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What is kudzu?

Kudzu is a fast-growing vine native to China. It was first introduced to the U.S. in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was widely used during the Great Depression to help prevent soil erosion. Kudzu grows practically anywhere shade is available, from mountainous regions and fields to thickets and forests. The vine contains a huge root, which can grow to the size of an average human being.

Why do we need kudzu? What is it used for?

Kudzu root is high in isoflavones (such as daidzein) and isoflavone glycosides (such as daidzin and puerarin), compounds that are believed to promote general health and reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Traditionally, kudzu has been utilized by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to treat hangovers, allergies, indigestion, diabetes and angina, as well as neck and shoulder pain, thirst and fever. A more recent study showed that both daidzin and daidzein may be useful in reducing the urge for alcohol and treating alcoholism.

How much kudzu should I take?

The Chinese Pharmacopoeia suggests between 9-15 grams of kudzu root per day. For angina, some herbalists recommend 30-120 milligrams of kudzu root two to three times a day.

What forms of kudzu are available?

Kudzu is available as a whole root. Some specialty stores also sell tablets of standardized kudzu root and kudzu tinctures.

What can happen if I take too much kudzu? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

At present, there have been no adverse side-effects or reports of toxicity associated with kudzu. In addition, no well-known drug interactions with kudzu have been reported. Make sure to consult your health practitioner before taking kudzu (or any supplement or herbal product).

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  • Foster S. Kudzu root monograph. Quart Rev Nat Med Winter 1994;303—8.
  • Hoots D, Baldwin J. Kudzu: The Vine to Love or Hate. Kodak, TN: Suntop Press, 1996.
  • Keung WM, Vallee BL. Daidzin and daidzein suppress free-choice ethanol intake by Syrian golden hamsters. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1993;90:10008—12.
  • Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, pp. 333—6.
  • Zhao SP, Zhang YZ. Quantitative TLC-densitometry of isoflavones in pueraria lobata (wild) ohwi. Yaoxue Xuebao 1985;20:203.


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