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Herbs & Botanicals

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Fo ti (he shou wu)

What is fo ti? What is it used for?

Fo ti is the name of a plant native to China, which is also grown in Japan and Taiwan. The Chinese common name for the plant, he shou wu, is attributed to a man from the Tang dynasty whose infertility was supposedly cured after taking fo ti.

Fo ti root is used in herbal preparations. Unprocessed root is called white fo ti. However, fo ti root is sometimes boiled in a liquid derived from black beans, giving the root different (and possibly superior) medicinal properties. Processed fo ti root is called red fo ti root.

In traditional Chinese medicine, fo ti is used to combat aging, treat infections and chest pain, and correct erectile dysfunction. It is also widely praised as a rejuvenative tonic and is believed to be capable of preventing gray hair and other signs of aging.

Research conducted on the root has shown it to lower blood cholesterol levels and decrease the symptoms of atherosclerosis. Studies in China have investigated its use in enhancing the immune system and promoting the formation of red blood cells.

How much fo ti should I take?

Many herbalists and TCM practitioners recommend 4-8 grams of fo ti per day, which can be taken either in capsules or in tea form.

What forms of fo ti are available?

Processed and powdered fo ti root can be found in many health food stores. Most stores also sell fo ti tablets and capsules.

What can happen if I take too much fo ti? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Taking more than 15 grams of processed fo ti root powder may cause numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. Unprocessed root may cause mild diarrhea in some individuals.

There are currently no known drug interactions with fo ti. However, patients should consult with a health care provider before taking fo ti supplements.

References

  • Bone K. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. Warwick, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996, pp. 49—51.
  • Foster S, Yue CX. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, pp. 79—85.
  • Foster S. Herbal Renaissance. Layton, UT: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1993, pp. 40—1.
  • Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, pp. 40—1.
  • Xiao PG, Xing ST, Wang LW. Immunological aspects of Chinese medicinal plants as antiaging drugs. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1993;38:167-175.

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