Many herbs have stories associated with them. Often these stories are myths that helped people remember how to use a herb. One such Chinese herb that has a story is the herb He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum, Fo Ti, Fleece Flower root). The common Chinese name He Shou wu, literally translates to Mr. He Black Hair. That is because of the story that surrounds how this herb was found, and how its medicinal properties are understood.
The story goes that long ago there was a small farming village. In that village there lived a man by the name of He ( pronounced like "huh"). Mr. He was a thin weak man. Though he was still fairly young, he was already getting gray hair. His arms and back were not as strong as the other men. In a farming community that relied on sturdy people to work the fields, Mr. He always felt that he could not do his fair share. He was not desired by the women of the village as they wanted someone who would be a good provider. Fearful, and with a low self esteem, Mr. He lived quietly in the village.
One year a terrible drought hit the region. Food in the village was scarce and the work even harder. Water had to be carried to the fields, and to the farm animals. The wells got lower, making it all the more difficult to get water. Mr. He decided that the village would be better off without him. For the sake of the other villagers he quietly left the village one night, convinced that he would eventually die of starvation. After days of wandering he found shelter in a cave. He was starving and began eating the plants near the cave. Many did not taste good. Eventually he ate mostly one particular root of a local plant. It didn't taste real good but it did seem to be nourishing.
Mr. He lived in that cave for several years. He slowly worked harder and harder making a home for himself. Eventually he noticed that rains seemed more frequent and the valley was looking greener. Convinced that the drought was over he decided to return to the village. When he got there, the villagers did not recognize him. The man who came back had a strong straight back, walked with confidence and energy, and he no longer had gray hair, it was now black. Mr. He was surprised when he saw himself in a mirror. With his new found confidence he took his place with the villagers working hard in the fields. He eventually married and had many kids. The village herbalist named the root after Mr. He, and started collecting it to use for treating the elderly.
To this day He Shou Wu is one of the few herbs that is used alone. It is used to treat chronic low back pain, ringing in the ears, fear, infertility and of course for treating gray hair.
— David Bock
This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"
David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine
Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066