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KUDZU: a plant to reduce alcohol consumption

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Kudzu is a natural remedy known to reduce the craving for alcohol and to combat problems related to drinking. But is it really effective?

Kudzu: a well-known supplement to help fight alcohol dependence

Can a plant used mostly in cooking have real effects on the desire to drink? The rather mixed results of the few studies on the subject suggest that it is possible. But what is kudzu? It is a vine native to eastern Asia very popular in Asian cuisine (used as flour or thickener). The roots and flowers of kudzu are saturated with biologically active compounds that can have many beneficial effects. It is often used to heal hangovers and to suppress the urge to drink. In the near future, and as health research evolves , kudzu may well be used to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

Using kudzu

If you are looking for kudzu for the purpose of reducing your alcohol consumption , it is probably in the form of root extract tablets that you will buy it. You will find white, chalky and dried kudzu in some health food stores. You can also get kudzu root extract in a soluble or sachet form, which you can add to soups or other dishes. The root itself, massive and fibrous, is used in food.

However, medical researchers warn that prolonged use of the root, especially when it comes with alcohol or is ingested soon after consuming it, could increase the risk of cancer. If you are thinking of using kudzu to fight a chronic cardiovascular disease for which you are taking medication, take it only under the supervision of your doctor. Indeed, kudzu can have side effects and cause interactions with other drugs.

Action of kudzu on the organism

 There have been several studies on cell cultures in the laboratory and on mice to understand the action of the biological components of kudzu. The main goals are to check if this plant has the medicinal virtues that lend it. It has been observed that the flowers of kudzu can accelerate the elimination of acetaldehyde from the body: acetaldehyde is a toxic by-product that acts in the degradation of alcohol in the blood; it is the cause of several symptoms of hangovers.

Kudzu extracts are rich in isoflavones, components known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It appears that these components help lower cholesterol and blood pressure while preventing osteoporosis and many types of cancer. The rather limited number of clinical studies on humans has yielded mixed results in which, despite everything, it has been possible to confirm the active role of kudzu root in slowing the need for alcohol.

Recent studies and research on kudzu as an antidote to alcohol consumption

For hundreds of years, Chinese medicine practitioners have prescribed kudzu root to reduce alcohol consumption. Since the early 1990s, researchers at Indiana University have studied its effects on rats and golden hamsters that have a strong taste for alcohol. The results were very encouraging: the majority of animals halved their spontaneous consumption of alcohol.

Subsequent human trials have also yielded rather positive results. In 2005, for example, scientists from Harvard Medical School have drink for seven days, from kudzu or placebo, in men and women suffering from alcohol problems . They then spent seven days in a laboratory apartment containing a TV, a sofa, and unlimited access to their favorite beer reserves. Participants who took kudzu consumed half as much beer as those who took the placebo. It was also found that they took more sips and took longer to drink each beer.

The researchers presented and tested many of their theories to try to understand the effect of kudzu on reducing alcohol consumption. They found that the root increased the level of acetaldehyde in the blood, which could lead to the rapid onset of hangover symptoms. But these symptoms could not be observed in the experiments. Kudzu also accelerates the heart rate and dilates the blood vessels, which may allow alcohol to circulate more easily in the body.

Dr. Kanika Singla

Ph.D., IARI Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley

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