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Kudzu

Kudzu is a coarse, high-climbing, twining, trailing, perennial vine. The huge root, which can grow to the size of a human, is the source of medicinal preparations used in traditional Chinese medicine and modern herbal products. Kudzu grows in most shaded areas in mountains, fields, along roadsides, thickets, and thin forests throughout most of China and the southeastern United States. The root of another Asian species of kudzu, Pueraria thomsonii, is also used for herbal products.(1)

Kudzu is cooked as food in China, and also is used as a traditional Chinese medicine herb. In the United States, however, kudzu has become an invasive pest. This perennial vine that has choked out other vegetation and killed trees has been the subject of recent study. Long used in traditional Chinese medicine for conditions such as hypertension, neck and backaches, and coronary heart disease, kudzu has been shown to be effective in curbing alcohol consumption. The amazing results of a recent clinical trial that took place at McLean Hospital in Belmont Massachusetts were just released: in a naturalistic laboratory setting, kudzu supplementation led to fewer beers consumed, smaller sips, and a greater amount of time between sips.
 
Browse Sections:
 Summary
 Other Names
 Description
 Traditional Internal Uses
 Indications
 Actions
 Constituents / Nutrients
 Pharmacological Summary
 Scientific Research / Actions
 Research
 Precautions / Contraindications
 Interaction with Medications
 Possible Side Effects
 Dosage
 Preparation
 References

Common Name
Kudzu
 
Botanical Latin Name / Classification
Pueraria lobata
 
Parts Used
Roots, vines and flowers
 
Other Names
Kuzu (Japanese), Pueraria, Gat Gun, Ge Gan, Ge-Gen, Gwat Gun, Mile-a-minute Vine, Foot-a-night Vine, Vine that ate the south.

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Description
Kudzu is one of about 20 species in the genus Pueraria in the pea family Fabaceae, sub-family Faboideae. It is native to southern Japan and southeast China in eastern Asia. The name comes from the Japanese "kuzu", meaning "vine".

Kudzu is a climbing, woody or semi-woody perennial vine capable of reaching heights of 20 - 30 meters in trees, but also scrambles extensively over lower vegetation. The leaves are deciduous, alternate and compound, with a leaf stem of 10 - 20 centimeters long and three broad leaflets that are 14 - 18 centimeters in length and 10 centimeters in width. The kudzu flowers are 10 - 25 centimeters long with 30 - 80 individual blooms at the nodes on the stems. Each flower is about 1 - 1.5 centimeters long, purple in color and highly fragrant.

The non-woody parts of the plant are edible with the young leaves being used for salads or cooked as a leaf vegetable. The flowers are battered and fried (like squash flowers); and the roots can be prepared as with any root vegetable.

Kudzu is sometimes referred to as 'the plant that ate the south,' a reference to how kudzu's explosive growth has been most prolific in the southeastern United States due to nearly ideal growing conditions. Significant sums of money and effort are spent each growing season to prevent kudzu from taking over roads, bridges, power lines and local vegetation.

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Traditional Internal Uses
Studies have shown that kudzu can reduce both hangovers and alcohol cravings. The mechanism for this is not yet established, but it may have to do with both alcohol metabolism and the reward circuits in the brain. Kudzu also contains a number of useful isoflavones, including daidzein (an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent), daidzin (a cancer preventitive) and genistein (an antileukemic agent). Kudzu is also a unique source of a fourth isoflavone, puerarin. Kudzu root compounds can affect neurotransmitters (including serotonin, GABA and glutamate) and it has shown value in treating migraine and cluster headaches. Kudzu has traditionally been used for a variety of condition including migraine, hypertension (high blood pressure), pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, allergies, and angina.

The first written mention of the plant as a medicine is in the ancient herbal text of Shen Nong (circa A.D.100).

In traditional Chinese medicine, kudzu root is used in prescriptions for the treatment of "wei", or "superficial" syndrome (a disease that manifests just under the surface - mild, but with fever).1 It has also been used in the treatment of tinnitus and vertigo.

Official in the 1985 Chinese Pharmacopoeia, kudzu root or "ge-gen" is traditionally used as a diaphoretic for fevers accompanied by discomfort or pain in the neck and back. It is also used to relieve thirst caused by fevers, and for hypertensive headaches, and coronary heart disease.

Experimentally, intravenous injections of the active component of the root (flavonoids, including daidzin, daidzein, and puerarin) reduces blood pressure and venous obstruction. Oral administration of the crude root slightly reduces blood pressure.

