Fo-Ti, also known as Chinese knotweed, is a perennial vine with broad arrowhead-shaped leaves native to central and southern China. Traditional Chinese medicine uses knotweed to balance energy in the kidney meridian, strengthen bones, prevent hair loss and premature graying, and protect the skin from sun damage. Scientific inquiry has produced evidence for a variety of potential health benefits and some potential detrimental effects of Fo-Ti. Consult a qualified health practitioner before using Fo-Ti.
The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine includes Fo-Ti along with Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, codonopsis, astragalus, devil's club and wild yam in a list of herbs that support healthy adrenal function. These herbs also assist with medical management of certain types of thyroid imbalance and reduce relapses of symptoms once thyroid treatment is completed.
Fo-Ti may provide anti-cancer benefits, according to a study of previously published research that appeared in the March 2012 issue of the "Journal of Dietary Supplements." The plant contains high concentrations of the antioxidant resveratrol, which is thought to decrease inflammation and regulate cell growth and reproduction. Resveratrol promotes programmed cell death and prevents uncontrolled cell reproduction. It also increases the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs. Researchers call for further studies to confirm these preliminary results in humans.
University of California researchers found high levels of estrogen activity in Fo-Ti, in a study published in the September 2003 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism." By contrast, chaste tree berry, black cohosh and dong quai, herbs commonly used for their purported estrogenic effects, did not show measurable activity in the study. Fo-Ti exhibited 1/300th of the activity of the hormone 17 beta-estradiol.
A study published in the September 2011 issue of the journal "Novon" found that Fo-Ti root contains several compounds with potential cardiovascular health benefits. However, concentrations of the bioactive substances tested in the study were lower than the minimum effective level specified by the China Pharmacopoeia Committee. A variety known as Fallopia multiflora angulata contained significantly lower levels of the compounds than Fallopia multiflora.
Fo-Ti may have carcinogenic properties, according to a study published in the August 2003 issue of the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry." The test-tube study of 22 herbal supplements and 21 foods found that ginseng, Fo-Ti, white oak bark, licorice, ginkgo biloba and black cohosh all stimulated a receptor, known as the Ah receptor, that activates a toxic response in cells. Foods in the study that also activated the Ah receptor include corn, jalapeño peppers, green bell peppers, apples, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.