Name: Kudzu, Pueraria lobata, Radix pueraria
Active Compounds: Daidzin, Daidzein, Puerarin
Number of scientific references: 38
Level of Evidence: Level III What is this?
Note: Kudzu is proven to reduce alcohol consumption by 30-60% in humans by multiple studies. Its exact mechanism of action is still to be discovered. It is not a miracle herb for addiction, but definitely is a safe and effective add-on therapy that helps reduce alcohol intake significantly and increases the consecutive days of abstinence.
Conventional medicines to treat alcohol use disorders are effective only in some individuals. They are not well tolerated by all patients, and some don’t even find them helpful.
Botanical supplements are derived from herbs that have a long history of use in traditional medicine. There has been a significant surge in use of these supplements worldwide from prevention and treatment of various disorders and health conditions.
Researchers are investigating various natural therapies for alcoholism and let me introduce you to one such natural therapy. Say Hi to ‘Kudzu’! It sounds like a pet name or that embarrassing name you keep for your friend or bae but yeah the humour is only limited to its name.
Kudzu helps in alcohol addiction by reducing alcohol intake but its exact mechanism is not understood yet. It has been used in Chinese medicine to treat intoxication and alcoholism since 600AD. The root of Kudzu or Pueraria lobata or Radix pueraria is used for this purpose.
Extracts from the root comprise of isoflavones, primarily daidzin, daidzein, and puerarin, that suppress alcohol intake as evidenced by pre-clinical studies.
Apart from alcohol addiction, the root extracts have multiple medicinal properties such as bone-protective, anti-emetic, anti-pyretic, antioxidant, anti-hypertensive, antidepressant, anti-cancer etc.
Kudzu helps in alcoholism by reducing alcohol consumption by 30-60%. Research suggests that the herb may increase percentage of days of abstinence and can protect liver health. Daidzin present in kudzu has an anti-dipsotropic agent that produces an unpleasant reaction upon consuming alcohol and can reduce alcohol intake.
Today we will be going over various human studies that have investigated the effects of kudzu root extracts on alcohol consumption and also examine the mechanism by which this herb works.
5 Proven Benefits of Kudzu Root For Alcoholism
Here is an insight to the current research available on kudzu benefits on alcohol addiction.
1. Pre-clinical studies show that kudzu root extracts reduce alcohol consumption
Various components present in kudzu root are found to be beneficial in suppressing alcohol consumption in animal models.
Daidzin is one such compound present in the root. Li et al., in 1996, identified other compounds present in the extract of the vine that could help in reducing alcohol intake. These were daidzein and puerarin.
Table of Contents
- 1 5 Proven Benefits of Kudzu Root For Alcoholism
- 1.1 1. Pre-clinical studies show that kudzu root extracts reduce alcohol consumption
- 1.2 2. Kudzu antioxidants may have a modest effect on reduction of alcohol intake in humans
- 1.3 3. It may reduce intoxication caused by excess alcohol consumption
- 1.4 4. It may regulate brain chemistry to reduce alcohol addiction and withdrawal symptoms
- 1.5 5. It can protect liver health
- 2 Dosage of Kudzu Extract For Alcoholism
- 3 Precautions with Kudzu use
- 4 Conclusion
In the animal study, they observed that daidzein reduced alcohol intake by 75% while daidzin and puerarin brought about a 50% and 40% reduction respectively. Suppression of alcohol intake was observed from day 1 of the treatment, and maximum effects were observed after two days.
Researchers felt that this effect was a result of kudzu root extract’s action on the central nervous system.
Antidipsotropic agent or anti-drinking medications are those agents that when taken with alcohol produce an unpleasant reaction and inhibit intake. Disulfiram is one such medication.
In 1997, researchers identified that daidzin from Pueraria lobata inhibited alcohol intake by acting as an antidipsotropic agent. It inhibited Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH-2).
