gram dose. 

Got any questions about He Shou Wu or FotiHair? Post a question below…