What is it and where does it come from?
Fo-Ti is a crawling vine plant native to China and Southern Asia that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for three thousand years. The hardy Fo-Ti plant can grow to over thirty feet in length very quickly.
The Fo-Ti plant is known as He Shou Wo in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Polygonum multiflorum in Latin, and Fleeceflower in the United Kingdom. The name "Fo-Ti" was given to a nutritional supplement for sale in North America that contained He Shou Wo, and has since become known as Fo-Ti in North America.
Today, the Fo-Ti plant is grown in China, Japan and Taiwan.
What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
Chinese myth teaches that He Shou Wo first became used in Traditional Chinese Medicine after a village man consumed it and noticed that he regained his natural hair color and sexual virility. For this reason Fo-Ti became known as a "youthful tonic" and an "elixir of life."
Chinese folklore and anecdote have attributed many efficacious health effects to Fo-Ti, and Western science has substantiated many of them.
For example, Fo-Ti is believed to be a treatment for infertility and impotence. Its mechanisms of action in this regard are unknown, but Fo-Ti does raise red blood cell counts in animal studies, and research indicates that Fo-Ti may help to lower LDL cholesterol levels that are responsible for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis.1,2 Fo-Ti, as a source of anti-oxidants, boosts immune system function, red blood cell formation, and has anti bacterial properties.
A lowering of LDL cholesterol levels in conjunction with raised red blood cell counts and increased immune function may increase blood flow to the genitals, and this may be responsible for Fo-Ti's erectile and fertility enhancing abilities.
Animal studies have shown that Fo-Ti may have a restorative effect on memory function, and human studies have shown that Fo-Ti can act as a mild anti-inflammatory.
Most interestingly, Fo-Ti has been shown to contain protein-sugar complexes known as lectins (anthraquinones, phospholipids) that may prevent the onset of heart disease by delaying the formation of plaques in blood vessels. In this way Fo-Ti may also prevent or offset hypertension.3
Chinese medicine uses Fo-Ti as a treatment for premature ageing, weakness, infectious diseases and vaginal discharge. It is also used as a treatment for constipation because of its laxative properties.
Fo-Ti supplementation may prove efficacious to women because of its ability to help normalize estrogen profile.4
Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?
No physiological need for Fo-Ti exists and thus no symptoms of deficiency exist.
Everyone can benefit from supplementing with Fo-Ti because of its stellar safety profile, and its effects on immune function as outlined above.
How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?
Strictly adhere to label recommendations.
In rare cases, users of Fo-Ti may experience a mild skin rash or diarrhea.
1. Foster S, Yue CX. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, 79-85.
2. Foster S. Herbal Renaissance. Layton, Utah: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1993, 40-1.
3. Foster S, Yue CX. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, 79-85.
4. Oerter Klein K, Janfaza M, Wong JA, Chang RJ. Estrogen bioactivity in Fo-Ti and other herbs used for their estrogen-like effects as determined by a recombinant cell bioassay. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Sep;88(9):4075-6.