In TCM, fo-ti is used as a tonic for treating dizziness, blurred vision, greying hair, soreness/weakness of lower back and knees, spermatorrhea (involuntary ejaculation), and nocturnal emissions (ejaculation while sleeping), which are believed in TCM to be associated with blood deficiencies. The type of fo-ti typically used is red fo-ti, which is the root boiled in a liquid made with black beans.

Fo-ti is also used in TCM to treat a variety of other ailments, including:1

High cholesterol levels
Menstrual issues
Malaria symptoms

The unprocessed root, known as white fo-ti due to its light colour, is traditionally used for treating constipation or is applied topically to the skin for treating acne, athlete’s foot, or dermatitis.

Although some preliminary laboratory and animal research suggests that fo-ti may

have certain beneficial effects, there’s currently a lack of clinical trials to support these findings.

side effects of fo-ti

Verywell / Emily Roberts
Possible Side Effects
Children and pregnant and breastfeeding women shouldn’t use fo-ti. It shouldn’t be taken in the weeks prior to surgery.

Fo-ti can cause a number of side effects, including loose stools and diahorrea. Fo-ti may affect blood sugar levels, particularly in people with diabetes. Rarely, people develop an allergic skin rash after taking fo-ti.

Fo-ti may interact adversely with medications such as digoxin, stimulant laxatives, and diabetes drugs.

Liver Damage Hepatitis (liver inflammation) has been reported following the use of fo-ti. In a review of 450 case reports about liver damage associated with fo-ti, researchers concluded that fo-ti “causes liver toxicity

and may cause liver damage in different degrees and even lead to death; most of them are much related to long-term and overdose of drugs.”

While this correlation is cause for concern, this study failed to show that fo-ti was isolated as the cause of liver damage, and the study also shows some bias. The report’s authors also stated that the liver damage associated with fo-ti is reversible and that after active treatment, the majority could be cured.

This herb can interact with drugs that affect the liver, such as ibuprofen, warfarin, and amitriptyline.

Estrogen Effects

People with estrogen-related cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, and prostate, in particular, should avoid fo-ti, as the effect of hormonal effect in humans isn’t known.

One study tested 32 plants used for menopause in traditional Chinese medicine. They found that fo-ti had the greatest estrogenic activity