He Shou Wu
He Shou Wu (pronounced huh – 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
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.
partially comes from its remarkable ability to support and maintain the
healthful cleaning functions of the kidney and liver, which in turn clean the
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 functions.
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.
Legend of He Shou Wu
Ao from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) wrote a book
called “The Legend of He Shou Wu”
documenting in detail its discovery.
Si is the name of the man who is said to have discovered He Shou Wu in China.
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.
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”?
agreed 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
the herb called He Shou Wu’s was well famed as an anti-aging tonic and a
fertility enhancing sex tonic,
it 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 Wu
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:
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 herb.”
The Story of Li Qing
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
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.
Ron’s 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
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.
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.
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 oxidizing agent.
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.
Superoxide dismutase, 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.
SOD 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.
He 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 enhances immunity
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 adrenal cortex.
He Shou Wu’s Blood
He Shou Wu enhances
the proliferation of blood producing cells
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.
Improves red blood cell membranes
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 animals.
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.
Prepared He Shou Wu supports blood flow and
in test animals.
Protects the Liver
Classically, 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.
Furthermore, 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
He 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 Shou Wu.
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
with either ethanol or water extracts of He Shou Wu can help maintain brain
function and support learning and memory ability.
Effects of He Shou Wu
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.
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.
With 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.]
Chemical Constituent Difference – Why Prepared He
Shou Wu Is Much Milder and Safer than Unprepared He Shou Wu
The conjugated 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.
Efficacy 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 soybean 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
Herbs He Shou Wu Extract Capsules
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.
Specifications: 100 capsules 500 mg
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.
Ingredients: He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum)
root extract (Organically Grown, Certified by ECOCERT).
Other Ingredients: Vegetarian capsules**,
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 –
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.