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Mr. He’s Hair Is Black

Updated on February 26, 2014
Dried and cured He shou wu
Dried and cured He shou wu

He Shou Wu

He shou wu (polygonum multiflorum), known in China as “He-shou-wu”, or in America as “Foti”, is a Chinese tonic herb that is widely considered the greatest rejuvenating, adaptogenic herb in the World. He shou wu is an interwinding vine and that is how it got it’s original name jiaoteng, which means intersecting creepers. The two most popular names of the herb are He Shou Wu and Fo Ti. The name He Shou Wu is the most common name and comes from a legendary story about a man named He Tiamer. There are many versions of the story on how this herb acquired the name He shou wu, but one of those stories seems to have acquired legendary status.


Fo-Ti-Tieng is the western formula that does not include Ho shou wu as an ingredient. Fo Ti is a He shou wu product that was marketed many years after the popularity of Fo-Ti-Tieng. The manufactures of Fo Ti used part of the name to promote their He shou wu product because the name already had commercial success. There was even a court case where the makers of Fo-Ti-Tieng tried to sue the makers Fo Ti, but they lost the case. Today Fo Ti is recognized as the western name for Ho shou wu. Therefore, it is Fo-Ti that contains He shou wu, and Fo-Ti-Teng does not contain He shou wu.

Legend of He Tiamer

Around the 800’s their was a 58 year old snow white haired Chinese man named He Tiamer. Mr. He was a depressed man because of his inability to produce children with his wife. On account of his depression Mr. He became a drunk to drown his sorrows. One day waking up in a field after a hard night of drinking, he noticed an odd configuration of 2 trees side by side that appeared to be embracing like lovers. A local monk thought it was an omen and suggested that He Tiamer ingest the jioateng. Upon the advice of the monk He Tiamer went up into the mountains, dug up the roots of the jioteng trees and ground them down into a powder. Everyday for the next couple of months he would drink a tea made from the powder. To his amazement and the amazement of his tribesmen, his hair turned back to it’s original black color. Regaining his youthfulness and vigor, it also came to pass that Mr. He fathered 12 children and he himself lived to be 130 years old. This is how the herb got it’s common name He shou wu, which means “Mr. He’s hair is black” in Chinese.

Legend of Li Ching Yuen

There are many, many legends of people that have used He shou wu that lived well past 100 years and still possessed youthfulness. The most famous account of a person who took He Shou Wu is of Li Ching Yuen who was born in 1677 and died in 1930 at 256 years of age. Li Ching Yuen had 23 wives and fathered more than 200 children.

Plant Description

The plants themselves are vines that grow a few feet apart, one male and one female. The plants are intertwined, and at night the shoots intertwine and by day the shoots separate. Most roots used today in preparations are from 3 to 7 years old, and these are not wild roots, they are farmed. The older the root the more powerful it’s attributes. Although these plants are known to live 100‘s of years, there are no longer any plants in the world older than 50 years old, and even that is considered to to be an inflated number.

Nutritional Constituents

Many of the health benefits of He shou wo are attributed to chemical compounds known as stilbenoids. Stilbenoids are phytonutrients formed by the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway. There are numerous benefits associated with stilbenoids not least of which is it’s powerful antioxidant attribute that protects the bodies cells from free radicals. Stibenoids also have a strong anti-inflammatory response within the body. That anti-inflammatory response can be accredited to many of the health benefits that are associated with the use of He shou wo. He shou wu has many stilbene glycosides, but the two most prominent are tetrahydroxystilbene and resveratrol.
Just to give you some kind of an idea of how many phytonutrients are found in He shou wo, I am including this list, and mind you, the list is not an all inclusive list: chrysophanol, anthraquinones (emodin, rhein, anthrone, physcion), polydatin, arbutin, questin, polygonimitin B, gallic acid, stearic acid, noreugenin, apogenin, daulcosterol, beta-sitosterol, leucoanthrocyanides (LAC), oxymethylanthroquinone, phenolic glucosides, nitrogen, minerals (especially high in zinc and iron), phospholipids (such as lecithin) and many other antioxidant-potentiating molecules.

Health Benefits General

He shou wu is a Chinese tonic herb known to replenish the Qi (vital essence of life). The overall benefits of He Shou Wu are profound. He shou wu has been well documented as beneficial in treating and healing a myriad of medical problems.
This herb can be considered to be an intelligent adaptogenic herb because it targets and adapts to the specific needs of the body and corrects imbalances in the body. At the same time He shou wu tonifies the organs and cleanses the body of impurities and toxic substances. He shou wu is especially known as an immune system enhancer by increasing the functionality and antioxidant activity, and also known for aiding and strengthening the cardiovascular, hepatic, renal, reproductive, gastronomic, endocrine, and neurological systems.
Many of the health benefits associated with one body system synergistically contribute to benefits associated to other body systems. For example, by strengthening the liver and kidneys it enhances the cleaning functions of these organs, and a benefit would be the cleansing of the blood. Another example would be that the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems interact with each other to reduce inflammation and repair tissue.
He shou wu’s astringent, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antipyretic, anti-tumor and very potent anti-aging properties add up to a powerhouse of heath benefits that are hard to top. Furthermore, He shou wu has an outstanding reputation for: increasing overall resilience and promoting longevity, increasing energy and stamina, strengthening and fortifying muscles, tendons, bones, knees and lower back, maintaining and restoring youthful appearance, maintaining and restoring hair and nail growth and color, and reducing the risk of cancer.