This enzyme breaks down acetaldehyde derived from alcohol metabolism. So its inhibition may lead to high levels of acetaldehyde in the body thus causing toxicity and producing the unpleasant reaction in response to alcohol intake.
Further, the study highlights the unique inhibition and biochemical pathway in which daidzin is involved, but we will skip those details.
In 2004, Benlhabib and colleagues investigated the effect of kudzu extract and purified puerarin on alcohol intake. The kudzu root extract contained puerarin, daidzin, daidzein, genistin, genistein and glycetin.
Both were found to be effective in suppressing alcohol intake and reducing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Puerarin in combination with phosphatidylcholine or curcumin can be beneficial in reducing addiction and related inflammation symptoms of alcoholism.
Quick Gist: Isoflavones present in kudzu roots such as daidzin, daidzein and puerarin are proven to suppress alcohol intake and mitigate alcohol withdrawal symptoms in animal studies.
Daidzin is a natural anti-dipsotropic agent- when taken in combination with alcohol it elicits an unpleasant reaction that inhibits further consumption.
2. Kudzu antioxidants may have a modest effect on reduction of alcohol intake in humans
Since kudzu was used for a long period in traditional medicine to treat alcohol disorders and also demonstrated promising results in animal studies, researchers decided to test its effect in humans.
Here are the human studies investigating kudzu effects on alcoholism; some of the studies have received grants from NIAAA and NCCAM, but this does not seem to influence study design or results.
Dose of kudzu extract
|Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2000||Shebek et.al||Patients with alcoholism were treated with 1.2 g kudzu root extract twice daily for one month||Kudzu was no better than placebo for reducing alcohol craving or supporting sobriety|
|Alcohol, Clinical and Experimental Research, 2005||Lukas et.al||Heavy drinkers treated with kudzu extract for 7 days||Significant reduction in number of beers consumed corresponding to an increase in number of sips and decrease in volume of sips|
|Psychopharmacology, Berlin 2013||Lukas et.al||Non-treatment seeking heavy drinkers (some who met the criteria of alcoholism) who received two 500mg standardised extracts of kudzu for four weeks||34-57% reduction in drinking was observed with kudzu treatment. The effects were observable by week 2 and persisted till week 4.
There was an increase in the percentage of days of abstinence with kudzu. Kudzu also doubled the number of consecutive days of abstinence.
|Drug Alcohol Dependence, 2012||Penetar et.al||10 healthy adults were given 1200mg puerarin daily for 1 week
This was the first study to show that a single antioxidant present in kudzu is effective in reducing alcohol intake.
|In the placebo group, individuals consumed average 3.5 beers while in puerarin group the average consumption was 2.4 beers.
Puerarin reduced sip size, increased the time taken to finish a beer and the time between two drinks.
|Drug Alcohol Dependence, 2015||Penetar et.al||20 individuals (consuming 15 drinks per week and 2 or more binge drinking episode per week) were treated with 2g of kudzu extract 2.5 hours before drinking||In Kudzu group the consumption reduced from 3.0 to 1.9 beers approximately.
Also in kudzu group, the speed of consumption was reduced.
Quick Gist: Standardized kudzu extracts at a dose of 2-3g and early stages reduces alcohol intake by 30-60% in ‘heavy drinkers’ who are also diagnosed with alcohol abuse/dependence.
A single dose of kudzu root can help reduce binge drinking. A short therapy with Puerarin extracts from kudzu is also proven to reduce alcohol intake.
Overall kudzu root extract consumption can result in a modest but meaningful reduction in alcohol consumption especially if given at early stages. It’s rapid effect, and reduced incidence of side effects can make it a suitable natural adjunct therapy for alcoholism.
3. It may reduce intoxication caused by excess alcohol consumption
Apparently, Pueraria herb has two components that can benefit in alcoholism :
• Pueraria lobata- the root based herb
• Pueraria flos- the flower based herb
Alcohol is broken down to acetaldehyde in our body and accumulation of acetaldehyde creates the hangover feeling. Pueraria flos aids in the removal of acetaldehyde and benefits in hangovers while Pueraria lobata makes increase acetaldehyde levels and create an aversion to alcohol.
