English: Fleeceflower roots

Chinese: 何首乌

Parts used: Dried prepared root

TCM category: Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Heart Kidney Liver

Scientific name: Polygonum multiflorum

Other names: Ho Shou Wu, Fo Ti Tieng, Fallopia multiflora or Chinese knotweed

Use of He Shou Wu (fleeceflower roots) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Extract the root, soak in water and remove impurities. Slice and dry in the shade. Steam and dry 9 times.

Dosage: 9-30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Nourishes the Liver, Kidneys and Essence. Tonifies the Blood. Moistens the Intestines. The raw form of this herb is used for Fire and toxicity.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which He Shou Wu may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Anemia Tinnitus Premature graying Knee pain Abnormal uterine bleeding Leukorrhalgia Malaria Hyperlipidemia Back pain Impaired vision Constipation Boils Abcesses Goiter Scrofula

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with diarrhea or when there are Phlegm conditions associated with Spleen Deficiency.

Common TCM formulas in which He Shou Wu is used*

Qi Bao Mei Ran Dan

Source date: 1590 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Enriches the Kidney Yin. Nourishes the Liver Blood.

Conditions targeted*: AlopeciaPremature graying of the hair and others

He Shou Wu is a king ingredient in Qi Bao Mei Ran Dan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Qi Bao Mei Ran Dan, He Shou Wu is bitter, which enables it to strengthen the sinews and bones. It is also astringent, which enable it to stabilize the Essence and thus the Kidneys. It is used here in a relatively large dosage. 

Read more about Qi Bao Mei Ran Dan

Dang Gui Yin Zi

Source date: 1253 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Nourishes the Blood. Moistens Dryness. Clears Heat. Dispels Wind. Relieves itching .

Conditions targeted*: UrticariaEczema and others

In Dang Gui Yin Zi, He Shou Wu tonifies the Liver and Kidneys, nourishes the Blood and Essence and expels Wind from the skin by nourishing the Blood.

Read more about Dang Gui Yin Zi

Key TCM concepts behind He Shou Wu's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), He Shou Wu belongs to the 'Tonic herbs for Blood Deficiency' category. Tonic herbs are used for patterns of Deficiency, when one lacks one of the 'Four Treasures' (Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang). Blood tonics tend to be bitter-sweet with either a Warm or neutral nature. Because the Liver stores Blood, all Blood tonics enter that Organ's Channel.

As suggested by its category He Shou Wu is Warm in nature. This means that He Shou Wu tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition He Shou Wu can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

He Shou Wu also tastes Bitter and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like He Shou Wu tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such He Shou Wu is thought to target the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and the Body Fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on He Shou Wu

The stilbene glycoside from Polygonum multiflorum Thunb possesses high in vivo antioxidant activity.1

Polygonum multiflorum Thunb water extract (PWE) exerts a preventive effect against cognitive deficits induced by Aβ25-35 accumulation in Alzheimer's disease.2


1. LiShuang Lv, XiaoHong Gu, Jian Tang, Chi-Tang Ho (2007). Antioxidant activity of stilbene glycoside from Polygonum multiflorum Thunb in vivo. Food Chemistry, 104(4): 1678-1681. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.03.022

2. Min-Young Um, Won-Hee Choi, Ji-Yun Aan, Sung-Ran Kim, Tae-Youl Ha (2006). Protective effect of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb on amyloid β-peptide 25-35 induced cognitive deficits in mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 104(1–2): 144-148. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2005.08.054.

Use of He Shou Wu as food

He Shou Wu is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as He shou wu soup with pork and black beans.