He Shou Wu (or Ho Shou Wu), a Chinese herb, is the cooked and less toxic form, of Fo-Ti. It’s supposed to reverse the graying and thinning of hair, relieve middle-aged women of various symptoms of low estrogen due to its phytoestrogen content, increase energy levels, and increase the libido in both genders. It’s purported to generally slow down aging as it is high in an enzyme that helps reduce cellular damage known as superoxide dismutase.
I’d first heard about the herb on some Aussie’s vlog, and recalled it again in the summer of 2020 because I was dismayed at how thin my hair was getting, as well as the grayness that had seeped into it seemingly overnight. A quick search, and I found a brand with rave reviews. It was an alcohol tincture, the most potent form of herbal medicine next to essential oils.
I’m not sure if it did much for the color of my hair in the few short months I took it, but after using it for only a couple of weeks, my son quit complaining about finding hair in his smoothies…and I quit feeling them sliding down my arm constantly, and seeing them on the floor.
Even before that, within the first couple of days of taking it, I began sleeping better than I had for years.
After about a month, the phytoestrogens kicked in. I’d also been desperate to rid myself of the awful hot flashes (worse, the near-anxiety-attack aura that preceded them). Over the first month of taking the He Shou Wu, they gradually became less intense and less frequent, finally disappearing altogether. Not too much longer, and I realized my digestive system was behaving much better than it had in years, and I was no longer dealing with mood swings. Also for the first time in years, I was feeling happy every single day, all day long. The fatigue was gone, as were most of the random aches and pains.
And then, they sold out.
Long story short, I tried three other brands, one the dried herb in a capsule, one in vegetable glycerin, the last another in an alcohol tincture.
They did nothing.
My husband took the capsule form for a few weeks, because of his thinning hair, and he told me that it did worse than nothing. It kicked away his libido and drained him of energy – the exact opposite the herb is supposed to do!
The brand I’d originally purchased the He Shou Wu from is Herb-Pharm, a reputable company that follows all the rules. I’d wondered how it was that these other companies were managing to formulate He Shou Wu products when Herb-Pharm could not.
Because, I finally concluded, they were either not using the herb at all, or were obtaining an inferior quality of the herb.
I also have to wonder at the four- and five-star reviews of those other three brands.
So, does He Shou Wu work? In my experience, yes.
But I don’t know if, in the U.S., we’ll ever be able to get our hands on the good stuff again. I’ve found other means to raising my estrogen levels – though not stop my hair from turning gray – and I’ll talk about that shortly.