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Kudzu

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated August 02, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is a climbing vine that belongs to the pea family. Its flowers and starchy white roots have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

Health Benefits of Kudzu:

Kudzu contains isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds thought to offer various health benefits. Here's a look at the science behind kudzu's health effects:

1) Postmenopausal Women

For a study published in 2003, researchers assigned 127 postmenopausal women (aged 50 to 65 years) to receive hormone replacement therapy, kudzu supplements (delivering 100 mg of isoflavone daily), or no treatment for three months. While only participants in the HRT group had a reduction in cholesterol levels, HRT- and kudzu-receiving study members both showed improvements in cognitive function and attention span.

A more recent study, published in 2007, found taking kudzu extract in capsule form daily for 24 weeks helped alleviate vaginal dryness in postmenopausal women.

2) Alcohol Intake

Kudzu extract may be helpful in reducing alcohol intake, according to a 2005 study. Using a real-life setting (an apartment with a television, reclining chair, and refrigerator stocked with beer), researchers performed an experiment involving heavy drinkers. They found that those who took kudzu capsules for seven days prior to the experiment drank an average of 1.8 beers in 90 minutes (compared to the average of 3.5 beers consumed by those who took a placebo prior to the study).

Learn more about the use of kudzu in reduction of alcohol intake.

3) Cluster Headache

In a 2009 study of 16 people who had reported using kudzu to treat cluster headache, researchers determined that kudzu may help decrease the frequency, duration, and intensity of attacks, with minimal side effects.

4) Metabolic Syndrome

Animal research published in 2009 indicates that kudzu may help manage metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by a cluster of health problems (including excess belly fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance) that are known to raise your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

For the study, a group of female rats with metabolic syndrome was fed a diet supplemented with kudzu extract. After two months, the kudzu-fed rats had gained less weight than rats that weren't fed kudzu. Rats in the kudzu group also had healthier levels of blood pressure, insulin, and cholesterol than their study counterparts.

Common Uses for Kudzu

In herbal medicine, kudzu is typically used to treat the following:

  • alcoholism
  • menopausal symptoms
  • diabetes
  • common cold
  • fever
  • Is Kudzu Safe?

    Although kudzu is generally considered safe, it's important to consult your physician if you're considering using kudzu to treat a health condition. Individuals with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, as well as anyone using antidiabetic drugs or the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, may need to avoid the use of kudzu.

    Kudzu is available in supplement form in most health food stores.

    Sources

    Manonai J, Chittacharoen A, Theppisai U, Theppisai H. "Effect of Pueraria mirifica on vaginal health." Menopause. 2007 14(5):919-24.

    Peng N, Prasain JK, Dai Y, Moore R, Arabshahi A, Barnes S, Carlson S, Wyss JM. "Chronic dietary kudzu isoflavones improve components of metabolic syndrome in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats." J Agric Food Chem. 2009 26;57(16):7268-73.

    Sewell RA. "Response of cluster headache to kudzu." Headache. 2009 49(1):98-105.

    Woo J, Lau E, Ho SC, Cheng F, Chan C, Chan AS, Haines CJ, Chan TY, Li M, Sham A. "Comparison of Pueraria lobata with hormone replacement therapy in treating the adverse health consequences of menopause." Menopause. 2003 10(4):352-61.

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