Polygonum multiflorum

Other Names: Flaxseed, Lint Bells, Winterlien, Linseed

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fo-Ti is one of the herbs used to nourish the heart and calm the spirit. The name was given to the plant by a marketer in the early 1970s for the American herb business. In China, it is known as he-shou-wu. The literal English translation of its name is “vine to pass through the night.” The Chinese common name, he-shou-wu, is from the name of a famous herbalist whose infertility and general weakness was supposedly cured by the herb.

Fo-Ti Root continues to be widely grown in China. Once it has been boiled in a special black bean liquid, it is considered a superior tonic medicine.

Fo-ti is the dried or cured root of a twining vine in the knotweed family, found throughout China, except in the extreme northeast. It is also occasionally grown in American gardens as an ornamental. Fo-ti is a member of the buckwheat family.

With a distinctive sweet yet bitter taste, fo-ti was thought to unblock the channels of energy through the body, allowing the escape of the pathogenic influences that cause generalized weakness, soreness, pain, and fatigue.

Fo-Ti as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Fo-tiIn Chinese medicine the dried (unprocessed) root and the cured (processed) root are considered two different herbs. The unprocessed root is used to relax the bowels and detoxify the blood. The processed root is used to strengthen the blood, invigorate the liver and kidneys, and supplement vital energy (qi).

Processed fo-ti is one of the more widely used tonics in traditional Chinese medicine, which employs it to enhance longevity, increase vigor, and promote fertility. It is also an ingredient in formulas for premature gray hair, low back pain, angina pectoris, low energy, and other conditions.

The plant is also used as a wash for itching and skin rashes.

Several clinical studies in China suggest the processed herb is useful in treating high cholesterol, heart conditions, and chronic bronchitis. Mounting evidence supports fo-ti’s traditional use as a tonic.

Fo-Ti is a mild stimulant to estrogen production in women, making it appropriate for treating a variety of undesirable symptoms in menopause.

Typical preparations are foti herbal tea and tinctures. Traditionally combined with jujubes and/or biota to treat insomnia with nightmares. Sometimes found in capsule form.

Fo-ti Decoction

To prepare tea: Boil 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of root in a cup of water (250 ml) for 10 minutes. Drink at least 3 cups daily.

Fo-ti root is sold either processed or unprocessed so it is important to know whether you are buying a processed or unprocessed fo-ti because there is some difference in the benefits of the herb.

An unprocessed root is lighter brown in color and it is less expensive and more available. The unprocessed fo-ti is often used to keep the digestive tract functioning and cleanse the blood. The processed root has dark reddish brown color and is the preferred type by those wanting to use the herb as a tonic to promote longevity.

Recommended Dosage: Take two (2) to three (3) Fo-Ti Root capsules, two (2) times each day with water at mealtimes.

Culinary Uses of Fo-Ti

None known.


The unprocessed root can cause loose stools or diarrhea, sometimes with intestinal pain and nausea. The unprocessed root is considered potentially more toxic than the processed form.

One case of allergic reaction to the cured root has been reported, although this form of fo-ti is considered to be minimally toxic when taken in proper doses. Large doses have resulted in numbness of the extremities as well as skin rashes.

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