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What Is He Shou Wu Used for Today?
He shou wu is widely marketed today as a general anti-aging herb, said to reduce cholesterol , prevent heart disease , prevent age-related loss of mental function , improve sleep , and extend life span. However, the evidence supporting these uses is far too preliminary to meaningfully indicate effectiveness for any of these proposed uses. 1 2 3 4 5 He shou wu is reputed to strengthen immunity ; however, one constituent of the herb, emodin, has shown some promise as an immune system suppressant! 6 Finally, He shou wu has a traditional reputation as a mild laxative . In support of this, it has been pointed out that emodin belongs to a family of chemicals called anthraquinones; other members of this family act as laxatives. However, animal research has failed to find any evidence that emodin itself has a laxative effect. 7
- Chang HM, But PP, eds. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica. Vol 1. Singapore: World Scientific; 1986: 620-624.
- Chen J. [An experimental study on the anti-senility effects of shou xing bu zhi] Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 9(4):226-7, 198.
- Hsieh MT, Peng WH, Wu CR, Wang WH. The ameliorating effects of the cognitive-enhancing Chinese herbs on scopolamine-induced amnesia in rats. Phytother Res. 14(5):375-7.
- Yim TK, Wu WK, Pak WF, et al. Myocardial protection against ischaemia-reperfusion injury by a Polygonum multiflorum extract supplemented 'Dang-Gui decoction for enriching blood', a compound formulation, ex vivo. Phytother Res. 2000;14:195-199.
- Yim TK, Wu WK, Mak DH, et al. Myocardial protective effect of an anthraquinone-containing extract of Polygonum multiflorum ex vivo. Planta Med. 1998;64:607-611.
- Huang HC, Chu SH, Chao PD. Vasorelaxants from Chinese herbs, emodin and scoparone, possess immunosuppressive properties. Eur J Pharmacol. 198(2-3):211-3.
- National Toxicology Program. NTP technical report on the toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of emodin. Research Triangle Park, NC: National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services; June 2001. NIH publication 01-3952.