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 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.
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
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.
Neng 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.
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
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
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
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 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.
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 healthy living.”
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
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.
Wu enhances immunity
He Shou Wu has been found to support fundamental immunological
functions in mammals.
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.
Wu’s Blood Tonic Actions
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
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
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
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 480 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
Ingredients: He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum)
root extract (Organically Grown, Certified by ECOCERT).
Other Ingredients: Vegetarian capsules**,
rice hull extract.
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.