Fo-ti is a plant native to China that is also found in Japan and Taiwan. The medicinal part of the plant is the root. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often boiled in a liquid made with black beans -- this is known as red fo-ti. White fo-ti is the unprocessed root. Fo-ti is called He shou wu, which means "black-haired Mr. He" in Chinese. This name refers to a legend of an older villager named Mr. He who took fo-ti and restored his black hair, youthful appearance and vitality.
In Chinese medicine the dried (unprocessed) root and the cured (processed) root are considered two different herbs. The unprocessed root is used to relax the bowels and detoxify the blood. The processed root is used to strengthen the blood, invigorate the liver and kidneys, and supplement vital energy (qi). Processed fo-ti is one of the more widely used tonics in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which employs it to enhance longevity, increase vigor, and promote fertility. It is also an ingredient in TCM formulas for premature gray hair, low back pain, angina pectoris, low energy, and other conditions.