He Shou Wu
He Shou Wu
– similar to English "huh", but not as open – show woo) is one of the
most popular and highly revered tonic herbs in Asian herbalism.
He Shou Wu is the prepared tuberous root of Polygonum multiflorum,
a plant that grows in the mountains of central and southern China. It shares the position as the primary essence (Jing) tonic of Chinese herbalism with the Goji berry.
By virtue of its ability to accumulate
tremendous quantities of Qi into its root, this herb can tonify
the human and animal organs and can tonify and
nourish the blood. He Shou Wu is not a stimulant.
However, it is one of the greatest energy tonics known to mankind. Its action
is cumulative, as any truly healthy tonic dietary supplement would be. Because
it is a very mild sedative, it will calm the nervous system. So it can be said
that He Shou Wu is both energizing and calming. That
is the magic of a great tonic herb.
He Shou Wu
helps maintain the strength and stability of the lower back and knees. It is
used to maintain youthful sexual drive, normally abundant sperm count in men and
to support the health of the ova in women. It is widely used in Asia to maintain the youthful condition and color of the
hair. It can calm the nervous system. It has components that are potent
antioxidants with gentle actions in the liver and the eyes.
Its strength partially comes from its
remarkable ability to support and maintain the healthful cleaning functions of
the kidney and liver, which in turn clean the blood.
He Shou Wu is a
good source of iron. He Shou Wu contains potent
antioxidants and in antioxidant-potentiating molecules. He Shou
Wu supports the body’s innate ability to efficiently clear superoxide,
the highly reactive free radical, from the body. Free radicals are produced at
every moment of our life as part of the living process and our health depends
upon our clearing them from our body on a moment to moment basis. This support
generally comes from foods and herbs humans consume. It is widely believed that
the SOD-generating capacity of He Shou
Wu is one of the reasons it is considered by many to have “anti-aging”
and “longevity increasing” activity. These actions help maintain
healthy physical and mental functions and structures.
He Shou Wu contains
zinc. Zinc is an essential trace mineral required by all forms of life.
Numerous aspects of cellular metabolism are zinc-dependent. Zinc plays
important roles in growth and development, the immune response, neurological
function and reproduction. Zinc is important to our sexual and reproductive
He Shou Wu has been
found to support fundamental immunological functions. He Shou
Wu has been found to improve adrenal gland functioning.
He Shou Wu is
unsurpassed in its ability to provide deep, primordial energy (Jing, essence) to the cells of the body via the Kidney system as
described in Chinese health philosophy. He Shou Wu supports
the human body’s “functional reserve.”
He Shou Wu is widely used in Chinese tonic herbalism as a tonic to promote healthy aging by tonifying the Kidney and Liver functions, toning up Jing (vital essence), nourishing the
blood, and fortifying the muscles, tendons and bones.
The Legend of He Shou Wu
Li Ao from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) wrote a book called
“The Legend of He
Shou Wu” documenting in detail its
Si is the name of the man who is said to have discovered He Shou
Wu in China.
“Neng Si was born with a weak constitution. Due to his
chronic frailty, he had never been able to marry and as time went by had given
up on the prospect of either marrying or bearing children. In addition, he had
taken to strong liquor. Nevertheless, he was an enthusiastic follower of Taoism
and often shadowed his Taoist teacher in the mountain.
“One day, at
the age of 58, he fell into a drunken stupor in the forest. When he awoke, he
observed a pair of vines entwined for more than 3 yards. He thought to himself
that they appeared to be making love, and in a whimsical mood he dug up the
root of the plant, which he took back to his cottage. No one in the local
village recognized the herb. A hermit from the mountain saw it, however, and
told him, "This climbing plant struck you as peculiar, now surely it is
supposed to serve you as a divine tonic. Why don't you take it”?
and ground up the root into powder and swallowed a small amount on an empty
stomach. In seven days, he started to “realize the Tao of Muman.” He started to feel an unknown vitality
flowing through his veins and after a little while he noticed certain urges
starting to develop. Soon this previously hapless guy began to experience
something very unfamiliar to him – incredible virility – he could barely control his sexual desire. Over
the next several months, he became strong. He decided to continue taking the
herb, doubling his dosage. In several years, his hair grew dark again, and his
appearance became youthful. Over the next ten years, he fathered several boys
and changed his name to Neng Si, meaning
“Capable of Bearing Offspring.””
