How the Benefits of Fo-Ti Extend to Hair and Vitality

by Lauren Tannenbaum · Updated April 14, 2022
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It’s time you got to know Fo-Ti. Fo-Ti, aka He Shou Wu, is a revered plant in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) gaining popularity in the West for its diverse herbal benefits. Many of its pros include long and luscious locks, but it also can lead to hormonal and libido boosts in some cases, too. Keep reading to learn more about the different Fo-Ti benefits, how to use Fo-Ti root for hair growth and how to use Fo-Ti for grey hair, as well as vitality and hormones.

What Is Fo-Ti?

Fo Ti—scientifically known as Polygonum multiflorum—is a plant native to China. However, it also grows in Taiwan and Japan.

Westerners renamed the plant Fo-Ti when they were trying to market it to consumers in the US. Its traditional name, and the name still used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is He Shou Wu.

Fo-Ti appears in documents as far back as 713 AD and is a staple in TCM. A perennial tuber, it presents as a vine and is part of the polygonaceae buckwheat family. Its flowers come in a variety of pink and white shades and are favored by pollinators across the land.

Man bent over showing his gray hair to illustrate concept of fo-ti benefits for hair to reduce and prevent gray hair

Fo-Ti Benefits for Hair

For its first trick, Fo-Ti can reduce hair loss, and you can take Fo-Ti for hair growth. The verdict is still out on how exactly this happens. But a 2015 study suggests that Fo-Ti stimulates hair growth by working on the FGF-7 gene, which encodes proteins specific to epithelial cell (the cells that line glands and tissues) growth, and therefore hair growth, when administered orally.

In people who have androgen, an excess of the hormone testosterone, such as in PCOS or amenorrhea, Fo-Ti might also be able to improve hair growth where it has thinned due to that increase in testosterone, explains Christina Burns, L.Ac, a Doctor of Chinese Medicine and founder of Naturna, an integrative medicine practice in New York City. 

It also stimulates SHH expression. Studies suggest that the SHH gene, a crucial growth regulator in embryonic hair follicles, may also have an effect on postnatal hair growth when administered topically.

Lastly, perhaps a more impressive Fo-Ti benefit for hair is its ability to significantly boost color. Research shows that Fo-Ti has a positive impact on gray hair—both to better maintain your natural color and delay the onset of new grays. In general, tonics containing Fo-Ti can potentially darken the hair. “In research, it was shown to work by promoting growth of dermal papilla cells in hair follicles,” Burns says. Those are cells that initiate hair follicle regeneration. “My patients report thicker, darker hair within four to 12 weeks of usage,” adds Burns. 

Other Fo-Ti Benefits

Promotes Vitality

People who need a boost in vitality may find Fo-Ti particularly beneficial. This go-to plant for healthy aging is deeply nourishing and supportive by building strength and improving overall health.

As with any plant medicine, there are usually a number of reasons, constituents, and interactions that contribute to its healing, pro-aging benefits. One possible factor here is Fo-Ti’s antioxidative properties.

May Boost Libido

Herbalists are known to use Fo-Ti as a sexual wellness tonic, perhaps due to its general benefits for longevity.

Since Fo-Ti may help reduce cholesterol, it’ll interact with the endocrine system. And since the endocrine system regulates hormones, libido regulation would be included as well. 

That said, Fo-Ti may help increase libido, regulate sex drive, and improve general stamina.

Supports Estrogen Levels

The research on Fo-Ti and estrogen, while older, is compelling. It’s possible that Fo-Ti could provide a natural alternative for those who need to boost their levels of the primary female sex hormone. In general, there seem to be compounds called phytoestrogenic compounds in Fo-Ti. “These can mimic the body’s estrogen by binding to its receptors and offering some of the benefits: fuller skin, fuller hair, better fatty metabolism, and treatment of insulin resistance and diabetes,” Burns says. 

It might also offer osteoporosis prevention, according to animal studies (these haven’t been replicated in humans yet). Another Fo-Ti benefit may helping with the regulation of hormones post-menopause, says Burns. 

How to Take FO-TI

You can take Fo-Ti in a number of forms. It’s lovely as a tea, but is also traditionally eaten in soup. You can also take it in supplement form, as well as in a powder or extract.

Asian woman with beautiful long hair thanks to He Shou Wu, or Fo-Ti benefits for hair and vitality

Is Fo-Ti Safe?

To ensure the safety of taking Fo-Ti, always look for supplements from trusted companies backed by valid research. Additionally, be sure to follow proper dosage instructions. According to Burns, it’s best not to exceed a dosage of 15 grams of Fo-Ti per day—the typical dosage will be 9 to 15 grams, boiled into tea. You can also take it in a tincture or capsule form, which would be 3 to 4 grams each, twice daily. You can take Fo-Ti in whatever formula you think will help your body best digest it, Burns says. 

People who aren’t advised to take Fo-Ti include:

  • Children
  • Pregnant women
  • Women breastfeeding
  • Those with abnormal blood sugar
  • Those with compromised liver health (in excess, Fo-Ti can potentially cause liver damage, Burns says). 

The verdict is also still out on whether Fo-Ti is safe for those with estrogen-sensitive conditions, such as a history of breast cancer or endometriosis, on account of the plant’s phytoestrogens. Of course, it’s best to err on the side of caution and consult your doctor on the matter.

Next, Fo-Ti may interact with medications such as warfarin, ibuprofen, and amitriptyline, as well as diabetes medication and laxatives, to name a few.

Additionally, you should stop using Fo-Ti two weeks before surgery since it may interfere with blood sugar and clotting.

Finally, you may want to consider taking Fo-Ti under the guidance of an herbalist, TCM practitioner, or after consulting your physician.

Final Thoughts

Whether you know it by Fo-Ti or He Shou Wu, this ancient plant holds intrigue that only seems to get better with age. Mindfully incorporate Fo-Ti into your routine, and you may just get better with age, too.


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