Latin: Polygonum multiflorum photos
Chinese: Ho Shou Wu, Hé shou wu, Shou wu
WHAT IT DOES: Shou wu root is bitter, sweet and astringent in taste, and slightly neutral in action. It nourishes the blood, protects the liver and heart, reduces toxic heat, and fertilizes the hair roots. It promotes longevity.
SAFETY ISSUES: Do not use with diarrhea, as it is mildly laxative. Use in combination with digestive tonics if there is weak digestion. There are several rare reports of idiosyncratic liver damage with this herb, so use under the direction of a qualified medical professional
• Crude powder: nine to 15 grams per day;
• 4:1 concentrated dried decoction extract: two to four grams per day.
Shou wu translates as “black hair.” It is one of the strongest TCM blood tonics, and is an ingredient in many tonic formulas. Blood tonics are used in TCM when there are signs of pallor, dizziness, lethargy, dry skin, menstrual disorders or pale tongue. It is the main ingredient in a TCM base formula we use to delay or reverse balding and premature greying of hair, which can be purchased commercially in Chinese grocery stores under the name “Alopecia pills.” One popular way of preparing this herb is to cook it with black beans.
• Shou wu root has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels (reported in Huang, 1999).
• Pre-treatment with shou wu root was proven more effective than treatment with vitamin E in preventing heart injury in mice (Yim TK et al., 1998).
• Extracts of Shou wu root also significantly reduced tumor incidence in animals exposed to mutagenic chemicals (Horikawa et al., 1994).
• In a study on rats, Shou wu root and Astragalus root inhibited lipid peroxidation damage against the cardiac mitrochondria (Hong et al., 1994). In another study it exhibited similar effects when it extended the lives of quails (Wang, 1988, reported in Bone, 1996).