The Kudzu vine was introduced into the United States from Asia in the 19th century. It is now the scourge of the American southeast, spreading at a rate of over 150 thousand acres annually. You wouldn't expect such a highly invasive plant to have any good qualities, but Kudzu could be the key to a new remedy for alcoholism.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Kudzu is one of 50 fundamental herbs. It has been used to treat ailments such as headaches, dizziness, hypertension, and allergies. It also contains anti‑inflammatory and anti‑microbial agents, and compounds that can affect neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
Kudzu has been used by the Chinese as a remedy for alcoholism and hangover for centuries. The root is used to prevent excessive drinking, while the flower is used to cure hangovers.
Alcoholic Lab Rats
Researchers interested in developing these traditional Chinese remedies into modern medical treatments, tested Kudzu on rats to determine its effectiveness in limiting alcohol consumption, and identify the particular compounds responsible.
They found that injected forms of the herb suppressed alcohol consumption by up to 30 percent in both control rats and those who had an alcohol preference. They isolated an isoflavonoid from the Kudzu, and found that it also reduced intake. Additional research found that oral doses of three isoflavonoids could also reduce alcohol intake, with daidzein being the most effective.
These compounds had few side effects. The rats ate and drank water at normal rates. They gained weight normally, and their livers weren't adversely affected by the compounds.
Kudzu might be overrunning parts of the southeast U.S., but this ancient herb may make a positive contribution to medicine and the treatment of alcoholism.