Kudzu

Scientific name: Pueraria, P. montana, P. lobata, P. edulis, P. phaseoloides, P. thomsoni 

Common names:

Ayurvedic names:

Chinese names: ko

Bangladesh names: Shimia batraji

Arabic names:

Rain Forest names:

Family: Fabaceae genus: Pueraria (pea)

Approximate number of species known: 5

Common parts used: Whole herb, sprouts

Collection:

Annual/Perennial: Perennial

Height: upto 30 m

Actions:

Known Constituents:  Protein 15-18%    isoflavones, including daidzein (an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent). Daidzin is a cancer preventive and is structurally related to genistein (an antileukemic agent). Kudzu is a unique source of the isoflavone puerarin

Constituents Explained:

Description: 

This is primarily thought of as a Chinese herb even though it is native to Japan, although it grows in America aswell.  The name derives from the Japenese word ‘Kuzu’ Kudzu is often used to refer to all 5 species that are closely related.

It was brought to America when the Japanese government delivered a display to the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

It is a member of the Faboideae family which is a sub member of the Fabaceae.  The is also called the legume, pea, bean or pulse family.

Kudzu is a vine that is difficult to control the spread of.  So much so that it has been referred to as the “vine that ate the south.”   It is considered a nuiscance because of it’s ability to grow other vegetation and shade them from sunlight. The vine produces a purple flower.  It has been known to spread 30cm every day. It grows in Queensland where it is not considered a pest like it is in Japan and the US.

Kudzu contains many Isoflavones.  Isoflavones are a name given to the shape of a chemical structure that repeatedly recurs in nature.  And Isoflavones are normally associated with the species Fabaceae which Kudzu belongs to. the two herbs that commonly come to mind when Isoflavones is mentioned is Soy and Red Clover.

Isoflavones are often famed for their phytoestrogen content.  A phytoestrogen is something in nature that seems to closely resemble estradiol.  Estradiol is a type of estrogen often called E2.

Flavanoids which was once known as Vitamin P.  Flavanoids are often famed for their anti-oxidant activity, which scavages free radicals.

Kudzu has been used in a number of research studies to decide it’s effects on the suppression of alcoholic cravings.

Kudzu has been used for a number of medicinal benefits.  It has been tested for it’s effect on lowering cholesterol in rats.  It has been tested for it’s ability to lower blood sugar in rats. It has been tested on it’s effects on easing headaches.  Because of the isoflavones it has been used to help ease the symptoms of menopause.

Most commonly it is used in Chinese medicine to help ease fever and headache.  The root and the flowers are usually used.

It prefers to grow in the full sun.  Occasionally it is mistaken for a similiar species called Blue morning glory (Ipomoea indica).

It rarely  replicates by seeds which are closed in pods.  The fact the seeds can last for years is the cause of infinite frustration as once this out of control vine is believed to be eliminated, it can reappear years later.  It mainly spreads via stolons???

Despite it’s wide spread growing, it is sometimes used to prevent erosion as it tends to increase nitrogen in the soil.  It also tends to transfer minerals from the bottom soil to the top siol via its creeping roots.

Traditional Use:

Known as a nutritious plant, it contains Vitamins A, B vitamins, C, E, K and a varitey of minerals and trace minerals.  A green plant famed for its high chlorophyll content. When in bloom it contains beautiful purple flowers.

Clinical Studies:

According to ancient Chinese medicine, kudzu root has been used as an ingredient to treat alcohol intoxication for centuries. Kudzu root extract is effective at reducing alcohol intake in animals and in humans, both in a natural-settings laboratory environment and on an outpatient basis.

In dependent populations, withdrawal from alcohol is associated with disturbed sleep. These disturbances to the quantity and quality of sleep likely impact relapse to drinking. Many medications used to treat alcohol dependence also affect sleep. 

herefore, as a possible treatment for alcohol dependence, the impact of kudzu root extract on the sleep/wake cycle is an important aspect of its effectiveness. This double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial tested the effects of kudzu root extract on the sleep/wake cycles of moderate drinkers.

Kudzu extract had no effect on any of the sleep parameters measured, including sleep efficiency, sleep latency, total time asleep per night, number of waking episodes, time awake per episode, number of moving minutes, number of sleep episodes, time asleep per episode, and number of immobile minutes.

These data suggest that the administration of kudzu root extract does not disturb sleep/wake cycles of moderate drinkers, and as such its utility as an adjunct treatment for alcohol dependence remains free of any potential side-effects on sleep.

References:

Bracken BK, Penetar DM, McLean RR, Lukas SE. “Kudzu Root Extract Does Not Perturb The Sleep/Wake Pattern Of Modertae Drinkers.”  2011 October http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22010780