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Polygonum multiflorum - Thunb.

Common Name He Shou Wu, Tuber fleeceflower
Family Polygonaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards Although no specific mention has been made for this species, there have been reports that some members of this genus can cause photosensitivity in susceptible people. Many species also contain oxalic acid (the distinctive lemony flavour of sorrel) - whilst not toxic this substance can bind up other minerals making them unavailable to the body and leading to mineral deficiency. Having said that, a number of common foods such as sorrel and rhubarb contain oxalic acid and the leaves of most members of this genus are nutritious and beneficial to eat in moderate quantities. Cooking the leaves will reduce their content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[238].
Habitats Woods, north to latitude 42° 30' north[74]. Along the banks of streams and in valley shrub thickets[147].
Range E. Asia - China.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Polygonum multiflorum He Shou Wu, Tuber fleeceflower

Polygonum multiflorum He Shou Wu, Tuber fleeceflower


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Polygonum multiflorum is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 4.5 m (14ft 9in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7. It is in flower from September to October, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Root  Seed
Edible Uses:

Leaves - raw or cooked. Seed - raw or cooked. It is rather small and fiddly to utilize[105]. Flowers[179]. No more details are given. Root - cooked[2, 177]. It should be washed several times in order to leech out the bitterness[179]. This process will also remove many of the vitamins and minerals from the roots[K]. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails[105].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antibacterial  Anticholesterolemic  Antipyretic  Antispasmodic  Antitumor  Astringent  Cardiotonic  Demulcent  
Deobstruent  Hypoglycaemic  Laxative  Sedative  Tonic  Urinary

He Shou Wu is considered to be one of the most important of the Chinese herbal tonics and is widely used in that country[218]. It is said to restore vitality and virility[174], working especially on the liver and the reproductive, urinary and circulatory systems[238]. Some care should be exercised, however, since excessive doses can cause skin rash and numbness of the extremities[238]. The roots and stems are antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, antispasmodic, astringent, cardiotonic, demulcent, depurative, hypoglycaemic, laxative, sedative, tonic[116, 147, 174, 176, 238, 279]. The roots are taken internally in the treatment of menstrual and menopausal complaints, constipation in the elderly, swollen lymph glands and high cholesterol levels[238]. They are very effective in reducing high cholesterol levels in the blood and increase blood sugar levels[254]. Externally, they are used to treat ringworm, bleeding wounds and sores[238]. The roots are harvested in the autumn, preferably from plants 3 - 4 years old, and are dried for later use[238]. The leaves and roots tonify the liver and kidneys, fortify the blood, strengthen the muscles and prevent premature greying of the hair[218]. The stem is deobstruent and sedative[218]. It is taken internally in the treatment of insomnia and neurasthenia whilst it is applied externally to ringworm[176, 238]. The stems are harvested in late summer or early autumn and are dried for later use[238]. Extracts of the plant have shown antipyretic, antitumour, hypoglycaemic and sedative activity[218].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Succeeds in an ordinary garden soil[1] but prefers a moisture retentive not too fertile soil in sun or part shade[200]. Repays generous treatment[1]. This species is hardy to at least -15°c[238]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233]. There is a suggestion that this plant might be dioecious[178], in which case male and female plants will need to be grown if seed is required.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually free and easy. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer if they have reached sufficient size. If not, overwinter them in a cold frame and plant them out the following spring after the last expected frosts. Division in spring or autumn. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Polygonum alaskanumAlaska Wild RhubarbPerennial1.8 -  LMHSNM21 
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Polygonum aviculareKnotweed, Prostrate knotweedAnnual0.3 4-8  LMHSNM231
Polygonum barbatumJoint WeedPerennial0.8 -  LMHSNM11 
Polygonum bistortaBistort, Meadow bistort, SnakeweedPerennial0.5 4-7 FLMHSNMWe332
Polygonum bistortoidesAmerican BistortPerennial0.5 4-8  LMHSNM31 
Polygonum bungeanumBunge's smartweedAnnual0.8 0-0  LMHSNM10 
Polygonum coccineumWater SmartweedPerennial0.5 4-8  LMHSNWeWa10 
Polygonum conspicuum Perennial0.6 -  LMHSNM10 
Polygonum convolvulusBlack BindweedAnnual1.2 0-0  LMHSNM100
Polygonum divaricatum Perennial1.0 -  LMHSNDM10 
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Polygonum equisetiforme Perennial1.0 7-10  LMHNDM102
Polygonum fugax Perennial0.0 -  LMHSNM30 
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Polygonum japonicumJapanese Knotweed, Mexican Bamboo, Japanese KnotweedPerennial3.0 4-10 FLMHSNM333
Polygonum lapathifoliumCurlytop KnotweedAnnual0.8 4-8  LMHSNMWe111
Polygonum limosum Perennial1.8 -  LMHSNM10 
Polygonum longisetumOriental lady's thumbAnnual0.5 0-0  LMHSNMWe10 
Polygonum maackianum Annual0.8 -  LMHSNMWe10 
Polygonum manshurienseAsian BistortPerennial0.8 -  LMHSNMwe01 
Polygonum microcephalum Perennial0.5 -  LMHSNM10 
Polygonum minusPygmy smartweedAnnual0.3 0-0  LMHSNMWe10 
Polygonum molle Perennial2.5 6-9 FLMHSNM212
Polygonum nepalenseNepalese smartweedAnnual0.3 0-0  LMHSNMWe111
Polygonum orientalePrince's Feather, Kiss me over the garden gateAnnual1.5 0-0  LMHSNM220

