He Shou Wu – Polygonum multiflorum root – “Mr. He’s Black Hair”

Nature: bitter, sweet, astringent, slightly warm

Enters: Liver, Kidney

Actions: Nourishes blood; augments the Jing; secures the Jing and stops leakage; tonifies the liver and kidneys; eliminates toxicity and treats malaria; relieves fire toxicity; moistens the large intestine and promotes bowel movement; eliminates internal wind and expels wind from the skin (through nourishing blood).

• Jing and blood/Yin deficiency: dizziness, blurry vision, early greying of the hair, weakness of the lumbar region and knees, soreness in the extremities, insomnia, seminal emission, uterine bleeding.
• Jing leakage: nocturnal emission, premature ejaculation, vaginal discharge.
• Jing and blood deficiency: chronic malaria, carbuncles, lumps, constipation.
• Fire toxicity: carbuncles, neck lumps, goiter, sores, scrofula.
• Blood deficiency: wind rash with itching.
• Bensky/Gamble: compared to Shu di, He shou wu is thought to focus more on the liver, while Shu di focuses more on the kidneys.
PLB: when He shou wu is prepared with black beans, its action is focused more on the kidneys.
He shou wu is drier than Shu di. It does not have Shu di’s viscous, cloying properties, does not impair digestion, and is acceptable for use with mild dampness.
• Weaker than Shu di at nourishing blood, stronger than Shu di at nourishing Jing.
• Use the prepared form to nourish Jing and blood and tonify the liver and kidneys.
• Use the dry form to moisten the large intestine for constipation and for its anti-inflammatory action.
• Lowers serum cholesterol.
• Widely used for hypertension and coronary heart disease.
• Do not cook this herb in a steel vessel – it alters the chemistry of the herb.
• This herb is also known (mistakenly) as Fo ti tieng.
MLT: Often steamed with black soy beans and yellow rice wine (giving it a reddish-brown color) to increase its tonic properties.
• Its chemistry resembles human adrenocorticoids.
• Contains much lecithin (may be responsible for the herb’s cholesterol-controlling effects).
• Reduces the heart rate while slightly increasing circulation of blood through the heart.
• Very good for lumbar pain from blood/Jing deficiency.
HF: A supplement with an anti-Gu nature, possessing acrid, toxin-resolving qualities, useful in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas.
BF: In He Shou Wu Lu (Song of He Shou Wu), it is said that this herb boosts the Qi.
• In Dian Nan Ben Cao, it is said that this herb astringes the Jing and hardens the kidneys.
• In Kai Bao Ben Cao, it is said that this herb mainly treats scrofula, disperses welling abscesses and swellings, treats head and face wind sores and the five kinds of hemorrhoids, stops heart pain, boosts the blood and qi, blackens the hair, brightens the color of the cheeks, and also treats various women’s postpartum and abnormal vaginal discharge diseases (several of these patterns involve damp-heat).
Yoga: P, V-; K and ama+ (in excess)
• Tonic, rejuvenative, aphrodisiac, astringent, nervine.
• For anemia, neurasthenia, impotence, low back pain, enlarged lymph glands, arteriosclerosis, diabetes.
• With Gotu kola to counteract aging (He shou wu for the tissues, Gotu kola for the mind).
Hsu: Purgative (by anthraquinone derivatives) – stimulates intestinal peristalsis; inhibits increase in serum cholesterol, decreases absorption of cholesterol from the alimentary canal, prevents retention of lipid in serum or inhibits deposition of lipid on inner membrane of arteries; antiviral; cardiotonic.

Dose: 9-30g

2 comments on “He Shou Wu – Polygonum multiflorum root – “Mr. He’s Black Hair”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Does the prepared He Shou Wu help eliminate toxins as well as replenish and secure Jing?

  2. Peter Borten says:

    Yes but the unprepared form would be preferable for toxins. There’s really no reason to try to get all those properties from this herb … that’s what formulas are for. He shou wu is nobody’s first choice for fire toxins, and many would advise to address the toxins first, then tonify.

    In practice, though, there are some cases where this combination is handy. Specifically for chronic skin disease due to dryness from blood deficiency combined with heat toxicity (and probably blood stasis). Common in some forms of eczema & psoriasis. He shou wu is a good blood tonic in these cases, as it’s also useful for eliminating the wind aspect and helps a bit with itching. But I would always combine it with herbs to clear heat toxicity and cool the blood (pu gong ying, bai xian pi, Jin yin hua, zi cao gen, sheng di, etc.) – and probably some appropriate blood movers (Hong hua, Dan shen, etc)

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