Polygonum multiflorum and liver reactions

April 2006

Polygonum multiflorum root tuber is traditionally used in Chinese medicines as a tonic and an anti-aging remedy, particularly for hair loss and premature greying of hair. It is also known by the Chinese name He Shou Wu  (Heshouwu) and may be an ingredient of various products including Shen Min, Shou Wu Pian and Shou Wu Wan.

As of 30 March 2006, seven reports of suspected adverse reactions associated with Polygonum multiflorum have been reported to the MHRA through the Yellow Card Scheme.

All seven reports are of liver reactions and comprise one report of abnormal liver function, seven reports of jaundice, two reports hepatitis and one report of jaundice and hepatitis. The patients, five women and two men aged from 36 to 70 years old, were taking Polygonum multiflorum for hair loss (three patients had taken the product Shen Min and three patients had taken the product Shou Wu Wan). All the patients had recovered or were recovering after stopping Polygonum multiflorum.

Reports of hepatitis associated with Polygonum multiflorum have also been reported in the published literature (1-4).

There are many signs and symptoms of liver disease. These include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes), dark urine, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, weakness, stomach or abdominal pain, and /or loss of appetite. If you think you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should see your doctor. If a liver disorder is diagnosed it is recommended that you stop taking Polygonum multiflorum.

Anyone who has previously experienced any liver complaint or any other serious health complaint is advised not to take Polygonum multiflorum without speaking to their doctor first.

It is important to always discuss all of the medication you are taking, including herbal products, with your doctor or herbal practitioner to ensure you receive the appropriate care.

  1. Battinelli et al, (2004) New case of acute hepatitis following the consumption of Shou Wu Pian, a Chinese Herbal product derived from  Polygonum multiflorum. Ann Intern Med 140: E589
  2. But et al, (1996) Hepatitis related to the Chinese medicine Shou Wu Pian manufactured from Polygonum multiflorum. Vet Hum Toxicol 38: 208-282
  3. Park et al (2001) Acute hepatitis induced by Shou Wu Pian, a herbal product derived from Polygonum multiflorum. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 16: 115-117
  4. Panis et al (2005) Recurrent toxic hepatitis in a Caucasian girl related to the use of Shou-Wu-Pian, a Chinese herbal preparation. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 41: 256-258

Page last modified: 28 April 2006