He shou wu, also known as foti or Chinese knotweed, is one of the most highly-prized herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and for good reason. This mighty root is said to prevent hair loss and reverse greying, plus it’s believed to promote vitality, increase energy and even enhance libido. While he shou wu’s legend is interesting, we take a deeper look into this super herb, and ask, can he shou wu really reverse hair loss?
What Exactly Is He Shou Wu?
Before we dive into the benefits of this precious herb, let's take a closer look at exactly what it is. He shou wu is the name of the plant, yet it’s the polygonum multiflorum root which is harvested for its many health-promoting qualities.
The aged root is carefully prepared, traditionally by being simmered in a black bean stew, and then dried and ground up to create a fine superfood powder. This slow process helps to break down some of its compounds so that the nutrients are more easily digestible by the body. He shou wu is typically taken as a powder, in capsule form, or, for increased potency, as a concentrated extract powder.
He Shou Wu: Back to Its Roots
He shou wu has an impressive backstory: legend states that it was first discovered by an old man called He Tianer. A local monk told Mr Tainer that this root possess incredible health benefits and that he should prepare it and take it on a daily basis. After one year of taking the root, Mr. Tianer's had increased energy, a full thick head of black hair, and had fathered a child. This story is what gave the herb its name, as he shou wu loosely translates as Mr. He’s hair is black.
But Can He Shou Wu Really Reverse Hair Loss and Greying?
Legend aside, there are a few scientific studies which reveal how this herb can provide nourishment for the hair. From a nutritional standpoint, he shou wu is rich in antioxidants, lecithin, and zinc, plus it contains more iron than the goji berries. It also contains superoxide dismutase (SOD), which is an enzyme that helps to fight free radical damage and it is anti-inflammatory too.
When looking at it from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective (TCM), healthy hair is linked to the health of the blood, liver and kidneys. He shou wu is classed as a Jing tonic. Jing is one of the ‘three treasures’ in TCM, and it refers to the essence which is responsible for the healthy functioning of the physical body, partially when it comes to kidney health and reproduction. As we age, we naturally lose our jing stores, which TCM practitioners believe results in loss of energy and zest for life. One major way to replenish jing is to intake certain tonic herbs and medicinal mushrooms including he shou wu and reishi, and to also undertake jing-boosting practices such as qigong and tai chi.
Several studies reveal that he shou wu contains both radix polygoni multiflori and hypolipidemic agents. The combination of these two health compounds have been shown to lower levels of lipids, and nourish the liver and kidneys and inhibit the take of bad cholesterol. The results of these studies indicate that if your hair issues are linked to blood, kidney or liver issues, then he shou wu may be beneficial in helping to reverse grey hair and reduce hair loss.
It’s the combination of health compounds and jing-nourishing qualities that make he shou wu a go-to for herbalists who are wanting to treat a range of hair problems.
Other Health Benefits of He Shou Wu
When you ingest this incredibly powerful root you will be nourishing your body with a huge variety of vitamins, minerals and health compounds. So even if you're not dealing with hair loss, a receding hairline or signs of greying (just yet), he shou wu is still a beneficial health supplement. Here are some of the other main health benefits of he shou wu:
- Beautifying: Helps to strengthen nails and improve skin condition
- Circulation-Boosting: Improves blood flow in the body
- Anti-Anxiety: Has calming qualities
- Anti-Ageing: Antioxidants and lecithin may slow-down the ageing process
- Aphrodisiac: Boosts libido and supports a healthy sex drive
- Longevity: Contains SOD which is one of the most powerful antioxidants around
- Mildly Sedative: Helps to relax the body, produce feelings of calm and aid sound sleep
- Adrenal Health: May help to strengthen the adrenal glands
- Blood-Cleansing: Iron and zinc build the blood
- Jing Tonic: Notifies the kidney and increases vitality
- Adaptogen: Enables the body to better deal with physical and environmental stress
How to Take He Shou Wu for Hair Loss
If you're taking he shou wu for hair loss, then it's best to purchase a highly concentrated extract powder. These extracts go through a gentle process that makes them way more powerful than the raw root, so essentially you will be receiving up to ten times the nutrients in each serving. He shou wu extract powder will dissolve instantly in warm water, or you can simply add it to your juices, smoothies and other culinary creations.
While more studies still need to be done on this herb, you only have to read reviews to see just how many people report noticing thicker, stronger and more lustrous hair after taking he shou wu regularly. This superstar superfoods certainly brings with it a myriad of other benefits too, so it’s well worth adding it to your diet. Enjoy!
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