Though the herb
called He Shou Wu’s
was well famed as an anti-aging tonic and a fertility enhancing sex tonic,
did not gain much attention from the health cultivationists
(preservationists) after the He family had made it famous. Revered herbalist Li
Shi Zhen, who authored a book named The
Great Herbalism (published in 1578), the greatest
contribution to the development of Chinese herbal pharmacy, noted that though
He Shou Wu had been established for a long while, few
people were taking the herb at the time. A royal endorsement from an emperor
changed that. Ming Dynasty Emperor Shi Zong (reigned
from 1521 to 1566) was gifted an herbal elixir called Seven Treasure Beard Beautifying Pill. He enjoyed “great
success,” fathering several royal princes and credited the herbal formula
for his success. This formula, with He Shou Wu as the main ingredient, became an instant hit among
the commoners and He Shou Wu became a household herb
throughout Asia ever since.
Personal Commentary on He Shou
Li Ao, the Taoist
sage who recounted the Legend of He Shou Wu, is famous as the sage whose walk “resembled
a swift wind.” He had this to say regarding his personal experience with the herb
He Shou Wu:
"I will reveal
to you an herbal secret. Taking He Shou Wu helped me to father children. Originally, I
preferred peace of mind, and under no circumstances did I want to take this
herb, because I had heard it said that it was ‘harmful to peace of
mind’ (referring to its stimulation of sexual desire). However, my spouse
took it accidentally and we attained the greatest happiness (the highest level
of sexual ecstasy). Since then I have continued taking this miraculous
The Story of Li Qing Yuen
There is a famous story that has been widely
spread about a man named Li Qing Yuen, who, as the tale goes, is said to have
lived to be 252 years old. All evidence indicates that this is not possible.
Therefore, I believe the story of Li Qing Yuen must be viewed as a legend.
Nevertheless, it is widely believed in Asia
that Li Qing Yuen did indeed live and that he lived to extended age –
certainly to be a centenarian.
The story is worth telling because it
expresses the deep interest the Chinese have had in the art of longevity and
provides some excellent life lessons. According to the story, Li Qing Yuen was
born in the
mountainous southwest of China,
he ran away from home at the age of eleven with three travelers. These
travelers were in the herbal trade. Together the boy and his three teachers
traveled throughout China, Tibet, and Southeast Asia,
encountering many dangerous situations, but all the while studying the herbal
traditions of all the various regions.
As Li Qing Yuen became older, he became a
practicing herbalist, and was well known for his excellence of health and
amazing vigor. He was particularly interested in Taoist life cultivation and
had a deep personal interest in tonic herbs. One day, when he was around fifty
years old, he met a very old man who, despite of his venerable old age, could
out-walk Li Qing Yuen. This impressed Master Li very much because he believed
that brisk walking was both a way to health and longevity and a sign of inner
health. Li Qing Yuen inquired as to the old sage's secret. He was told that if
every day he consumed a "soup" of an herb known as gou qi zi (Lycium chinensis
fruit - known to us as Goji berries or Wolfberries)
he would soon attain a new standard of health. Of course Li Qing Yuen knew
about this Goji but had not made it a central part of
his daily herbal regimen. Li Qing Yuen did just what the old sage suggested and
continued to consume Goji soup from the time forward.
Because of his radiant health and longevity,
he was greatly revered by all those who knew him and he had many disciples who
followed him. Even at a very old age, his sight was keen and his legs were
strong, and he continued to take his daily vigorous walks. One day, he was on a
journey through treacherous mountains. In the mountains he met a Taoist hermit
who was much older than him. Impressed by the great illumination of the old
Taoist, Li Qing Yuen begged the sage to tell him his secrets. The old Taoist,
recognizing the sincerity of Li, taught him some deep secrets of Taoist Yoga
(also known as the "Inner Alchemy") and recommended that Li change
his diet and consume Ginseng daily, combined with He Shou Wu.