Kudzu is used as a folk remedy to sober-up an unconscious drunk. For this purpose the root is pulverized to obtain the fresh juice, enough to obtain 12 shot-glassfuls. This treatment is said to help the drunk regain consciousness (Foster and Yue 1992).

In many parts of Asia, kudzu is roasted in a dry pan in order to make an excellent tonic for the spleen, and to help treat diarrhea. Kudzu is both a traditional Chinese herb and a food in China. Cooked as a food, it is used as a thickening agent in making sauces, soups and puddings. It can be used as a starch for people who do not digest grains well. The young leaves, shoots, and flowers can be steamed or sautéed as a vegetable. They may also be pickled.

The roots of the kudzu vine provide a fiber for the textile industry. The process for extracting the starch from the roots is tedious and can take up to 120 days, during which it is chopped, washed, pounded into a mass, and filtered up to 50 times.

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Indications
Primary Indications: Alcoholism

Secondary Indications: Angina Pectoris (Chest Pain)

Secondary Indications: Back Pain

Other Indications: Diarrhea (Diarrhoea)

Fever

Other Indications: Food Allergies / Sensitivities

Secondary Indications: Healthy Heart Support, Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Other Indications: Measles

Secondary Indications: Migraine Headache Support

Other Indications: Spleen Disorders

Thirst

Secondary Indications: Vein Health / Venous Insufficiency

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Actions
Alexteric

Antemetic, Anti-Arrhythmic, Anti-Diarrheal, Anti-Emetic, Anticonvulsant, Antidote (Anti-Toxic), Antioxidant, Antipyretic, Antispasmodic, Antiviral

Cardiotonic

Demulcent, Detoxifying, Diaphoretic

Digestive, Diuretic, Emetic, Febrifuge

Galactogogue

Hypoglycemic (Anti-Hyperglycemic), Hypotensive (Anti-Hypertensive), Immunity-enhancing

Nervine, Refrigerant, Sialagogue

Vaso-Protective, Vasodilator

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Constituents / Nutrients
Kudzu contains the following phytochemicals:

The primary chemical constituents of kudzu include starch, isoflavonoids, puerarin, daidzein, and phytoestrogens. Kudzu root is high in isoflavones, such as daidzein, as well as isoflavone glycosides, such as daidzin and puerarin. Depending on its growing conditions, the total isoflavone content varies from 1.77 to 12%, with puerarin in the highest concentration, followed by daidzin and daidzein.2

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Pharmacological Summary
Extracts of kudzu containing a variety of isoflavones have been shown to reduce alcohol drinking in rats and hamsters. The reason for the success of kudzu, where alcohol consumption is concerned, is that the weed contains isoflavones which naturally reduced the urge to consume alcohol in research subjects. Until very recently, this effect has been limited to animal test subjects. For humans, recent clinical trials at McLean Hospital in Belmont Massachusetts have concluded that an extract of this leguminous plant may be a useful adjunct in reducing alcohol intake in a naturalistic setting.

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Scientific Research and Pharmacologicial Actions
In 1992, the Shin-Yang University in China issued a press release stating that two professors of psychiatry had reduced the alcohol-intake of alcohol-preferring rats by giving them a compound derived from a mixture of seven Chinese herbs, including kudzu. In the next six months, David Overstreet and Amir Rezvani fielded more than 60 telephone calls, mostly from people who wanted to get some of the mixture for a friend or relative. The callers thought that their loved ones could "take this medicine and maintain the myth that they're not alcoholic," Overstreet says, "because they're taking something that's natural and good for you." The idea of using an herbal remedy to help fight alcoholism might sound strange. But many modern medicines, including aspirin and morphine, were derived from plants or herbal preparations, Rezvani says. In 1992, the National Institutes of Health established the Office of Alternative Medicine, which awards small grants for the study of treatments such as herbal medicine, hypnosis and acupuncture.

In May 2005, the Research Society on Alcoholism conducted a study wherein both male and female "heavy" drinkers were treated with either a placebo or kudzu for a period of seven days and then given the opportunity to drink their preferred brand of beer or wine in a naturalistic laboratory setting. It was found that kudzu treatment resulted in a significant reduction in the number of drinks consumed and an increase in the number or sips it took a participant to consume their beverage and also increase in the length of time it took a participant to consume their beverage. This data suggests that kudzu may be a useful adjunct in reducing alcohol intake. Kudzu is now gaining notoriety for lessening the pain in those who suffer with migraine headaches and/or cluster headaches. After discovering that kudzu contains serotonin, some long-time sufferers tried kudzu and achieved promising results. Among the first 20 users, approximately 70 percent reported an improvement.