Researchers hypothesise that by increasing acetaldehyde levels, kudzu can increase the risk of developing acetaldehyde induced cancer.
Interestingly research in animal models presents contrasting findings.
Daidzin present in kudzu is proven to reduce blood alcohol levels and reduce the increased sleep duration caused by alcohol, as per an animal study.
Kudzu root extracts in combination with other herbs exert a protective action against alcohol intoxication by raising antioxidant enzymes, boosting liver function and preventing alcohol absorption.
Researchers from McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School conducted a study to examine whether kudzu extract increases the intoxicating effects of alcohol consumption.
Since pre-clinical studies showed that kudzu extracts increased acetaldehyde levels to produce an aversive reaction and toxicity to alcohol, they decided to test this in humans.
12 healthy individuals with moderate alcohol consumption (around seven drinks per week) were enrolled in the study. Standardized kudzu extracts primarily containing puerarin were given at a dose of 750mg per day for nine days.
Kudzu’s effects were studied about acute alcohol challenge or intake; that means they didn’t study its effect on chronic consumption.
The herb did not bring about a change in the participant’s response or cognition (parameters such as alertness) or stability while walking/standing. But as it was thought, it did not even worsen the effects of consuming alcohol.
No signs of acetaldehyde induced toxicity such as flushing, vertigo, nausea, headache, throbbing in neck and head, sweating etc. were observed. As per unpublished data, kudzu does not affect acetaldehyde levels in humans after drinking alcohol.
The herb increased the effects of high dose alcohol on heart rate and skin temperature, but these effects were transient and did not cause any adverse effects.
After 3 hours of consuming alcohol, all parameters such as cognition, temperature, heart rate etc. returned to normal levels as they were before drinking.
Researchers concluded that that acute treatment with kudzu extract failed to have a significant effect on alcohol intoxication, but it definitely did not worsen the effects of alcohol consumption.
Quick Gist: Animal studies suggest that antioxidants present in kudzu root can help detox from excess alcohol consumption.
However, a few studies also pointed out that the herb increases acetaldehyde levels in the body to increase aversion to alcohol. A study in humans demonstrates that kudzu does not worsen the toxic effects of acute alcohol consumption and it does not lead to acetaldehyde accumulation.
Further research is required to confirm it’s detoxifying effect in case of chronic alcohol consumption.
4. It may regulate brain chemistry to reduce alcohol addiction and withdrawal symptoms
Research has not yet ascertained how kudzu works to relieve alcoholism. Previous animal studies suggest that antioxidant present in kudzu inhibit the breakdown of acetaldehyde derived from alcohol.
High levels of acetaldehyde in the body create an unpleasant reaction to alcohol consumption and thus inhibit further intake. However, this has not been observed in humans.
The other possibility arises that it may affect the brain chemistry. Alcohol consumption has a rewarding effect and can develop into an addictive pattern, therefore regulating brain chemistry may help break such patterns.
A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998 reported that all three compounds present in kudzu suppress alcohol intake by possibly inhibiting its rewarding feeling and regulating the central nervous system.
Rooke et al. have highlighted an intricate mechanism by which daidzin can interrupt alcohol metabolism and at the same time inhibit the metabolism of various neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Puerarin present in Radix Pueraria can help relieve anxiety and withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol cessation.
GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter in the brain that aids in signalling various impulses in the brain. Low or moderate consumption of alcohol is found to increase GABA neurotransmission.
Experimental evidence suggests that puerarin, if given prior to alcohol exposure, can affect GABA activity; this may be one of the ways by which it can suppress alcohol intake.
Many medications used to treat alcohol addiction have some side effects including sleep disturbances. One beneficial aspect about Pueraria lobata extracts is that it is free from such side effects.
A study published in Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2011 demonstrated that kudzu benefits in alcohol dependence without causing any side effects such as sleep disruption.
