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What is Fo-Ti?

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. Raw, wine- or steam-processed, or cured fo-ti is available in the United States.

Scientific Name(s)

Polygonum multiflorum

Common Name(s)

Fo-ti also is known as he shou wu, flowery knotweed, climbing knotweed, Chinese cornbind, and tuber fleeceflower. This plant should not be confused with the commercial product Fo-ti Tieng, which does not contain fo-ti.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Fo-ti is a popular Chinese tonic herb, dating back to 713 AD. 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, and is commonly found in hair care products in China. It is also used to treat insomnia, weak bones, constipation, and hardening and narrowing of the arteries. 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, potentially offering mortality.

General uses

Because evidence exists of liver injury in humans, P. multiflorum and its extracts should be considered toxic to the liver. However, the plant is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and in the Ayurvedic medical system of India for its rejuvenating and toning properties, to increase liver and kidney function, for treatment of mental disorders and abnormal amounts of lipids in the blood, and to cleanse the blood. Clinical trials are lacking to support claims for therapeutic purposes, but topical applications for the treatment of baldness and in the treatment of nervous tissue diseases are being investigated.

What is the recommended dosage?

Fo-ti is used at daily doses of 9 to 15 g of raw herb, but clinical studies are lacking. A standard dose in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia is 3 to 12 g/day.


Liver disease.


Avoid use. Embryonic toxicity has been reported.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Fo-ti is widely used in Chinese medicine; however, adverse event reporting under clinical trial conditions is lacking. Liver toxicity has been documented.


Because evidence of liver injury in humans exists, consider P. multiflorum and its extracts toxic to the liver. The plant may also be toxic to the kidneys, nerves, and embryos.


1. Fo-ti. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; October 2015.

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