A widely publicized 1993 animal study showed that both daidzin and daidzein inhibit the desire for alcohol.3 The authors concluded the root extract may in fact be useful for reducing the urge for alcohol and as treatment for alcoholism.

Kudzu flowers have been shown to be effective in lessening the desire for alcohol, and thus are used in the treatment of alcoholism. This herb also helps counteract poisons. A recent study conducted by Harvard Medical Center indicates that kudzu can help reduce the craving for alcohol. Of the available medications for treating alcohol-related problems, none are universally effective, and all have side effects that may limit their use. Extracts of kudzu containing a variety of isoflavones have been shown to reduce alcohol drinking in rats and hamsters.

Method: The study was designed to test the efficacy of a kudzu extract in a clinical population. Male and female "heavy" alcohol drinkers were treated with either placebo or a kudzu extract for 7 days and then given an opportunity to drink their preferred brand of beer while in a naturalistic laboratory setting. Participants served as their own controls, and order of treatment exposure was counterbalanced. Drinking behavior was monitored by a digital scale that was located in the top of an end table.

Results: Kudzu treatment resulted in significant reduction in the number of beers consumed that was paralleled by an increase in the number of sips and the time to consume each beer and a decrease in the volume of each sip. These changes occurred in the absence of a significant effect on the urge to drink alcohol. There were no reported side effects of kudzu treatment.4

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Research
"Kudzu Helps Curb Binge Drinking"


"Turning Off Cravings For Alcohol?"

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Precautions / Contraindications
Kudzu is considered safe for long-term use, although it is advised that pregnant women avoid taking this herb. Anyone already taking prescription medication, should consult a qualified healthcare practitioner before taking kudzu supplements.

This medicinal plant has been used for centuries in Asia and is not likely to cause harm when taken in commonly recommended dosages and forms.

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Interaction with Medications
Consult a qualified healthcare specialist, preferably one who is well-versed in herbal medicine, to identify any specific adverse interactions between kudzu and other herbs or prescription drugs that you are already taking.

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Possible Side Effects
None reported. Do not exceed recommended dosages.

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Dosage
The 1985 Chinese Pharmacopoeia suggests 9-15 grams of kudzu root per day.5 In China, standardized root extracts (10 mg tablet is equivalent to 1.5 grams of the crude root) are used to treat angina pectoris.

Dried Extract: Kudzu root capsules are generally available in strengths that range from 500 to 1200 mg or higher. Within herbal blends, quantities of kudzu root are significantly smaller. Typically, a capsule strength of 400 to 600 mg is recommended to be taken 3 times daily. Some sources recommend a lower dosage of 30 to 120 mg of the extract two to three times per day.5

Liquid Extract: For alcoholism, 1 tsp. alcohol-free liquid extract 3 times daily.

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Preparation
For an energizing tea, stir 1 teaspoon of kudzu into 1 cup cool water. Add 1/2 fresh grated ginger root and a few drops of tamari. Stir while heating. Drink 1 cup daily.

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References
1. Foster S. Kudzu root monograph. Quart Rev Nat Med 1994;Winter:303-8.
2. Zhao SP, Zhang YZ. Quantitative TLC-densitometry of isoflavones in Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi. Yaoxue Xuebao 1985;20:203-8.
3. Keung WM, Vallee BL. Daidzin and daidzein suppress free-choice ethanol intake by Syrian Golden hamsters. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1993;90:10008-12.
4. Lukas SE, Penetar D, Berko J, Vicens L, Palmer C, Mallya G, Macklin EA, Lee DY. An extract of the Chinese herbal root kudzu reduces alcohol drinking by heavy drinkers in a naturalistic setting. Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478, USA. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005 May;29(5):756-62.
5. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 333-6.

Our thanks to the following information resources: One-Garden.org, Vitacost.com, WholehealthMD.com, Wikipedia.org, and American Botanical Council (Herbalgram.org).

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1 product
Kudzu   (Read all about Kudzu.)

Botanical Latin Name: Pueraria lobata
Plant Part: Roots, vines and flowers
Shea Butter (100% Natural & Unrefined) Enriched with Kudzu Root
Shea Butter (100% Natural & Unrefined) Enriched with Kudzu Root
2 oz / 57 g
Moisturizing and Emollient Effects Enhanced by Kudzu Root!

14.60 US
More Info


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