It is said that Master Li also changed his
diet accordingly, so as to consume very little meat, and even limited his
consumption of root vegetables. He also limited his consumption of grain.
Instead, he focused mainly on steamed above-ground vegetables and herbs. He
supposedly died in 1930, reportedly after a banquet presented in his honor by a
government official. He had married during his lifetime numerous times and
lived through many generations of his own descendants, of which he had many.
Note: I first reported on this story in 1984 in
the book “Chinese Tonic Herbs (Japan Publications).” However,
though I have tried, I have found that primary sources of documentation for Li
Qing Yuen’s extreme longevity are non-existent. The story had first been
reported, according to the Guinness Book
of World Records, in a 1933 news agency filing as "the oldest man on
earth", having been born in 1680 and just died at 253. The Guinness Book first identified him as Li
Chung-yun and later as Li Zhongyun
(1993 edition). The Guinness Book
noted that “Li Chung-yun was said to have
maintained a youthful appearance to the end, crediting it to Taoist wisdom and
The story is representative of a tradition
that is rich in the lore of Taoists living to ages unimaginable by us. It is
well known that among the Chinese population, the Taoists have always far
outlived all other people in Asia. Many have lived to be centenarians and few
died prematurely. The Taoist art of longevity, known as the "Way of
Radiant Health" is one of the great legacies of the East. The Taoist arts
of longevity include tonic herbalism, qi gong, tai ji quan,
Taoist yoga, Taoist sexual techniques and many of the martial arts.
The Science of He Shou Wu
or “not prepared,” that is the difference.
The tuber of He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum) must be “prepared” in order to
be used as a regularly-consumed tonic herb. Unprepared He Shou Wu does not possess the tonic effects and can have
unwanted side effects. The freshly picked tubers are sliced, stewed in black
bean soup (in a proportion of 10 parts He Shou Wu to
1 part black beans) until the soup is exhausted. The “prepared”
roots are then dried. That is all there is to the “preparation.” Of
course, no chemicals are used in the making of “prepared” He Shou Wu.
The tuberous root
of Polygonum multiflorum
(He Shou Wu) has many active constituents. He Shou Wu is rich in anthraquinones,
including many phospholipids such as lecithin (3.7%). A stilbene glycoside known as 2,3,5,4-tetrahydroxystilbene-2-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (henceforth refered
to as “he shou wu
super-glycoside”) is considered to be the principle active
constituent responsible for He Shou
Wu’s very powerful antioxidant activity. There are many similar stilbene glycosides present in He
Shou Wu. The stilbene
glycosides in He Shou Wu
are very similar to resveratrol.
Several of the stilbene glycosides in He Shou Wu are stronger
antioxidants than resveratrol.
Prepared He Shou
Wu extract increases the cellular antioxidant activity
He Shou Wu supports
the body’s innate ability to efficiently clear superoxide, the highly
reactive pro-oxidant (free radical), from the body. This is a normal function
that occurs trillions of times a day in every human being.
All organisms maintain complex innate
antioxidant systems to prevent damage by oxidation. Antioxidants are chemicals
that reduce the rate of oxidation reactions. Oxidation reactions are chemical
reactions that involve the transfer of electrons from one substance to an
Oxidation is a constant function of life that
is accelerated by stress and many other factors. He Shou
Wu is rich in potent antioxidants and in antioxidant-potentiating molecules.
generally referred to as SOD, is a class of closely related enzymes
produced within the human body. Of all the antioxidants produced in the human
body, SOD is king. SOD proteins are present in almost all aerobic cells and in
almost all extracellular fluids. SOD transforms the superoxide radical into ions that are less reactive. These less
reactive ions are then further transformed by the antioxidants catalase and glutathione into safe molecules. This
transformation, called dismutation,
is essential to life. He Shou Wu supports the normal dismutation process.
is much more powerful than any other antioxidant. No external antioxidant is
comparable to SOD, as external antioxidants may deteriorate by the time they
enter our blood stream and because they cannot match SOD’s performance in
clearing free radicals.
