Fo-Ti is known as one of China’s four great treasure medicines (others: ginseng, deer antler velvet, and Ganoderma lucidum)
In empirical medicine, what are the benefits of Fo-Ti? Are there any side effects of Fo-Ti? See text analysis for details.
What is Fo-Ti?
Fo-Ti is a species of plant in the family Tateaceae, a perennial herb whose common medicinal site is its tuber-like root (dark brown in color), as a famous Chinese herbal medicine, first recorded in the “Kaibao Materia Medica” published in the Song Dynasty, and is now widely used in North America, named Fo-ti.
At present, there are two forms of Fo-Ti used in traditional Chinese medicine, one is the raw form, which is mainly used for detoxification, eliminating redness and swelling, preventing miasma and laxation.
The other is a processed form that is used to nourish the liver and kidneys, tonify sperm, replenish blood, black hair, strengthen bones, remove dampness, and lower blood lipids.
Modern pharmacological studies have shown that Fo-Ti has anti-inflammatory, hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic effects, protecting the liver, enhancing immunity, improving memory, protecting nerve cells, antioxidant, anti-aging and other effects.
Its main active compounds, including: stilbenes, quinones, phenolic acids and flavonoids.
What are the empirical benefits of Fo-Ti?
1. Fo-Ti is beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most devastating brain diseases for the elderly, and in 1906, Alois Alzheimer defined the disease according to criteria for progressive memory loss, disorientation, and markers of brain pathology (plaques and neurofibrillary tangles), which can be divided into familial and sporadic, as well as early-onset (under 65 years of age) and late-onset (over 65 years of age).
Clinical manifestations include impairments in memory and language, visuospatial localization, and advanced executive function, and noncognitive changes include personality changes, decreased judgment, wandering, confusion, mood disturbances, agitation, and sleep abnormalities.
Patients usually present early with irritability and personality changes. In advanced stages, gait and movement disorders usually develop, eventually becoming speechless and bedridden, with an average of 8 to 10 years of life after diagnosis.
A controlled study (12 weeks, 209 Alzheimer’s patients) showed that compared with the unilateral Fo-Ti extract and Western medicine control group, the combination Fo-Ti extract had a better Alzheimer’s disease improvement effect (measured by the simple mental status examination and the Daily Living Ability Scale). Note 1
*Conclusion: extract may have a positive help in Alzheimer’s disease, but limited by the small sample size, more studies are still needed to support it
2. Fo-Ti prevents gray hair
Gray hair is a natural feature related to age (regardless of gender and hair color), the normal age of occurrence is about 34 years old in Caucasians and 43.9 years in Africans, while according to statistics, at 50 years old, about half of the population has 50% gray hair.
For men, graying usually starts at the sideburns, women usually start at the perimeter of the hairline, and slowly, the top, sides, and back of the hair turn white.
Since graying of hair is considered a sign of aging, premature graying can negatively affect an individual’s self-esteem.
In an animal experiment, Fo-Ti (especially crude medicinal extract) was found to increase melanin in hair and reverse hydrogen peroxide-induced hair discoloration. Note 2
The mechanism behind it may be related to the upregulation of α-melanocytes stimulating hormone (α-MSH), melanocortin receptor (MC1R), and tyrosinase (TYR) expression, resulting in more melanin.
*Conclusion: Animal studies suggest that Fo-Ti may be helpful in preventing gray hair, but further verification is still needed in human studies
3. Fo-Ti is beneficial for hair loss
Hair loss affects up to 50% of men and women, causing anxiety and disability that can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.
This condition is associated with follicle autoimmune diseases, genetic background, hormones, medications, and psychological stress, all of which alter the follicle cycle.
The clinical treatment of hair loss can be divided into two types: surgical treatment and drug treatment. Although hair transplantation is reliable, the invasive procedure, high price, and limited source of hair follicles limit its wide application.
So far, only finasteride and minoxidil have been approved by the FDA. However, the efficacy of these drugs varies from person to person and has side effects, so many alternative therapies have emerged.