Quick Gist: Animal studies indicate that kudzu extracts and its active ingredients may regulate neurotransmitters in the brain to avoid alcohol addiction and suppress alcohol intake.
Puerarin found in the herb may help relieve anxiety and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It may also help protect brain health and memory from alcohol-induced adverse effects.
Unlike conventional medicines used to treat alcohol addiction, kudzu proves to be a safer option.
5. It can protect liver health
Apart from suppressing alcohol intake, kudzu extracts also protect metabolic and liver health from alcohol-induced damage.
Pueraria radix extracts increase the level of antioxidant enzymes to counteract side effects of alcohol consumption.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease is a common complication of chronic alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol consumption can lead to accumulation of toxic substances which hamper liver function.
Impaired liver function leads to accumulation of fats in the liver, scarring of liver tissue and this is known as alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Extracts from flowers of Pueraria lobata can help protect from liver injury caused by excess alcohol consumption.
Increased alcohol consumption increases the permeability of the intestine and releases endotoxins in the blood.
Puerarin is a natural hepatoprotective agent- it protects from alcoholic fatty liver disease by boosting antioxidant defences, reducing inflammation, inhibiting aberrant immune responses and restoring fat metabolism.
Quick Gist: Extracts from kudzu roots show hepatoprotective effect-they protect from alcohol-induced liver damage. Puerarin isolated from the herb can protect from alcoholic fatty liver disease.
However, these findings are limited to animal studies, and further research is required to ascertain the herb’s effects on liver health in humans.
Dosage of Kudzu Extract For Alcoholism
The benefits of kudzu herb on alcoholism have been investigated in humans. Based on these studies, the effective dose of kudzu isoflavones is 750 mg per day which amounts to 2.5-3g of standardised kudzu extract.
If opting for isolated puerarin extract, a dose of 1200mg per day is found to be effective in reducing binge drinking.
Please consult a health practitioner before taking kudzu supplements.
Precautions with Kudzu use
Oral consumption of standardised kudzu root extracts is not found to cause serious side effects.
Pueraria lobata has blood sugar lowering property; avoid taking it with other herbs that have hypoglycemic action.
Puerarin present in the herb has anti-platelet action; take it with caution in case of bleeding disorders or if taking antiplatelet medicines.
The root extracts of Pueraria lobata may have serious herb-drug interaction; please avoid taking it at the same time of taking medications. It may interact with estrogenic medications, antidiabetes medications, contraceptives, methotrexate and potential hepatotoxic drugs.
Avoid co-medicating with anticoagulant herbs, blood sugar lowering herbs and estrogenic herbs when taking kudzu.
Consult a health practitioner before taking kudzu supplements.
Kudzu or Radix Pueraria has a long history of use in alcohol-related disorders in Traditional Chinese Medicine. And clinical studies conducted in the recent time do confirm the herb benefits in alcoholism.
Kudzu extract, when taken for treating alcoholism, may benefit in suppressing alcohol intake by 30-60%.
It is not a miracle herb for sobriety but what one can expect is a modest reduction in alcohol intake which is visible within 2-3 weeks of therapy and reduced or no side effects. It can serve as an adjunct therapy and help in reducing or eliminating binge drinking.
The mechanism of action of Pueraria lobata in alcoholism is not understood. Some studies suggest interaction with the central nervous system, some say it causes aversion to alcohol, but these findings are not supported by human studies.
Few things that need to be researched upon is whether Pueraria lobata benefits in chronic alcoholism or alcohol addiction and does it clinically aid in alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Also, a better understanding of its mechanism can help in the development of kudzu based therapeutic agents for alcoholism.
Another aspect that requires study is what do flower extracts of the herb contain, are they better than root extracts for alcoholism or they could they have a synergistic action. I did not come across any such studies; in case you have, do let me know so that we can update the readers.
If you have tried kudzu extracts, do share your experience as comments below and do not forget to give a thumbs up on Facebook if you found this article helpful.