Fo-ti is a plant native to China, where it continues to be widely grown. It also grows extensively in Japan and Taiwan. The unprocessed root is sometimes used medicinally. However, once it has been boiled in a special liquid made from black beans, it is considered a superior and rather different medicine according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. The unprocessed root is sometimes called white fo-ti and the processed root red fo-ti. According to Chinese herbal medicine, the unprocessed root is used to relax the bowels and detoxify the blood, and the processed root is used to strengthen the blood, invigorate the kidneys and liver, and serve as a tonic to increase overall vitality.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
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The unprocessed roots of fo-ti possess a mild laxative effect.
The unprocessed roots of fo-ti possess a mild laxative effect. The bitter compounds in dandelion leaves and root are also mild laxatives.
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Preliminary Chinese research has found that high doses of the herb fo-ti may lower cholesterol levels.
Preliminary Chinese research has found that high doses (12 grams per day) of the herb fo-ti may lower cholesterol levels. Double-blind or other controlled trials are needed to determine fo-ti’s use in lowering cholesterol. A tea may be made from processed roots by boiling 3 to 5 grams in a cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Three or more cups should be drunk each day. Fo-ti tablets containing 500 mg each are also available. Doctors may suggest taking five of these tablets three times per day.
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Preliminary research suggests that fo-ti plays a role in a strong immune system and has antibacterial action.
Preliminary research suggests that plays a role in a strong immune system and has antibacterial action. More research is needed to further understand the potential importance of these effects.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
The Chinese common name for fo-ti, he-shou-wu, was the name of a Tang dynasty man whose infertility was supposedly cured by fo-ti. In addition, his long life was attributed to the tonic properties of this herb.1 Since then, Traditional Chinese Medicine has used fo-ti to treat premature aging, weakness, vaginal discharges, numerous infectious diseases, angina pectoris, and erectile dysfunction.
How It Works
How It Works
The major constituents of fo-ti are anthraquinones, phospholipids (e.g., lecithin), tannins, and tetrahydroxystilbene glucoside. The processed root has been used to lower cholesterol levels in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to animal research, it helps to decrease fat deposits in the blood and possibly prevent atherosclerosis.2, 3 However, human clinical trials are lacking to support this use. Test tube studies have suggested fo-ti’s ability to stimulate immune function, increase red blood cell formation, and exert an antibacterial action.4 None of these effects has been studied in humans. The unprocessed roots have a mild laxative action.
How to Use It
The typical recommended intake is 1–1 1/2 teaspoons (4–8 grams) per day.5 A tea can be made from processed roots by boiling 1/2–1 teaspoons (3–5 grams) in 1 cup (250 ml) of water for ten to fifteen minutes. Three or more cups are suggested each day. Five fo-ti tablets (500 mg each) can be taken three times per day.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Many drugs used in the treatment of high blood pressure cause relaxation or dilation of blood vessels. Laboratory studies show that emodin, a compound in Polygonum multiflorum, also relaxes blood vessels. However, animal studies reveal that phenylephrine blocks the action of emodin.6 Controlled studies are needed to determine whether Polygonum multiflorum helps people with high blood pressure and whether phenylephrine blocks its beneficial effects.
The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The unprocessed roots may cause mild diarrhea.7 Some people who are sensitive to fo-ti may develop a skin rash. Taking more than 15 grams of processed root powder may cause numbness in the arms or legs.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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