He Shou Wu is a well-known herb in traditional Chinese medicine which is often used as an anti-ageing remedy and for getting back the natural color of hair in people with gray hair issues. This is not surprising if you consider that its name translates to “Black-haired Mr. He” in Chinese. Chinese medicine claims that the kidneys are in charge of hair color and growth and since He Shou Wu is beneficial to both of these organs, it is only natural to conclude that it helps with hair issues mentioned above.
Many believe that He Shou Wu is the same type of remedy as Fo-Ti, which is simply not true. Fo-Ti is a commercial product which can have severe side effects, but luckily He Shou Wu may only cause mild side effects.
The first side effect in a form of a loose stool is only possible in people sensitive to He Shou Wu or the ones who take too much of it. He Shou Wu contains emodin which acts as a liver protective agent and laxative. In any case, diarrhea usually occurs from taking the raw, unprocessed root form of this herb, and in large quantities.
A small percentage of people are sensitive to He Shou Wu and in addition to diarrhea, they may notice a skin rash as well. It also occurs when large doses of this herb are taken and this side effect is recorded and confirmed.
In those who take very high doses of this herb (15 or more grams, which is 4-5x more than recommended), there is a possibility of extremity numbness. This uncomfortable side effect may happen after days of ingesting more than 15g of this, otherwise, very helpful herb.
Even though He Shou Wu doesn’t really increase estrogen levels, it mimics the effect of this hormone in women and also contains a couple of substances which may stimulate cancer growth. For that reason, women who are battling some types of cancers should avoid He Shou Wu.
In large doses, He Shou Wu can be toxic for the liver and cause issues like abnormal function, jaundice and even hepatitis. These are, however, very rare side effects of He Shou Wu.