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Jim   Sat Nov 5 2005

From someone who has found the benefit's of FO-TI: I believe the comments in the "known hazards" should be reviewed, specifically People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition[238]. Scientific studies : Refer the root of the part when prepared in proper fashion to contain phospolipids, antraquiones, and bianthraquionyl glucosides. The principle actions of the major constituents are purgative, cholestorl lowering, anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, and antiviral. These effects are thought to be owing to the plant's leucoanthocyanidins (LAC) (NAS). Further a positive dose-response relationship has not been found for any mutagenic actvity of FO-TI, which is generally an area of concern during any AMES-test EG: FO-TI is not mutagenic. Essentially indications are that this fine herb indeed possess excellent attributes which if further studied (likely not by any pharma company) would provide indication that FO-TI is likely one of the world's best herbal tonic that exist in the world. One would be wise to include this in a daily diet! As such for conditions such as gout, enteritis, hypertension it is actually quite beneficial. Having a conclusion related to the oxalates is not a valid position or at best, when FO-TI root is boiled the Oxalic acid content is voided, so would not have an adverse effect as noted. Reference material such as HSU, H. Chung yao tsai chih yen chiu (study of chinese medicinal plants) Taipei: Hsin i-yao cu-pan-she/ Modern drug press, 1980 Huan, H.C. Chu, S.H. & Chao, P.D. Vasorelaxants from chinese herbs, emodin and scoparoline, possess immuno-suppressive properties, (European journal of pharmacology) 1991 Muddathir, A.K., et al. Anthelmintic properties of Polygonum Multiflorum glabrum. Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology 1987 Are excellent starting points based on some other references which were not noted, specific to hard scientific data. Otherwise I think the details presented are generally positive, from which I believe further positive detail related to this, generally well tolerated tonic root and specific gravity related to it's beneficial effects should be explored- Especially if you want to live a long life! JL

Froggy   Mon Nov 7 2005

Polygonum Multiflorum Thunb seems to work with combination of Achyranhes Aspera, signifigant weight loss is also another positive side affect.

joel harvey   Thu Jun 19 2008

This is useful, however it is missing the traditional Chinese functions and primary chemical constituants for this herb which are: Fleece Flower Root - Polygoni Multiflori - He Shou Wu Strengthens the Liver and Kidneys,Benefits the Hair, Nourishes the Blood, Benefits and Retains the Essence, Detoxifies Fire Poison, Moistens the Intestines, Expells Wind from the Skin. chrysophanic acid, emodin, rhein, chrysophonic acid anthrone, lecithin

Chinese Herbal Medicines Made in USA Contains A Patient's Guide to Chinese Medicine and many useful articles about Chinese herbs

Milla de Villiers   Wed Mar 18 2009

Polygonum multiflorum is now called fallopia multiflora? Can anyone advise where to obtain seed?

   Sun Sep 27 2009

I grew the plant in southern wisconsin and it seeded profusely but i have not found a source of seeds- I was given a plant.

Chris   Sun Nov 1 2009

Thank You

Janice   Fri Jan 22 2010

I have used polygonum multiflorum for the past couple of years. I have used it more consistently for about 3 months, 1200mg. daily. It has a very calming effect, lowers my blood pressure and completely eliminates lower back pain (which says a lot for me because I've had intense lower back pain due to a car accident 4 years ago).

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