Cellular Level

Ho shou wu strengthens the cell membranes, and promotes the growth and development of erythrocytes. He shou wu also: prolongs the life cycle of somatic cells, prolongs the growing cycle and promotes strong development of mammalian cells, regulates cell apoptosis, increases the production of g-interferon, and inhibits lipid peroxidation.

Immune System

He shou wu’s reduces the process of lipid peroxidation and it’s ability to enhance cell-mediated immune responses. Lipid peroxidation is a process that causes lipid cell damage by free radicals. He shou wu also supports the generation and activity of SOD (superoxide dismutase), where superoxide is a highly reactive free radical. SOD is the most power of all antioxidants known. SOD is a powerful antioxidant, free radical scavenger, and has a powerful anti-aging effect which inhibits B-monoamine oxidase (MAO-B). As we get older MAO-B levels increase which leads to many common neurological diseases know to occur in the later years. Elevated levels of MAO-B in the brain are associated with senile neuropathy such as, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. MAO-B has been directly associated with cell damage. MAO-B is also associated with cardiac damage, emotional disorders, and depression. He shou wu is also rich in zinc and iron which aid immune functions.

Cardiovascular System

Ho shou wu is considered cardiovascular tonic because it improves and enhances the cardiovascular system and reduces the the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. He shou wu’s circulatory enhancing attributes support and increase the flow of blood through the heart which helps to inhibit and reduce plaque buildup. These benefits are also associated with reducing blood pressure (hypertension). Ho shou wu also inhibits and reduces cholesterol and triglycerides, and increases blood sugar levels with those suffering from hypoglycemia.
Moreover, He shou wu is known as a blood tonic by virtue of increasing, revitalizing, and nourishing the blood essence by supporting the growth and development of erythrocytes, and enhancing the proliferation of blood producing stem cells

Renal/Hepatic Systems

He shou wu is al liver and kidney tonic which strengthens liver and kidney functions. The liver and kidneys work together to support and maintain the cleansing of the blood.
He shou wu revitalizes, repairs, reduces the buildup of liver fat, and reduces the enlargement of the liver caused toxins.

Neurological System

Neurologically, He shou wu is noted as beneficial for its nerve and brain protective aspects, enhancing cognitive ability, promoting learning, improving memory, and by preventing against cognitive defects. He shou wu is one of the most energizing herbs know to man, yet it has a slightly calming effect on the nervous system.

Endocrine System

He shou wu is an endocrine gland tonic that slows down the degeneration of the glands and which supports and enhances adrenal gland functioning and fortitude.

Gastronomic System

He shou wu’s astringent action is useful for a variety of gastrointestinal problems which include colic, enteritis, hemorrhoids, and ulcerations. He shou wu also decreases cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract.

Reproductive System

He shou wu increases sexual vitality, improves reproductive function, enhances and improves sexual drive and endurance, increases fertility in both women (increases ovum viability) and men (increases sperm count). He shou wu is also a cure for dyszoospermia (no sperm count in semen).

Musculoskeletal System

He shou wu strengthens and fortifies muscles, tendons and bones, helps to maintain healthy bone marrow and teeth, and strengthens knees and lower back.

Used To Treat And Prevent

He shou wu’s miraculous ability to revitalize, maintain, support, and promote the overall health and functionality of the body makes it a champion tonic herb. He shou wu is used to treat and prevent many ailments and diseases including: toxicosis, colic and enteritis, constipation, traumatic bruises, abscesses, scrofula, sores, carbuncles, UVB damage, alopecia (hair loss), gray hair, hemorrhoids, bloody stools, ulcerations, neurasthenia, weakness, dizziness, numbness, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), blurred vision, insomnia, night sweating, knee joint pain, backache, angina pectoris, diabetes, hypoglycemia, hyperlipemia, atherosclerosis, angina pectoris, blood deficiency, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, swollen lymph nodes, tuberculosis, malaria, viral infection, rubella, fertility, cure dyszoospermia (no sperm count in semen), menopausal complaints, menstrual complaints, metrorrhagia (non menstrual bleeding), metrostaxis (slight but continuous uterine bleeding), excessive leukorrhra (discharge of mucous material from the vagina), schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and vascular dementia.


The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, mitigate, treat, cure or prevent any particular, conditions or diseases of any kind. You should consult with your licensed physician or other professional health care providers or specialists before starting the use or and regarding the use of He shou wu.


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    • mecheshier profile image


      4 years ago

      Very interesting Hub. I have always been intrigued with Chines medicine. Thanks for sharing! Voted up


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