He Shou Wu is a popular traditional Chinese medicine herb that helps to promote good health, utilized as a therapy against various conditions. It is thought of as a versatile herb for a wide variety of benefits, derived from the perennial plant, Polygonum multiflorum.
A review in 2015 evaluated the current research on He Shou Wu. Laboratory in vitro studies found the plant to be anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. And these behaviors are especially applicable in diseases including HIV, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and atherosclerosis.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Herb
Researchers back in 1994 evaluated six Chinese medicinal herbs against three environmental carcinogens. One of these carcinogens included benzo(a)pyrene, a chemical found in the air from tobacco smoking. And recall that a carcinogen is a chemical with the potential to cause cancer.
The researchers injected rats with benzo(a)pyrene and then administered water extracts of the herbs, including He Shou Wou. After 50 weeks, the rats were examined for the presence of tumors. He Shou Wou significantly reduced the tumor incidence in the rats in comparison to the other herbs, demonstrating anti-tumor activity of the herb.
Within He Shou Wu, different compounds can perform different effects in the human body. These compounds include anthraquinones.
Another study in 1994 extracted the anthraquinones from He Shou Wu to observe their activity on human cancer cells. Anthraquinones are inhibitors of the enzyme Cdc25B phosphatase, which is necessary for cell reproduction. Without the appropriate activity of this enzyme, a cancer cell growth would be impaired.
The researchers injected the anthraquinones into human colon cancer cells and found them to inhibit their growth.
The above studies demonstrate that He Shou Wu has demonstrated antitumor effects in a living animal model as well as in human colon cancer cells in a lab. The next step is to evaluate these effects in a living human body.
Researchers in 2010 evaluated an extract from He Shou Wu for its ability to prevent diabetic kidney disease in animal models. The extract was found to significantly inhibit diabetes-induced overexpression of two compounds that can induce pathways leading to kidney disease, TGF-beta1, and COX-2. These compounds behaved as anti-inflammatories, reducing the stress load in the disease process.
In 2005, an animal study explored He Shou Wu for atherosclerosis. The researchers fed rabbits a high-cholesterol diet to induce atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a build-up of fats, including cholesterol, on arterial walls.
The study included a control group with a normal diet, a high cholesterol diet, and a high cholesterol diet group with the addition of doses of a water-soluble extract of He Shou Wu. Within the group that received He Shou Wu, the researchers provided three different doses.
After 12 weeks, the researchers evaluated the animals. The animals who received the He Shou Wu had reduced increases in several fat measurements including plasma cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and plasma triglyceride.
The higher doses of He Shou Wu additionally decreased the ratio of an atherosclerotic lesioned area in comparison to the overall surface area. Therefore, the herb not on reduced the precursors to the disease, such as plasma cholesterol, but the amount of atherosclerotic areas.
Rabbit research model
To investigate the potential for He Shou Wu to affect dementia, researchers in 2006 conducted a comparison animal study. Mice models either received an injection of the main component of He Shou Wu, 2,3,5,4’-tetrahydeoxystillbene-2-O-beta-D-glucoside (TSG), or nothing and were placed in the control group.
The learning-memory ability of the mice was measured by two tests: the Morris water maze and the object recognition test. The mice who received TSG, had improvements in spatial learning-memory impairment, as shown in the Morris water maze test, and object recognition impairment as shown in the object recognition test.
This study concluded that TSG could be considered as a future therapeutic drug for Alzheimer’s disease.
Hair Growth & Color
Patient with increased hair growth
Isolates from He Shou Wu have additionally been found to help promote hair growth. A study in 2013 compared compounds isolated from He Shou Wu to Minoxidil. Minoxidil is a pharmaceutical solution and foam often recommended to assist hair growth in the treatment of male pattern baldness.
One of these compounds, torachrysone-8-O-beta-D-glucoside, increased the proliferation of dermal papilla cells, cells essential in hair growth. The proliferation of the cells in vitro were then supported by clinical outcomes in animal models.
In rat models, the usage of this compound for 21 days increased hair-fiber length significantly.
A randomized controlled animal study in 2015 examined He Shou Wu to prevent hair graying. The researchers found He Shou Wu to promote hair pigmentosus in mice that had faded hair color.
These studies are suggesting that He Shou Wu holds the potential to not only promote hair growth, but hair color as well!
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 2014 patients with dyslipidemia were randomized to either receive an herbal formula or a placebo for 12 weeks. The herbal formula contained six herbs, including He Shou Wu.
The researchers collected lipid profiles, glucose levels, and HbA1c levels of participants before and after the study. The patients who received the herbal formula had a significant decrease in HbA1c. And the reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol was 9% greater in the group that received the herb than the formula.
While all of the previously mentioned studies showed the mechanism of the herb, this human study showed how the herb could produce clinically relevant outcomes in patients.
Above are a lot of words explaining the variety of activities that He Shou Wu can carry out in the body. These mainly in vitro and animal studies are exciting because they are able to pinpoint how exactly the herb behaves. The data show significant potential for the herb to be utilized as a human therapy.