Ho Shou Wu, also called polygonum mulitflorum, Fo-Ti-Tieng, or Jiao Teng, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is part of the buckwheat family and is native to China and other East Asian countries. It is a prolific vine that is often used as ground cover. For medicinal purposes, the portion of Ho Shou Wu that is used is the root. It is typically dried and made into capsules or used in tea as an anti-aging substance, to improve sexual health, lower cholesterol and to ease back pain, among its many other uses.
Deeply rooted in Chinese herbal mythology, Ho Shou Wu is touted for its anti-aging and rejuvenating abilities. In fact, the name was derived from an ancient Chinese story where a man named Ho was advised by a Chinese monk to eat the root of the herb from the side of a mountain. Ho did so, on a regular basis. The result was that the man could suddenly father children, his hair changed from gray to pure black, his eyesight improved, he became more youthful, and he lived until he was 130 years old with jet black hair. In fact, the words “shou wu” translates from Chinese to mean “a full head of black hair.”
Chinese medicine practitioners prescribe Ho Shou Wu as a tonic for sexual health and as a preserver of youth. It is also used to cleanse and strengthen the liver, kidneys, muscles, and bones. Users claim that it works to calm and de-stress the nervous system and promote better vision. Many people believe it reduces back pain, prevents graying and hair loss, and thwarts diabetes. Some research conducted has shown that it can lower cholesterol levels and prevent the blood stream from retaining the fats that lead to atherosclerosis, as well.
The Ho Shou Wu roots are a red-brown color and have an astringent, bitter and slightly starchy taste. When sold, the better quality roots are sliced very thin, while those of normal quality are sold in bulk and are sliced much thicker. The roots can be dried or processed with black soybean juice. If the root is left unprocessed it is used to treat inflammation, toxicosis, hyperlipidemia, and constipation. If it is processed in the soybean juice, it is used to treat the blood, muscles, bones, gray hair, weakness, dizziness, and numbness, among other ailments.
One of the most common ways that Ho Shou Wu is used is in tea. To make the tea, take ten grams (.35 oz) of the dried root and simmer it in a pot of water for about 40 minutes. The tea can be consumed or applied topically to treat a variety of ailments or to promote longevity. Some people gargle with the tea to treat inflamed gums or teeth that are loose.
It is important to consult a medical professional before using Ho Shou Wu. Although it is considered non-toxic, there have been reports of diarrhea and sensitivity of the liver. As a result, people with liver disease or other conditions should consult a professional before taking the herb.