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In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fo-Ti is one of the herbs used to nourish the heart and calm the spirit. It has red stems, heart shaped leaves and either white or pink flowers.
The literal English translation of its name is "vine to pass through the night." With a distinctive sweet yet bitter taste, fo-ti was thought to unblock the channels of energy through the body, allowing the escape of the pathogenic influences that cause generalized weakness, soreness, pain, and fatigue.
Depending on the method of processing, there are four different types of Fo-Ti on the market: raw, cured, wine, and steamed.
Raw and cured are the most used, and the ones mostly imported into the US. The plant is also used as a wash for itching and skin rashes. Another use of the herb is bringing color back to graying hair. The Chinese nickname for the herb, ho shou wu, literally means "Mr. He's Black Hair," Mr. He being a man of Chinese legend who restored his youth and sexual potency by taking Fo-Ti tea.
Chinese tradition teaches that the herb should be used by itself or cured in the water used to cook black beans for this purpose. The curing of Fo-Ti has been found to increase the phosphates (presumably lecithin) by close to 30%, also increasing the sugar content.
The production of traditional Fo-Ti root according to traditional Chinese medicine is revered and is keep as a close secret, however the basic process involves curing raw Fo-Ti roots in a soup of black bean sauce and wine. Those with gluten sensitivities may want to avoid using this product.