Source: The Amazing Healing Powers of Nature, Reader’s Digest
Kudzu: the supplement said to curb drinking by reducing cravings for alcohol
Can a plant most often used as a cooking ingredient really make you want to drink less? Research is limited and the results are mixed, but strongly suggest that it’s possible.
What is kudzu? Kudzu is a vine that is native to East Asia and is popular (as a starch) in Asian cooking. The roots and flowers of the kudzu plant are packed with an array of biologically active compounds that can have many beneficial effects; it’s often used as a hangover cure and to suppress cravings for alcohol.
In the future, pending research results, kudzu may be used to help prevent heart disease and osteoporosis
How to use kudzu
If you’re looking for kudzu to reduce cravings for alcohol, it’its root extract, specifically’is most often sold in tablet form for this purpose. White, chalky, dried kudzu is also sold in many health food stores. You can purchase kudzu root extract in dissolvable form’including in tea bags’that can be added to soups or other dishes. The bulky, fibrous root is used as a food.
Some medical scientists warn that chronic use of the root, especially during or shortly after drinking, may increase the risk of cancers. If you intend to use kudzu to battle an existing cardiovascular condition and you already take medication for it, do not take it without your doctor’s supervision, as kudzu can cause side effects and interact adversely with other drugs.
How kudzu works
Many studies have been carried out’on cell cultures in laboratory dishes and in living mice’to work out what biologically active compounds kudzu contains and what kinds of mechanisms might be behind its reputation as a medicinal plant. It has been shown, for example, that the flowers can help speed the body’s removal of acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of the breakdown of alcohol in the blood that is responsible for many of the effects of hangovers.
Kudzu extract is rich in a class of compounds called isoflavones, which are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties’and there is evidence that these compounds may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and protect against osteoporosis and various cancers.
The relatively few clinical studies carried out in humans have yielded mixed results. But one use of kudzu root that has proven itself in several human trials is its ability to reduce cravings for alcohol.
Modern studies and research on kudzu to reduce alcohol intake
For hundreds of years, practitioners of Chinese medicine have prescribed kudzu root for reducing alcohol intake. Starting in the early 1990s, researchers at Indiana University investigated this effect in rats’and in golden Syrian hamsters, which have a particular liking for alcohol. The results were very encouraging, with the animals’ voluntary alcohol intake reducing by more than half in most cases.
Subsequent trials on humans also provided mainly positive results. In 2005, for example, scientists at Harvard Medical School randomly gave male and female heavy drinkers kudzu or a placebo for seven days then had them stay in a mocked-up apartment, with television, sofa and access to as much of their favourite beer as they liked. After taking kudzu, participants tended to drink about half as many beers as after the placebo and also took more sips and more time to drink each beer.
Researchers have proposed and tested various hypotheses to explain kudzu root’s strange ability to curb alcohol consumption. The root actually increases the amount of acetaldehyde in the blood, so it may be that it simply brings on the symptoms of hangover early’although no experiments have spotted any such symptoms. Kudzu also increases heart rate and opens up blood vessels, so it possibly allows alcohol to course more readily around the body.