An animal study has pointed out that topical application of Fo-Ti extract can increase the number and size of hair follicles, thereby promoting hair growth. Note 3
*Conclusion: Topical application of Fo-Ti extract may improve some types of hair loss, but further verification is still needed in human studies
4. Fo-Ti is good for bone health
Skeleton is a composite structure consisting of inorganic mineral crystals, extracellular organic matrix, lipids, and water. With age, the composition, structure and function of bones gradually deteriorate, which can easily lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance between bone resorption and bone formation, resulting in a deterioration of bone mass and microstructure, accompanied by an increased risk of fragility fractures.
Intrinsic factors contributing to osteoporosis include genetics, peak bone mass accumulation in youth, changes in cellular composition, hormones, and vascular status. External factors include nutrition, exercise, comorbidities, and medications.
An animal study pointed out that supplementation with Fo-Ti water extract can improve bone density and bone mass by regulating osteoclast-related genes. Note 4
*Conclusion: Fo-Ti may have positive help in improving bone health, but it still needs to be further verified by human studies
5. Fo-Ti is beneficial to allergic asthma
Allergic asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes recurrent episodes of wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness and coughing, especially at night or early in the morning, and it affects more than 3 million people worldwide.
The disease occurs most often in childhood, is usually controlled by inhaled drugs, has a different natural history, and up to one in four people may continue to experience symptoms or relapse into adulthood.
An animal study has shown that Fo-Ti can reduce allergic asthma symptoms by inhibiting inflammation, goblet cell proliferation and airway hyperresponsiveness. Note 5
*Conclusion: Fo-Ti extract may help improve allergic asthma, but further verification is still needed in human studies
Are there any side effects of Fo-Ti?
Due to the lack of well-designed clinical studies, the safety profile of Fo-Ti is relatively unknown, and common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting
In addition, some cases have been reported to have caused liver injury with the use of Fo-Ti, especially in the case of high doses and prolonged use
Safety precautions (13 contraindications for use)
1. Avoid taking Fo-Ti related products without medical supervision
2. Do not use by children (due to unknown safety)
3. Do not use if pregnant or lactating women (as it may affect embryonic development and cause diarrhea)
4. May affect blood sugar control, so diabetic patients or people taking related hypoglycemic drugs should not use, common drug names are: glimepiride, glyburide (glibenclamide), insulin, pioglitazone, rosiglitazone, chlorpropamide, glipizide (chlorpropamide), tolbutamide
5. Do not use in patients with abnormal liver and kidney function (may cause worsening of symptoms)
6. Do not use for hormonal sensitivities, such as breast, uterine, ovarian, endometriosis or uterine fibroids (due to estrogen-like effects)
7. Do not use for patients with abnormal coagulation function or taking anticoagulants (because Fo-Ti has anticoagulant effect)
8. Do not use for 2 weeks before surgery (as it may affect coagulation function and blood sugar control)
9. Do not use with the heart disease drug Digoxin, it may increase the side effects of the drug
10. Do not use in combination with drugs that need to be metabolized by cytochrome P450 (Cytochrome P450) enzymes, which may affect the efficacy of the drug or increase the probability of side effects, common drug names are:
Amtriptyline, Haloperidol, Ondansetron, Propranolol, Theophylline, Verapamil, Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, Pantoprazole, Diazepam, Carisoprodol, Nelfinavir, Diclofenac, ibuprofen, Meloxicam, Piroxicam, Celecoxib, Amitriptyline, Warfarin, Glipizide, Losartan, Lovastatin, Ketoconazole, Itraconazole, Fexofenadine, Triazolam
11. Do not use it with hepatotoxic drugs, which may increase the risk of liver damage, common related drug names are:
Acetaminophen, amiodarone, carbamazepine, isoniazid, methotrexate, methyldopa, fluconazole, itraconazole, erythromycin, phenytoin, lovastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin
12. Because Fo-Ti has a stimulating laxative effect, so do not use it with irritating laxatives, it may increase intestinal peristalsis, improve dehydration and the occurrence of low mineral content in the body, common related drug names are: bisacodyl (bisacetylphenidine), cascara (rat buckthorn), castor oil, senna
13. Do not use it with diuretics, it may cause excessive loss of important electrolytes (sodium, potassium) in the body, common related drug names are: chlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, furosemide (furanide), hydrochlorothiazide