Plant Profile: Ho Shu Wu (Polygonum multiflorum)

from Herbalist Erin Smith

Ho-Shou-Wu is one of my favorite herbs. It is wonderfully grounding and calming and I find that one of its best adaptogenic effects is to allow you to remain clear and calm during times of stress. Even if you are not dealing with stress, it’s a wonderful herb to nourish the spirit and body. If you are feeling flighty or ungrounded, it will help bring you back down to earth and dig some roots in.


Ho-Shou-Wu is sometimes also known as Fo-Ti and in traditional Chinese medicine is a powerful Kidney/Liver and Yin tonic and has an almost mythical reputation due to its ability to promote longevity, vigor, and fertility. Its name purportedly means “Mr. Shou’s black hair” and one of its most popular uses is to help prevent premature aging and prevent grey hair. It is a powerful antioxidant and this might contribute to its anti-aging properties.


It is used to nourish the heart and calm the spirit. Unblocking the channels of the heart and spirit, it allows a pathway for release of generalized weakness, pain and fatigue. It has a physically calming effect on the heart as well and can be used to calm rapid heart, lowers cholesterol, and treat atherosclerotic lesions (Yang et al, 2005).


As a major blood tonic, it increases energy and helps the body eliminate toxins. Research has shown that it helps strengthen the membranes of red blood cells and promote their growth and development (Yance, 2013). Ho-shou-Wu is also a primary traditional fertility tonic and has been shown to increase sperm count in men (Winston and Maimes, 2007). Its traditional attribute of increasing essence and blood means it also increases female fertility. If you are trying to get pregnant, both you and your partner can take Ho-Shou-Wu.


In China, it is often taken by athletes for its ability to fortify and tone muscles, tendons and bones. It would be a great addition to a formula for anyone with chronic musculoskeletal systems conditions.


Traditionally, Ho Shu Wu is taken in as a decoction or in whole powder form. It has a pleasant earthy taste and works well as a black tea substitute. Combined with warming herbs it’s a delicious and nourishing winter tea.


Ho-Shou-Wu Tonic Tea

1 large handful of Ho-Shou-Wu roots
8 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon of chocolate or carob powder
Coconut milk


Place Ho-Shou-Wu roots, along with cinnamon and cardamom, in a large pot. Cover with 6 cups of water and heat until boil. Turn down and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Strain and return to pan. On low heat add chocolate or carob powder and stir until well blended. Add coconut milk and honey to taste. Serve hot and enjoy. Remaining tea will last up to three days in the refrigerator and can be reheated.





Yang PY, Almofti MR, Lu L, Kang H, Zhang J, Li TJ, Rui YC, Sun LN, Chen WS (2005) Reduction of Atherosclerosis in Cholesterol-Fed Rabbits and Decrease of Expressions of Intracellular Adhesion Molecule-1 and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Foam Cells by Water-Soluable Fraction of Polygonum multiflorum, Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, 99(3), 294-300.


Winston David and Maimes Stephen (2007) Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, Healing Arts Press. Rochester: Vermont.


Yance, David (2013) Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism: Elite Herbs and Natural Compounds for Mastering Stress, Aging and Chronic Disease, Healing Arts Press. Rochester: Vermont.


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