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Fo-ti as an Herb

Fo-ti as an herb

Polygonum multiflorum

Other Names: Flaxseed, Lint Bells, Winterlien, Linseed

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fo-Ti is one of the herbs used to nourish the heart and calm the spirit. The name was given to the plant by a marketer in the early 1970s for the American herb business. In China, it is known as he-shou-wu. The literal English translation of its name is "vine to pass through the night."

Fo-ti Root Fo-ti is the dried or cured root of a twining vine in the knotweed family, found throughout China, except in the extreme northeast. It is also occasionally grown in American gardens as an ornamental. Fo-ti is a member of the buckwheat family.

With a distinctive sweet yet bitter taste, fo-ti was thought to unblock the channels of energy through the body, allowing the escape of the pathogenic influences that cause generalized weakness, soreness, pain, and fatigue.

Fo-Ti as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

In Chinese medicine the dried (unprocessed) root and the cured (processed) root are considered two different herbs. The unprocessed root is used to relax the bowels and detoxify the blood. The processed root is used to strengthen the blood, invigorate the liver and kidneys, and supplement vital energy (qi).

Processed fo-ti is one of the more widely used tonics in traditional Chinese medicine, which employs it to enhance longevity, increase vigor, and promote fertility. It is also an ingredient in formulas for premature gray hair, low back pain, angina pectoris, low energy, and other conditions.

The plant is also used as a wash for itching and skin rashes.

Several clinical studies in China suggest the processed herb is useful in treating high cholesterol, heart conditions, and chronic bronchitis. Mounting evidence supports fo-ti's traditional use as a tonic.

Fo-Ti is a mild stimulant to estrogen production in women, making it appropriate for treating a variety of undesirable symptoms in menopause.

Typical preparations are foti herbal tea and tinctures. Traditionally combined with jujubes and/or biota to treat insomnia with nightmares. Sometimes found in capsule form.

Culinary Uses of Fo-Ti

Foti Root None known.


The unprocessed root can cause loose stools or diarrhea, sometimes with intestinal pain and nausea. The unprocessed root is considered potentially more toxic than the processed form.

One case of allergic reaction to the cured root has been reported, although this form of fo-ti is considered to be minimally toxic when taken in proper doses. Large doses have resulted in numbness of the extremities as well as skin rashes.

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