What is Fleece Flower Root?
Fleece Flower Root (he shou wu, 何首乌), also known as the Polygonum Multiflorum Plant, is a popular herbal remedy used worldwide to promote good health and virility, as well as to treat a variety of different health conditions.
Its Chinese name translates to “the black-haired Mr.He”, and it is said that the herb was named after the transformational, youth-restoring effects it had on a particular Mr He when he discovered the herb.
According to a ninth-century tale, Mr He was an older man who was afflicted with illness and infertility. He discovered a plant with many vines as well as an abundance of intertwining tendrils. Noticing the nocturnal vitality of the plant, Mr He consumed the plant regularly for several years. Over time, his health and complexion improved, his vitality and virility were restored, his hair turned black, and he became a father of several children. The root of this plant is none other than Fleece Flower Root.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Fleece Flower Root falls under the category of ‘Tonic Herbs for Blood Deficiency’. It is Warm in nature, thus it can help individuals who have too much ‘Cold’ in their body, such as those who are experiencing a Yin Excess or a Yang Deficiency, to restore their yin-yang balance.
Sweet and bitter in taste, Fleece Flower Root tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness, and promoting elimination through urination and bowel movements. It also helps to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body by replenishing qi and blood.
Fleece Flower Root targets the Heart, Kidney and Liver. These organs are believed to help with regulating blood flow and vitality, regulating the urinary system and support the reproductive system, and regulating the movements of qi, body fluids and emotions respectively.
Functions and Benefits of Fleece Flower Root
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that there are four main benefits to using Fleece Flower Root.
Firstly, Fleece Flower Root nourishes the Liver, Kidneys and Essence. This helps to tackle conditions caused by premature ageing and declining physical health, such as grey hair, weakness in the lower back and knees, sore limbs, and declining brain functions. In particular, Fleece Flower Root is very notable for its effects in stimulating hair growth. According to TCM, healthy hair is a result of proper nutrition for qi flow, Liver and Kidney functions. As Fleece Flower Root can support qi flow in the body and supplement nutrition deficiency, this results in more nourishment for the scalp and hair. Also, Fleece Flower Root is often used to restore men’s sexual health. Other than instilling youthful energy into the human body, it is also said to treat reproduction-related conditions such as menopause.
Secondly, Fleece Flower Root tonifies the blood. This helps to expel Wind from the skin, and treats conditions caused by Blood Deficiency, such as vertigo, tinnitus, anxiety and panic attacks. This herb is lauded for the support it lends to the growth and development of blood cells and red blood cell membranes. It is also indicated that Fleece Flower Root is useful in treating chronic malaria caused by either qi or Blood Deficiency.
Thirdly, Fleece Flower Root moistens the intestines to smooth stools and improves constipation, which is also often associated with Blood Deficiency.
Fourthly, Fleece Flower Root can relieve toxicity, and is thus used in treatments for ulcers and tuberculosis. In addition, it can also relieve itching. Hence, it is often combined with other phlegm-eliminating herbs and Heat-clearing herbs to treat swelling and pain.
How to Use Fleece Flower Root
Traditionally, Fleece Flower Root is available to consumers in the form of powder or concoction. As it has an earthy taste, it can be used as a black tea substitute. It is also often combined with other herbs to brew herbal tea.
Today, many individuals add Fleece Flower Root to their diet by adding a teaspoon of it to their beverages, such as fruit juice or smoothie. Some even sprinkle Fleece Flower Root on their food, bread or other bites.
Fleece Flower Root needs to be cooked before consumption. Washing it thoroughly before cooking may help to remove some bitterness.
We need to be careful when preparing Fleece Flower Root to remove emodin, a natural laxative. If you are not that confident about your preparation skills, there is always Fleece Flower Root powder available in TCM stores!
Cautions and Side Effects of Fleece Flower Root
Some common side effects that come with the consumption of Fleece Flower Root are diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Hence, this herb should not be used by individuals who are experiencing diarrhoea or phlegm conditions associated with Spleen Deficiency.
Also, while it’s rare, Fleece Flower Root has been linked to cases of liver damage. Most of the individuals who experience this side effect have recovered with treatment, but some cases of chronic liver disease and death have still been recorded. In particular, the risks of liver injury may increase with longer-term use or high doses. Patients who consumed doses of less than 12 grams per day took an average of 60 days to develop the condition, whereas those who consumed doses higher than 12 grams developed a liver injury in an average of 30 days.
Fleece Flower Root is also thought to mimic estrogen in the body. Hence, individuals should be cautious about taking herbs if they are experiencing health conditions linked to estrogen, such as estrogen-related breast cancer.
Fleece Flower Root is also not recommended for those with water retention and heavy oral discharge.
Here is a summary for Fleece Flower Root:
- Herb name (Chinese): 何首乌
- Herb name (Pin Yin): hé shǒu wū
- Herb name (English): Fleece Flower Root
- Herb name (Botanical): Radix Polygoni Multiflori
- Origin of species: Polygonum multiflorum Thunb.
- Part(s) of herb used: Root tuber
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Most parts of China
- Taste(s) & Properties: Bitter, sweet, astringent; Slightly warm; Administrates the Kidney and Liver meridians
- Actions: Eases symptoms of premature ageing, e.g. blurred vision, hair greying, weak knees and sore lower back; Relieves constipated conditions.
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