Shou Wu has been shown to help maintain youthful
levels of SOD in laboratory animals even as they age. It is widely believed
that the SOD generating capacity of He Shou Wu is one of the reasons it has been found to have
anti-aging and longevity increasing activity.
He Shou Wu
He Shou Wu has been
found to support fundamental immunological functions in mammals.
He Shou Wu
enhances adrenocortical function
He Shou Wu has been
found to support adrenal gland functioning. He Shou
Wu supports adrenal fortitude.
He Shou Wu
traditionally functions as a Kidney tonic. Jing controls the functions of
Wu’s Blood Tonic Actions
He Shou Wu enhances the proliferation of blood producing cells
Scientific research supports He Shou Wu’s traditional function as a blood tonic. Prepared He Shou Wu can supports the hematopoietic (blood producing) function
of the body. It does this by directly promoting the blood generating
hematopoietic stem cells.
red blood cell membranes
Extracts of this
herb have been demonstrated to help support the membranes of erythrocytes (red
blood cells) and to support the growth and development of erythrocytes in test
He Shou Wu is a
rich source of lecithin which is an
important raw material of red blood cell and other cell membranes (lecithin is
also a major component of nervous tissues).
He Shou Wu contains
iron, even more than other blood
tonics such as Dang Gui and Goji.
He Shou Wu supports blood flow and in test animals.
Protects the Liver
He Shou Wu is considered a Liver tonic. Many studies
now support He Shou Wu’s protective and
function-regulating actions on the liver. Throughout our lifetime liver cells
continually replenish themselves. Adult humans do not die with the same liver
they were born with. In experiments on mice, prepared He Shou
Wu helps maintain healthy structural integrity of the liver. He
Shou Wu acts as a powerful antioxidant in the liver.
researchers have found that this herb can stabilize liver cells by supporting
membrane mechanism. He Shou Wu is a good source of
plant lecithin. He Shou Wu has a special tropism
(attraction) to the liver.
A zinc supplement
Shou Wu contains zinc.
The zinc content of prepared He Shou Wu is as high as
42 mg per 100 grams the herb. This is several dozen times higher than that of
most herbs. Animal type foods are considered to be high in zinc, but they only
have 3-5 mg per 100 gram, much lower than the 42 mg in He
Zinc is an essential trace mineral required
by all forms of life. Numerous aspects of cellular metabolism
are zinc-dependent. Zinc plays important roles in growth and development, the
immune response, neurological function, and reproduction. On the cellular
level, the function of zinc can be divided into three categories: (1)
regulatory, (2) catalytic, and (3) structural.
Zinc supports the metabolism of testosterone,
and supports sperm quality and motility.
Effect on Memory
Dietary supplementation with either ethanol
or water extracts of He Shou
Wu can help maintain brain function and support learning and memory ability.
Potential Adverse Effects of He Shou
Adverse effects are not common (very rare)
with extracts of properly prepared He Shou Wu. Potential
adverse effects of this herb are mainly digestive canal reactions, usually
resulting in thin stool in cases where the herb is not tolerated, and
occasional light abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Raw, unprepared He Shou Wu is a laxative and should not be consumed as a tonic
herb, i.e. on a long term basis. Some companies of He
Shou Wu products are unaware of this issue and sell
unprepared He Shou Wu, resulting in adverse effects.
“raw” He Shou Wu
The tuber of He Shou Wu must be “prepared” in order to be used
as a regularly-consumed tonic herb. The roots are sliced, gently
stewed in black bean soup (in a proportion of 10 parts He Shou
Wu to 1 part black beans) until the soup is exhausted. The
“prepared” roots are then dried. That is all there is to the
“preparation.” Of course, no chemicals are used to prepare He Shou Wu.
The Toxicity Difference: Prepared
He Shou Wu has extremely low toxicity.
He Shou Wu has been
used for over two thousand years as a tonic herb in China and other Asian
regions. In Asia, He Shou Wu is considered to be
extremely safe and suitable for long term and daily use.
