encyclopedia

Kudzu Root

Scientific Names:
Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Owhi [Fam. Leguminaceae]

Forms:
Kudzu root flour; kudzu root tea; kudzu root extracts

Traditional Usage:
– Addiction (alleviates cravings)

– Alcoholism

– Anti-inflammatory

– Antioxidant

– Body Fluid (stimulates production)

– Cellular Regeneration

– Cleansing

– Deafness

– Detoxifying

– Diabetes

– Diarrhea

– Drunkenness

– Dysentery

– Gastrointestinal Disorders

– Hangover

– Headaches

– Heart Health Maintenance

– Hepatitis

– Hormone Imbalances

– High Blood Pressure

– Hypertension

– Intestinal Obstructions (acute)

– Liver Health Maintenance

– Mastitis

– Measles (to promote eruptions)

– Menopausal Problems

– Migraines

– Nutrient Deficiency

– Osteoporosis

– Poultice

– PMS

– Sore Throat

– Vascular Disorders

Overview:

Kudzu, Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Owhi [Fam. Leguminaceae], is a legume rich in isoflavonoid phytoestrogens including genistein and daidzein, compounds now recognized for safely supporting critical hormone levels within the body in both men and women. Kudzu has a starchy edible root that has been traditionally used in China for over two thousands years to treat alcoholism and is also widely used to treat high blood pressure and angina. Kudzu has also been used traditionally as a medicine in China to treat headaches, diarrhea, dysentery, acute intestinal obstruction, gastroenteritis, deafness, to promote measle eruptions, and to induce sweating. Studies have shown that the root lowers blood sugar and blood pressure. In one study, a tea containing 8 teaspoons of kudzu root was given to 52 people for two to eight weeks. In 17 people, blood pressure declined markedly and thirty others showed some benefit. The phytoestrogen puerarin reportedly has 100 times the antioxidant activity of vitamin E. Research is showing that phytoestrogens are beneficial for preventing and treating many of the major degenerative diseases plaguing our society today. Phytoestrogens support good health in many ways such as: 1) they bind at estrogen receptors and prevent the body from over-producing estradiol; 2) they dilute xenoestrogen-type toxins by binding at receptor sites and function as anti-estrogens; 3) they boost progesterone expression and help to normalize the body’s important estrogen to progesterone ratio; 4) they reduce cholesterol and support the liver in its critical role of detoxifying the blood and converting excess estradiol into the more benign form of estriol; 6) they are powerful antioxidants; 7) they prevent the formation of new blood vessels that feed abnormal cells; 8) they inhibit abnormal cell growth, and 9) they boost several beneficial enzymes within the body that prevent DNA adducts and reduce cellular damage and aging.

Kudzu Root Against Addiction

Kudzu vine is a prolific ‘weed’ of the legume family found growing rampantly in the southern United States. Kudzu vine root, which can be used to make a tasty alternative to wheat flour for baking, has been used as a medicinal herb in China for over 2,200 years and has been noted for treating drunkenness since 600 A.D. The starchy root and its extracts have been proven to help Oriental people overcome alcohol addiction, sober up faster, block alcohol’s intoxicating effects and prevents hangovers. Scientific studies in the U.S. support these findings.

Jean Carper, in her book, Miracle Cures, provides convincing evidence on kudzu root tea and extracts for abating and even curing alcoholism. Jean Carper reports how a doctor from Harvard Medical School was highly impressed by the reports that he heard from over a dozen medical practitioners in China. Based on 300 cases of chronic alcoholism, kudzu tea and extracts were reported to be effective at suppressing the desire for alcohol and improving the function of alcohol-affected organs, usually within a week, with no toxic side effects. Even more promising was the report that eighty percent of the alcoholics said that their cravings were completely gone after two to four weeks. These findings have been supported by research at Harvard with a strain of alcohol-craving hamsters that preferentially always chose alcohol over water when given the choice (and lots of it, equivalent to a human drinking 5 cases of wine per day). Researchers found that right away after being given kudzu root or standardized extracts of the phytoestrogens daidzin and daidzein, the hamsters drank half as much alcohol; when the kudzu was eliminated they went back to their booze. Other animal studies have found the same results. Researchers are also looking into the beneficial effect of kudzu on normalizing brain hormone levels, such as serotonin and dopamine, natural brain ‘opiates’. Because of all this impressive research, human clinical trials are finally underway in the U.S.; but why wait to jump on a bandwagon that’s been helping people already for over 2000 years.

Active Ingredients:
Kudzu root contains: Phytoestrogens including the isoflavonoids genistein, daidzein, formononetin and biochanin-A. Kudzu root is also rich in isoflavone glycosides, such as daidzin and puerarin. Depending on its growing conditions, the total isoflavone content varies from 1.77-12.0%, with puerarin in the highest concentration, followed by daidzin and daidzein. Kudzu also contains many other flavonoid-type antioxidants and is rich in protein.

Suggested Amount:
Kudzu root can be taken as a tea with the recommended dosage of one to three cups per day, using one – three teaspoonfuls of dried root per cup of boiling water. The 1985 Chinese Pharmacopoeia suggests 9-15 grams per day of kudzu root. In China, tablets of the standardized root (10 mg of weight per tablet equivalent to 1.5 grams of the crude root) are used for angina pectoris. The recommended dosage is 30-120 mg two to three times per day. Kudzu tincture can also be used with a dosage of 1-2 ml taken three to five times per day.

Drug Interactions:

Phytoestrogens and other flavonoids have mild blood-thinning properties that are natural and beneficial (blood platelet anti-stickiness effects) and so a reduced dosage of blood-thinning drugs (such as Coumadin [warfarin], heparin, Trental [pentoxifylline], or even aspirin) may be required with the use of kudzu products. These drugs should only be used in combination with kudzu extracts under a physician’s supervision.

Based on studies with soy, kudzu extracts at dosages of up to 160mg/day of phytoestrogens, should not interfere with prescription hormone replacement drugs such as ERT or HRT products (i.e. Premarin) (Scambia G, Mango D, Signorile PG, et al. Clinical effects of a standardized soy extract in postmenopausal women: a pilot study. Menopause. 2000; 7: 105-111.). However, until further research is done, it is best to consult your health care practitioner in this case. It is thought that concentrated phytoestrogen products may also interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills; however, one study with 40 women suggests that this worry is unfounded (Martini et al. 1999). Until further research is done, it is best to consult your health care practitioner in this case.

Potential Positive Interaction:

Phytoestrogens counteract the potential negative effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) drugs and other sources of synthetic estrogens, and based on controlled studies with soy phytoestrogen extracts, this will not reduce the therapeutic effects of these drugs. Alternatively, Natural Hormone Replacement (NRT) drugs (based on estriol instead of the more problematic estrogens, estradiol and estrone), available from selected pharmacies in North America such as from Kripps Pharmacy in Vancouver, B.C., are often combined with phytoestrogen extracts and are complimented by phytoestrogens.

Contraindications:
None known.

Side Effects:
None known.

References:

Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. Pp. 57; 281-282; 310. Rodale Press.

Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Kudzu in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 300.

Overstreet DH, Keung WM, Rezvani AH, Massi And M, Lee DY. 2003. Herbal remedies for alcoholism: promises and possible pitfalls. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2003 Feb; 27(2): 177-85.

Wahlquist ML, and Dalais FS. 1997. Phytoestrogens: emerging multifaceted plant compounds. Med J Aust 167 (3): 199-120.

Zava DT, Dollbaum CM, and Blen M. 1998. Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs and spices. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 217 (3): 369-378.