What is Kudzu Root?
You may not be familiar with the name, but if you have ever spent any time in the South of the US, you may have noticed an invasive plant clambering over yards and trees and poles. There is a good chance that the plant you spotted was kudzu and despite its invasive nature, it is actually very good for you.
Kudzu root is a plant with a long history of use in Asia especially in China where it is a popular and important medicinal herb.
This climbing plant is native to Southeast Asia, parts of Eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands. It was originally brought to the US for ornamental purposes and to produce a natural shade. During the middle of the 20th century, the plant was introduced to farmers as a way of preventing soil erosion and as animal feed.
Today, kudzu, which is part of the Pueraria genus is becoming more popular as a beneficial health supplement. Its many potential benefits stem from its chemical makeup. Kudzu root is home to a wide variety of natural antioxidants also called phytochemicals. They include quercetin, isoflavones, geninstein, daidzin, and puerarin.
These antioxidant compounds give kudzu root a wide range of medicinal uses. Among the most common uses of the herb are to treat inflammation and high blood pressure, alcoholism, cold and flu symptoms and menopause symptoms.
- Kudzu is an important plant in Chinese medicine.
- The plant is native to Japan but is now found in various other parts of the world including the southern parts of the USA.
- It is used to treat menopausal symptoms, alcoholism, diabetes, common cold, fever, neck pain and eye pain.
- There are several different species of the plant. Both its root and flowers are used for medicinal purposes.
- Kudzu contains isoflavones which are the main constituents responsible for the medicinal effects of the plant. The isoflavones present in kudzu are daidzin, daidzein, puerarin, and tectorigenin.
- Studies have found that kudzu has anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and neuroprotective properties.
- Studies also show that kudzu has antiapoptotic actions against ethanol-induced apoptosis and also helps suppress the intake of alcohol. This is why kudzu is a popular remedy for alcoholism and its symptoms.
- Kudzu has estrogenic effects so people with hormone-sensitive diseases should not use it.
The Health Benefits of Kudzu Root
To Treat Alcoholism
This is a very interesting potential benefit of kudzu root for anybody struggling with alcohol dependency or those with family members and friends that need help.
According to traditional use, kudzu root has been used to help relieve hangovers but it could also do more harm than good if it is overused. But perhaps more significantly, studies have demonstrated that the herb may help a person to overcome alcoholism or at least help a person to drink less.
According to research, it works because it raises the level of alcohol in a person’s blood. This may not sound desirable but it means a person will get the same effect from the alcohol they consume without needing to drink as much.
One study published in 2013 looked at the effects of a standardized kudzu extract on 17 men diagnosed with alcohol dependency or alcohol abuse. They were separated into two groups and either treated with kudzu root or a placebo for the duration of the four-week trial.
The participants kept track of their consumption levels as well as their desire to drink alcohol. Although the treatment had no effect on cravings, those who took the extract significantly reduced the amount of alcohol they consumed as well as drinking heavily on fewer days of the week. In addition, those who took the extract also increased the number of days they went without alcohol.
The BBC also conducted a small study to look at the effects kudzu may have on alcohol consumption. Their results backed up what was found in the previous study with those who took a kudzu supplement drinking on average 20% less than usual. (2)
These findings are certainly encouraging for anybody battling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism. While more studies are necessary, the herb appears to have the potential to reduce the amount of alcohol a person drinks.
This could have a profound effect on the lives of many people and their families. Not only could it help reduce the incidence of alcohol-related disease such as cirrhosis but it could help a dependent person become a more productive and emotionally happier person.
We have often written about the dangers of inflammation which is a major cause at the heart of numerous serious diseases. Unfortunately, the commonly prescribed medications or the over the counter options like NSAIDs bring with them a real risk of adverse side effects.
Fortunately, there many more natural alternatives that can have a similar anti-inflammatory effect to synthetic drugs with far less risk of side effects. One such natural alternative is kudzu root.
One study published earlier this year looked at the effects of kudzu, or Pueraria tuberosa. on inflammation in animal subjects. The results prompted the researchers to conclude that kudzu root not only helped reduce inflammation, it also exhibited antioxidant actions which made it a potential future alternative to prescription medications. (3)
Because of its anti-inflammatory nature, it may benefit people with a range of inflammatory conditions including rheumatism, fever, and pain.
