The Tao of Tincture: Shou Wu Chih Longevity Tonic

Shou Wu Chih

“The root of the 50-year-old plant is called “mountain slave:” taken for a year, it will preserve the black color of the hair. The root of the 100-year-old plant is called “mountain brother:” taken for a year, it will bring a glowing complexion and a cheerful disposition. The root of the 150-year-old plant is called “mountain uncle:” taken for a year, it will rejuvenate the teeth. The root of the 200-year-old plant is called “mountain father:” taken for a year it will banish old age and give the power to run like a deer. The root of the 300-year-old plant is called “mountain spirit:” taken for a year, one becomes an earthly immortal”

- Li Shizhen’s famous Materia Medica of 1578, Bencao Gang Mu

Shou Wu Chih is the classic longevity tonic of Chinatown apothecaries, a murky, amber elixir sitting soddenly on dusty old shelves, winking at ya coyly with esoteric splendor.  Anchored by the magnanimous moxie of He Shou Wu (Chinese Fleeceflower Root), it finesses one’s savoir-faire by nourishing the blood and essence, warming the stomach, boosting the spleen and strengthening the tendons and bones. One could use this medicinally for anemia, poor digestion, arthritic aches & pains, sexual joie de vivre, and increasing sperm count. One could also knock a few back before meals as an aromatic aperitif.

There’s a fabulously gallant fable culled from the annals of Chinese esoterica that immortalizes the braggadocio of He Shou Wu. Its history dates back to 800 AD, and it has still remained a colloquial anecdote in both Chinese households and herbal circles.

Old Mr. He was an impotent curmudgeon (I’ve always thought of him as a grizzled Chinese Kris Kristofferson), a dastardly drunk who honky-tonked all night and slept alone under the stars. One portentous Sunday-morning-coming-down, he found himself nursing a Haggard-sized hangover in the fields, staring up at a bodacious vine twisting and twining itself into the cursed heavens. Its bedeviled root reminded Mr. He of two lovers intertwined, and sensing a message from Lady Nature, he decided he would grind the root into a powder so that he could sustain himself while he rotted in the woods. Within months, Mr. He had a raging libido and the vim & vinegar of a teenager. Within a year, his snow-white hair turned back to pitch-black, earning He Shou Wu its name: ‘Mr. He’s Black Hair.’

Shou Wu Chih

Raw herbs for Shou Wu Chih can be procured at your local Chinatown Apothecary – I love the chaotic sprawl and epic tea selection at Wing Hop Fung in downtown Los Angeles. If you prefer to peruse the ether, you’d be much obliged to check out Spring Wind DispensaryFat Turtle HerbsNuHerbs and Mayway.

For this tincture, you will need the following accoutrements:

He Shou Wu/Fleeceflower (Rx. Polygoni Multiflori) 50 g
Dang Gui (Rx. Angelicae Sinensis) 50 g
Huang Jing (Rhz. Polygonati) 40 g
Sheng Di Huang (Rx. Rehmanniae) 20 g
Chuan Xiong (Rhz. Chuanxiong) 15 g
Bai Zhi (Rx. Angelicae Dahurica) 14 g
Sha Ren/Cardamom Pods (Fr. Amomi) 4 g
Fo Shou (Fr. Citri Sacrodactyli) 5 g
Ding Xiang/Cloves (Fl. Caryophylli) 2 g

1 Liter Prairie Organic Vodka

1 gallon glass jar, for infusing your medicinals

Muddle your medicinals with your vodka in a sterilized glass vessel with a secure lid. Age for at least one month in a deliciously dingy crevasse of your liking. Take one shot of this affable alembic daily, or mix with warm water, freshly squeezed lemon and raw honey for a Taoist Toddy.