Botanical: Pueraria lobata
Family: Fabaceae (legume)
Other common names: Kuzu, Pueraria, Gwat Gun, Ge Gan, Pueraria Root, Japanese Arrowroot
A staple in Japanese and Chinese herbal medicine, Kudzu has been a traditional treatment for stiff neck, headache, muscle tension and neurological conditions. For over two thousand years, Chinese physicians have relied on it to reduce alcohol abuse, relieve respiratory problems and counteract poisons. Recent research indicates it may be helpful for managing metabolic syndrome, which has been linked to increased risks of both Type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The creeping Kudzu vine is native to Japan and China and was brought to the United States in the twentieth century as a noble experiment to prevent soil erosion and to provide fodder for animals. What is a protected vine in the "Land of the Rising Sun" has been called the "Green Menace of the South" in the United States. Kudzu is a coarse, high-climbing and fast-growing plant that can grow one foot per day. It has engulfed many of the southeastern states, covering and killing trees and other growth and thriving in its warm climate, well-drained soil and sun. The root is used for medicinal purposes and may be traced back for centuries. Kudzu was first mentioned in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the Shen Nong Canon of Herbs, begun during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.- A.D.23), as a treatment for headache, stiff neck with pain due to high blood pressure and alcohol abuse. Its use in modern Chinese medicine includes the treatment of angina pectoris. Kudzu has many uses in Japan, including medicine, food and commercial products. Kudzu starch is used for thickening soups and noodle making, and the stems yield an important fiber called kokemp that is important in the manufacture of cloth and paper. Chemical constituents in Kudzu include puerarin, p-coumeric acid, quercetin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, starch, vitamin B-2, genistein, daidzin and daidzein.
Kudzu has long been a treatment for alcohol abuse in the Orient. The tea that is made from Kudzu is called xing-jiu-ling, which is literally translated as "sober up." Researchers in Indiana University discovered two compounds in Kudzu that alter the enzymes that break down alcohol in the liver, and as a result, an alcohol byproduct, acetaldehyde, builds up, producing nausea, facial redness and general discomfort in the subject. The chemicals daidzin and daidzein in the roots and flowers appear to suppress the appetite for alcohol. In a paper published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School affiliate, McLean Hospital, reported that moderately heavy drinkers given the herb extract in capsule form for a week before taking part in a drinking experiment consumed significantly less alcohol than those who got a placebo, saying, "All of the subjects, except one, reduced their alcoholic intake."
Traditional herbalists have valued the starch content in Kudzu as a way to soothe minor digestive system discomforts and gastrointestinal problems, such as heartburn, acid indigestion, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, gas, colitis, dysentery, gastritis, nausea and vomiting.
Kudzu could be helpful in the treatment of congestive heart failure and heart attack. Flavonoid-like substances in Kudzu appear to help blood flow through the coronary arteries, lower blood pressure and improve circulation; and one compound in Kudzu, puerarin, is a beta-blocker, which seems to reduce a racing pulse induced by stress.
With regard to cardiac health and diabetes, research presented in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2009), indicated that extracts from the root of the Kudzu plant may play a role in the prevention or improvement in symptoms related to metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by central obesity, hypertension and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism - and which has been linked to increased risks of both Type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The scientists suggest that incorporation of in Kudzu root supplements into a diet may modulate glucose, lipids and blood pressure. Individual phenolic compounds in Kudzu root are related to its beneficial effects; Kudzu root extract contains not only a high concentration of puerarin, but also other phenolic compounds.
Traditional Chinese physicians called Kudzu a sweet, cooling tonic herb that increases perspiration and reduces fever. It is said to treat feverish illnesses, sore throats, tonsillitis, colds and influenza. The herb is also thought to remedy general respiratory problems, lung congestion and coughing.
In treating pain, Kudzu has been used for two thousand years to relieve muscular tension in the neck, back and shoulders, headache (particularly when induced by high blood pressure), hangovers, neuralgia, vertigo and stiff neck.
Kudzu has helped to counteract poisons, including snakebite and alcohol poisoning.
The long history of Kudzu's varied benefits also includes the treatment of sudden acute deafness, tinnitus and spasms.
Kudzu root extracts have recently become popular in Western dietary supplements for women’s health. Data from clinical trials suggest that Kudzu may improve symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopausal women and cognitive function in postmenopausal women.
Taking antibiotics may nullify the effect of Kudzu Herbal Supplement. Because Kudzu has estrogenic effects, individuals with hormone-sensitive cancers and those taking tamoxifen should avoid it.