Fo-ti contains beneficial dietary lectin compounds that have been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels. Lectins are protein-sugar complexes that attach to specific arrangements of carbohydrates in the body, acting like antibodies but without the allergy symptoms. It is through this mechanism that they can block the formation of plaque in blood vessels, preventing or delaying the onset of heart conditions such as heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Increased fertility, sexual vigour and the ability to treat erectile dysfunction are other benefits you can expect to receive from fo-ti. Researchers believe these effects are due to the proven ability of this herb to raise red blood cell counts and improve circulation – meaning fo-ti’s power to increase blood flow to “all the right places” could be the key to its success in the bedroom.
In TCM this herb is known as a “Jing” tonic, which loosely translates as “vital essence” and refers to the primordial energy that fuels all life and, by extension, sexuality and drive.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found “surprisingly high oestrogen activity” in fo-ti, suggesting it may alleviate symptoms of menopause.
In Asia, fo-ti is famed for reversing grey hair. It is thought to do this through its ability to restore melanin – the pigment that gives hair and skin its colour. Improved blood circulation and flow to the hair follicles is thought to be responsible for this root’s ability to prevent hair loss.
Research has shown that the fo-ti root increases the production of the body’s master antioxidant, superoxide dismutase (SOD). Levels of this important antioxidant decline with age, leaving the body open to damage by one of the most dangerous free radicals – superoxide. Preventing this damage addresses the fundamental cause of aging, damage to the DNA by oxygen-free radicals.
To further boost the antioxidant activity of this root, it also contains the powerful antioxidants stilbene glycosides. Combining these with the increased production of SOD is possibly the most significant function that fo-ti has for enhancing longevity.
Depending on your current health and any ailments you’re dealing with, you might benefit from taking it with antiviral herbs to boost your immune system or adaptogen herbs to help you deal with stress. For example, fo-ti can be used with ginger to improve digestion, licorice root to fight viruses or infections, cat’s claw to reduce aches and pains, ashwagandha to reduce anxiety, and calendula to help treat skin conditions.