Kudzu, also known as pueraria mirfica, is a botanical used in Chinese medicine for a variety of health promoting purposes. The flowers, leaves and roots are used for their medicinal properties and the isoflavones in kudzu are the primary compounds responsible for its beneficial effects. As with any supplement, talk to your doctor before taking kudzu.
Kudzu contains a variety of phytochemicals, which are potent antioxidant compounds found naturally in plants, that help to prevent and treat disease in humans. Kudzu contains the phytochemicals quercetin, which has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, and genistein which works as a free radical scavenger. The most important phytochemicals are, however, the isoflavone compounds -- daidzein, daidzin, tectorigenin and puerarin.
List of Purported Benefits
Due to the isoflavones, kudzu supplements are used by the practitioners of Chinese medicine to help to relieve headaches and migraines, eye pain, vertigo, tinnitus and stiff neck. Kudzu is also purported to treat colds, flu, sinusitis, fever, psoriasis and gastrointestinal problems; as well as lower high blood sugar levels and thereby help to treat diabetes. These uses are based primarily on anecdotal and not scientific evidence.
Cancer and Menopause
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center states that more research needs to be done, but the isoflavone tectaorigenin that is found in kudzu may help to stop the replication and proliferation of cancer cells and tumors and therefore help to prevent and treat cancer. Due to the isoflavone pueraria found in kudzu, kudzu may also help to treat menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
The isoflavones found in kudzu root extract are also used to treat alcohol related disorders. Kudzu is beneficial to alcoholism because it is purported to suppress alcohol cravings and reduce alcohol consumption. It also helps to shorten the duration of alcohol induced sleep and lower peak alcohol levels. In addition, kudzu has been found to help reduce the effects of alcohol hangovers, such as headaches, dizziness, upset stomach and vomiting.
Kudzu may also help to promote cardiovascular system health in a variety of ways. "Nursing Herbal Remedies Handbook" states that the isoflavones found in kudzu reduce high cholesterol levels, lower high blood pressure and help to prevent the blood from becoming sticky, clumping together and forming blood clots. In addition, kudzu extracts help to dilate blood vessels and increase oxygen and blood flow to the heart and brain, and kudzu is sometimes used to treat angina.
Dosage and Precautions
Kudzu is sold in capsule, tablet and extract form and the recommended therapeutic dose is 120 to 150 mg daily. There are no reported adverse reactions, but kudzu may interact negatively with a variety of medications, including antidiabetic and anticoagulant drugs. Kudzu also demonstrates estrogenic effects and may decrease the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives. Individuals with hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid kudzu.