Fo-ti

Scientific Name(s): Polygonum multiflorum Thunb. Family: Polygonaceae

Common Name(s): He shou wu (Chinese), flowery knotweed , climbing knotweed , Chinese cornbind . This plant should not be confused with the commercial product Fo-ti Tieng, which does not contain fo-ti.

Uses

Fo-ti has been used in China for its rejuvenating and toning properties, to increase liver and kidney function and to cleanse the blood. It is also used for insomnia, weak bones, constipation and atherosclerosis. It can increase fertility, increase blood sugar levels and relieve muscle aches and exhibits antimicrobial properties against mycobacteria and malaria.

Dosing

Fo-ti is used at daily doses of 9 to 15 g of raw herb; however, there do not appear to be any clinical studies supporting this dosage.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Little information exists on fo-ti's side effects. Discourage use in pregnant women.

Toxicology

There is little information in the area of toxicology from fo-ti.

Botany

Fo-ti is native to central and southern China and is distributed in Japan and Taiwan. It is a perennial climbing herb, which can grow to 30 feet in height. The plant has red stems, heart-shaped leaves and white or pink flowers. The roots of 3- to 4-year-old plants are dried in autumn. The stems and leaves are used also. 1 , 2

History

Fo-ti is a popular Chinese tonic herb, dating back to 713 A.D. 1 It is considered one of the country's great four herbal tonics (along with angelica, lycium and panax). 3 Regarded as a rejuvenating plant, fo-ti has been thought to prevent aging and to promote longevity. According to folklore, the older and larger roots have the most power. 1 One source quotes “...300-year-old (root) product makes one immortal.” 3

Chemistry

Fo-ti contains chrysophanic acid, chrysophanic acid anthrone and chrysophanol. Anthraquinones emodin and rhein are also present. Lecithin has also been found in the plant. 1 , 3 A stilbene glucoside from fo-ti has been identified. 4 A spectrophotometric assay of stilbene glucoside in another report may be used for quality control in the plant's processing. 5 Qualitative analysis and content determination of phospholipids in fo-ti drug vs four processed products have been performed. 6 An alcoholic extract from fo-ti roots yielded three bioactive compounds: E-2,3,5,4′-tetrahydroxystilbene, 2-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside and cis- and trans-E-3-butylidene-4,5,6,7-tetrahydro-6,7-dihydroxy-1(3H)-isobenzofuranone. Two of these compounds were found to be calcium-ATPase inhibitors. 7

Uses and Pharmacology

Rejuvenating and toning properties

In China, millions take fo-ti regularly for its rejuvenating and toning properties. It is used to increase liver and kidney function and to cleanse the blood. The plant is also prescribed for symptoms of premature aging such as gray hair. 1

Animal data

A Chinese-13-herb mixture (“shou xing bu zhi”) that includes fo-ti has been studied for its antisenility effects in mice. Results showed this mixture was effective in slowing the aging process. 8 It is also indicated for insomnia, weak bones, constipation and atherosclerosis. 2 Lifespan and lipid studies of fo-ti in quails have been performed. 9 Fo-ti also has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels in animals. 1 The root portion of the plant has exhibited an inhibitory effect on triglyceride accumulation and has reduced enlargement of mice livers. 10

Clinical data

In a clinical trial in humans, fo-ti had similar cholesterol-lowering effects. 1

Other uses

Emodin exhibited vasodilation and immunosuppressive effects in rats, suggesting its usefulness against transplantation rejection and autoimmune disease. Extract of he shou wu significantly reduced tumor incidence in rats in another report. 11 The Chinese use the root of the plant for cancer as well. 3

Stilbenes isolated from polygonum species have been evaluated on rat peritoneal polymorphonuclear leukocyte lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase activity. 12 A mixture including fo-ti has been studied for its effects on glucocorticoid receptor in senile rat thymocyte. 13 The plant has also been shown to inhibit lipid peroxidation in isolated rat heart mitochondria. 14 Fo-ti also exhibits antimicrobial properties against mycobacteria and malaria. 1

Other uses of the plant include: To increase fertility, 1 to increase blood sugar levels, 1 to treat anemia and to relieve muscle aches. 3

Dosage

Fo-ti is used at daily doses of 9 to 15 g of raw herb; however, there do not appear to be any clinical studies supporting this dosage.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

One case report describes herb-induced hepatitis in a 31-year-old pregnant Chinese woman from medicine prepared from the plant. 15 The use of these compounds in pregnant women should be discouraged.

Toxicology

There is little information in the area of toxicology from fo-ti. However, all plants that contain anthraquinone cathartic compounds should be used cautiously to prevent developing dependence on their laxative effects.

Bibliography

1. Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants . New York, NY: DK Publishing, 1996;121.
2. Reid D. Chinese Herbal Medicine . Boston, MA: Shambhala Publishing, Inc., 1994;150.
3. Duke J. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Inc., 1989;163-164.
4. Hata K, et al. Yakugaku Zasshi . 1975;95:211-213.
5. Liu C, et al. Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih . 1991;16:469-472.
6. Ma C, et al. Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih . 1991;16:662-664.
7. Grech J, et al. J Nat Prod . 1994;57:1682-1687.
8. Chen J. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih . 1989;9:226-227.
9. Wang W, et al. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih . 1988;8:223-224.
10. Liu C, et al. Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih . 1992;17:595-596.
11. Horikawa K, et al. Mutagenesis . 1994;9:523-526.
12. Kimura Y, et al. Biochim Biophys Acta . 1985;834:275-278.
13. Zhao W, et al. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih . 1995;15:92-94.
14. Hong, et al. Am J Chin Med . 1994;22:63-70.
15. But P, et al. Vet Hum Toxicol . 1996;38:280-282.

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