Fo-ti, botanical name Polygonum multiflorum, is a well known and popular herb in Traditional Chinese medicine. It’s sourced from the tuberous foliage of Polygonum which grows wild in China, Taiwan and Japan. For centuries it’s been used as a tonic herb for various conditions and body systems. To this day, it’s one of the most popular of all the Chinese herb medicines. Traditionally it has been used for tuberculosis, high cholesterol, cancer, insomnia, back pain and tinnitus as well as simply as a rejuvenating and longevity extending plant medicine.
Fo-ti is also occasionally referred to as “Mr. He’s Black Hair formula” due to the legends that it can be used to prevent or reverse signs of aging such as premature gray hair. In fact, in Asia, fo-ti, in extract form, is still occasionally used in hair and skin products as well. In topical formulas or unprocessed, it’s generally used to treat acne, athlete’s foot, dermatitis, razor burn and other skin related conditions.
It is generally the leaves, root tuber, and rhizomes have been used as a tonic in anti-aging formula while the stem is often indicated for sleep support or normalize blood sugar. Some clinical research shows it may have several pharmacological effects, including anti-aging, immunologic, neuroprotective, anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. More clinical testing is necessary to fully understand the benefits of the root, however.
Fo-ti may protect the brain from stroke and slow down certain cognitive decline related diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. A cell based study showed that Fo-ti may also protect from glutamate excitotoxicity. Glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter. Too much glutamergic transmission causes a dangerous situation that can cause neurons to basically burn out.
Fo-Ti is considered a cardiac tonic in Chinese five points medicine. That basically means, it is considered helpful for toning the heart. Red stems, heart shaped leaves and white or pink flowers appear on the plant and its name translated directly is “vine to pass through the night.” Possessing a sweet but bitter taste, it was considereduseful for unblocking channels (meridians is the term used in Chinese medicine) through which energy flows and travels through the body. In traditional Chinese Medicine, illnesses are often considered to be caused by imbalances and blockages in the flow of different types of energy through certain pathways called channels or meridians.
Fo-ti comes in various forms as well. Raw and cured are the most commonly found, as well as the forms most often imported to the West. Curing Fo-ti evidently may increase the phosphate content which increases the sugars found in it. The traditional preparation of Fo-ti is still a guarded secret but involves curing of the Fo-ti roots in a soup of black soybean sauce. Fo-ti may upset those with serious gluten sensitivities as a result.
The traditional Fo-ti is cured in the black bean sauce, but “White fo-ti” is the unprocessed form, uncured, raw root which is generally light brown or beige. Traditionally it is prepared in teas and tinctures and often combined with jujubes. It can also be taken in a capsule. Regular dosage of the plant is around 9-30 grams. Over use of the root may cause stomach upset or diarrhea, so as with all herbs and supplements, start small and stick with the minimum effective dosage. Always check with a doctor before adding a new diet, exercise or supplement regimen, especially if you are currently under a physician’s care or taking any sort of medications for a pre-existing condition. Do NOT use Fo-ti if you are pregnant, nursing, may be pregnant or if you take Warfarin (anti-blood clotting medication).