For Digestion and Stomach Complaints
Kudzu is recommended as a natural remedy for a stomach upset caused by poor digestion. According to research, kudzu root can help improve a person’s bowel movement and improve digestive health. Experts recommend using kudzu in combination with umeboshi plum which helps to neutralize excess stomach acid which can result in several symptoms including diarrhea.
Kudzu root actually has a thick and viscous consistency, not unlike gastric mucus that helps coat and protects the stomach. Umeboshi plum is very alkaline and helps neutralize excessive stomach acid. Together, these remedies can improve overall digestive health and bring relief from heartburn, ulcers and diarrhea.
The combination of these two remedies is also useful in relieving many chronic digestive complaints including the symptoms of IBS , acute diverticulitis, and leaky gut syndrome.
For Menopausal Symptoms
For women going through the menopause all too familiar with many of its symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes, kudzu root may help.
The research done to date does not agree on its effects but some of the studies indicate that taking kudzu root may reduce the number of hot flashes and vaginal dryness which are common symptoms of the menopause. As well as having physical benefits for menopausal women, there is evidence that it can improve mental well-being in post-menopausal women.
Kudzu has also been used by menopausal women in parts of South East Asia for a very long time. In Thailand, the women use Pueraria Mirifica or Thai kudzu to relieve the symptoms of menopause. In Thailand where I live, it is used as an ingredient in cooking or found as a supplementary ingredient for improving symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes.
Studies have found that kudzu can improve symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes in menopausal women. There is also some evidence that it may improve cognitive function for postmenopausal women.
Kudzu might also help keep your cardiovascular system strong and healthy in a number of ways. The isoflavones found in the plant can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure both of which are risk factors in heart disease. Kudzu may also help prevent your blood from clumping together, getting sticky and developing dangerous blood clots.
Kudzu may also help dilate the blood vessels which enhances the flow of blood and oxygen around the body and to the heart and the brain.
May Prevent Gray Hair
According to one study, kudzu may help prevent your hair from becoming gray. While going gray is perfectly natural and no cause for concern, for many people it can have a negative psychological effect. Many turn to hair dyes in an attempt to retain their youthful looks but commercial hair dyes usually contain harmful chemicals that can irritate the skin and weaken the hair even further.
The study tested the effects of a compound called APHG-1001, which included kudzu extract on graying hair in 44 female volunteers. The women were wither treated with the extract or a placebo twice each day for a five month period. The researchers found that the women treated with the compound developed significantly fewer gray hairs than the women in the placebo group. Furthermore, the researchers did not find any adverse effects from the treatment. They concluded that the treatment was a viable natural alternative to prevent gray hair. (4)
How to Use Kudzu Root
Kudzu can be found online or at many health stores in supplementary form. For those of you who enjoy a herbal brew, many health shops also supply kudzu root tea.
When buying, make sure that you pay close attention to the label to verify the levels of kudzu in your product. Buy from a reputed company because there are many reports of labels overstating the amount of kudzu found in your supplement.
Kudzu is easy enough to find along country roads pretty much anywhere in the South of the USA. It is often used in Southern kitchens and can be eaten deep fried, sauteed or even raw.
If you are harvesting your own kudzu, you must be careful and prepare it properly. Be sure that you can identify the plant clearly since it appears much like poison ivy. Also, avoid the plant if you suspect it was sprayed with chemicals.
The root, vine tips, and leaves of the plant are all edible. The purple blossoms produced by the plant are also edible and are often made into jellies, jams or candy.
Kudzu is generally believed to be safe with no major risk of side effects. However, you should be aware of certain precautions.
- Kudzu might slow down blood clotting. People taking blood clotting medication should avoid consuming kudzu root.
- Kudzu may reduce the effectiveness of the birth control pill.
- Taking kudzu root along with medication for diabetes could cause blood sugar levels to drop too far.
- Kudzu has estrogenic effects and should be avoided by people with hormone-sensitive diseases like breast cancer.
While research is at an early stage, it has started to confirm many of the traditional uses of the plant. The studies into its effects on alcoholism and menopausal symptoms have provided very positive results. Many people with alcoholism and their families are desperate for a solution to their problems and kudzu may provide them with genuine hope.
In addition, there is a growing body of evidence that kudzu may help menopausal women overcome their symptoms while it could also help treat inflammation and stomach upsets. Try taking kudzu root in supplementary form or as a tea to see if it helps you relieve your symptoms.
If you have ever used kudzu root for any health condition, please let us know how effective it was. Whether you used it for menopausal symptoms, alcoholism. inflammation or any other purpose we would like to hear from you.