The LD50 tests for prepared He Shou
Wu resulted in NO DEATHS, even after 1000 g/kg. On the other hand, the LD50
of raw (Unprepared) He Shou Wu is 50g/kg, This means even
if rats consume their body weight worth of prepared He Shou Wu, they survived. Prepared He Shou
Wu is one of the safest herbs or foods known to science.
an LD50 value
of greater than 1000 g/kg, We are only recommending 6-12 capsules (about 3-6
grams) of He Shou Wu per
day as a long term tonic dose. [LD50: The LD50 Alcohol
Percolate Test – generally referred to simply as the LD50 is a standard toxicity test
used in scientific research. The higher
the number, the safer the test object. LD50 (Lethal Dose50) is the
amount of a substance that, when administered by a defined route of entry (e.g.
oral, injection or dermal, etc.) over a specified period of time, is expected
to cause the death of 50 per cent of a defined animal population. If no deaths
have occurred when the test subject has consumed its
weight in the test substance without ANY deaths, the test substance is
considered safe beyond question. A score of 1000 g/kg means that the test
animal can consume its weight in test substance with 50% dying. But to have NO
deaths at 1000 g/kg means the LD50 is actually much higher, but researchers
tend to stop there because no animal or human will ever consume its weight in
any substance in a short period of time.]
Constituent Difference – Why Prepared He Shou
Wu Is Much Milder and Safer than Unprepared He Shou
anthraquinones (such as emodin) present in unprepared He Shou Wu are laxative. After preparation, the amount of
conjugated anthraquinones in He
Shou Wu decreases, while the free form anthraquinones that have many
health-supporting and protective benefits significantly increase. This is why
prepared He Shou Wu has a much milder or nil laxative
effect compared to raw, and why prepared He Shou Wu
is so safe and effective.
and Function Difference: The “preparation”
eliminates the laxative effect of He Shou Wu and brings out the tonic effect. In addition to toxicity
elimination, the special preparation process also enhances He Shou Wu’s therapeutic efficacy. He Shou Wu is known to support macrophages. In a test where
mice were fed He Shou Wu prepared by different
methods, or not prepared at all, at the dose of 6g/kg, only the prepared He Shou Wu that was stewed and steamed with black bean soup
for 32 hours was shown to support the phagocytic
activity of abdominal macrophage. He Shou Wu that was
raw or prepared differently showed no obvious results.
Raw, un-prepared He Shou
Wu is used as a laxative in Chinese herbalism, and is
not used in tonic herbalism.
Dragon Herbs He Shou
Wu products are always made from PREPARED He Shou Wu.
Unfortunately, many nutritional supplement companies and marketers in America
are unaware of this distinction between prepared and un-prepared He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum). Raw He Shou Wu
is of course less expensive, and that is often the driving force behind the way
many herb companies make their purchasing decisions. As a result, He Shou Wu is sometimes blamed for the unwanted side effect of
loose stool that results from the use of the incorrect herb (raw He Shou Wu). Again, Dragon Herbs is extremely aware of this
issue and only uses PREPARED He Shou Wu to make its
Dragon Herbs He Shou
Wu Extract Capsules
He Shou Wu powdered extract is
an 8:1 “pure yield” (100% natural) powdered extract of the highest
grade Prepared Polygonum multiflorum
tubers grown in the remote high mountains of Yunnan province, China.
capsules 450 mg each
He Shou Wu is considered to be a very mild and safe herb. Mild
gastrointestinal disturbance, characterized by soft stool, is the only side
effect associated with Polygonum multiflorum.
However, moderate doses of processed He Shou Wu
rarely result in such an effect. Should this occur, the herb may be combined
with certain other herbs, and the problem can be eliminated.
Consult your herbalist. Again, this side effect is rare.
Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum) root extract (Organically Grown, Certified
capsules**, rice hull extract.
Take 3 capsules, 2
times per day or as directed by a healthcare professional.
Remember Ron Teeguarden’s
“First Rule of Tonic Herbalism,” summed
up in a single word – Compliance. If you don’t take
the herbs, they won’t work.”
**Pullulan caps 100% natural, water- soluble polysaccharide
produced through a fermentation process; vegetable origin; non-GMO; no starch,
preservatives or chemical modifications; gluten free.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
This product is not intended to
diagnose, treat, cure or
prevent any disease.