The herb is known as a tonic that can restore youthful characteristics like vitality and energy. The medicinal part of fo-ti is the dried root. In Chinese medicine, fo-ti is used to combat premature aging. It is said to increase strength and tone the liver, kidneys and blood. Fo-ti is also used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
There are two types of fo-ti used as herbal remedies, white and red. White fo-ti is the unprocessed root of the plant.
It is often used to keep the digestive tract functioning and to cleanse the blood. Red fo-ti is the processed root, which is used as an overall tonic.
In traditional Chinese medicine, red fo-ti is often recommended to strengthen the blood, promote youthful vitality, increase fertility and treat fatigue, back pain, angina pectoris and other conditions associated with wear and tear on the body.
There is also evidence that red fo-ti can boost immunity and prevent the growth of bacteria. Further, fo-ti may be useful in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Animal studies suggest that the lectins in unprocessed (white) fo-ti prevent the build-up of cholesterol in the liver and blood. It may also reduce the formation of plaque on the walls of arteries.
Though there are few formal studies of the effects of fo-ti on humans, animal studies suggest a possible increase in memory and learning as a result of taking the herb, and it is believed that fo-ti can protect certain neurons in the brain from degeneration associated with aging. Fo-ti also appears to facilitate the production of red blood cells and improve the ability of animals to adapt to cold weather.
There are several ways to take fo-ti. It is available in capsules, tablets, tinctures and powders, and the whole or sliced root can be used medicinally as well. In the West, there is little distinction made between unprocessed (white) and processed (red) fo-ti. Since there is some difference in the benefits of the herb based on whether it is processed or not, it is important to find out which form of the herb one is using.
The less-expensive, unprocessed root tends to be more readily available, so those wanting to use the herb as a tonic to promote longevity should be sure they are using a processed preparation of fo-ti. Processed fo-ti is a dark, reddish brown color, while the unprocessed root is a lighter brown.
A few precautions should be followed when using this herb. First, keep in mind that unprocessed fo-ti will have a laxative effect and may cause abdominal pain or nausea. Fo-ti is considered safe when taken in proper amounts, but excess intake can cause numbness in the extremities or an allergic reaction in the form of a rash.
Unprocessed fo-ti should not be taken in doses that exceed 15 grams of the pure root. Also, since fo-ti has estrogenic properties, people with any kind of reproductive cancer should consult medical advice and use extreme caution when considering the use of fo-ti.