Kudzu Extract and alcohol cessation
Side effects, benefits, safety, herb medical uses and home remedy, dietary supplement at 500 mg, information on isoflavones, hair, capsules
March 1 2017

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is one of the earliest medicinal plants used in traditional Chinese medicine. It has many pharmacological actions including anti-alcohol abuse activity. Although both the roots and flowers of kudzu, Radix and Flos puerariae, respectively, have been used to treat alcohol abuse safely and effectively in China for more than a millennium.

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Mechanism of action and composition
A crude extract of Radix puerariae suppresses the free-choice ethanol intake of ethanol-preferring hamsters due to two of its isoflavones, daidzin and daidzein. This root extract was found to contain 10% puerarin as the main constituent and smaller amounts of the related isoflavonoids 3′-hydroxypuerarin, 3′-methoxypuerarin, 6”-xylosylpuerarin, daidzin, genistin, daidzein and Genistein.

Root and flower
Kudzu has two components that are used as traditional therapies; Pueraria lobata, the root based herb and Pueraria flos, the flower based herb. Both of these herbal components have different traditional claims and constituents.

Side effects, caution, risks, danger
Pueraria flos, which enhances acetaldehyde removal, is a traditional hangover remedy. Pueraria lobata is a known inhibitor of mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) and increases acetaldehyde. Pueraria lobata is being investigated for use as an aversion therapy for alcoholics due to these characteristics. Kudzu root is not a traditional hangover therapy yet has been accepted as the registered active component in many of these hangover products. The risk of development of acetaldehyde pathology, including neoplasms, is associated with genetic polymorphism with enhanced alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) or reduced ALDH activity leading to increased acetaldehyde levels in the tissues. The chronic usage of Pueraria lobata at times of high ethanol consumption, such as in hangover remedies, may predispose subjects to an increased risk of acetaldehyde-related neoplasm and pathology. Pueraria lobata appears to be an inappropriate herb for use in herbal hangover remedies as it is an inhibitor of ALDH2. The recommendations for its use should be similar to those for the ALDH2 inhibitor, Disulfiram.

Human studies with kudzu extract

Pharmacokinetic profile of the isoflavone puerarin after acute and repeated administration of a novel kudzu extract to human volunteers.
J Altern Complement Med. 2006.
This study was undertaken to assess the pharmacokinetic profile of puerarin, the major isoflavone found in a kudzu (Pueraria lobata) extract after acute and repeated administration. Participants were given either single or repeated doses of kudzu extract, and blood samples were collected for either 8 or 72 hours for subsequent pharmacokinetic analyses of puerarin. Puerarin was found to be rapidly absorbed via the oral route, reach peak levels at 2 hours, and have a half-life of approximately 4.3 hours. The elimination half-life was not significantly altered after repeated administration. A formulation of kudzu extract delivers a large amount of the principal isoflavone in a rapid manner. The elimination rate constants and the mono-exponential decline in blood levels suggest that a one compartment model adequately explains how puerarin is handled by the body. Three times a day dosing is recommended as accumulation will not occur, and plasma levels remain at levels that are biologically active, even 8 hours after the last steady-state dose.

Alcohol cessation
An extract of the Chinese herbal root kudzu reduces alcohol drinking by heavy drinkers in a naturalistic setting.
Alcohol Clinical Exp Res. 2005. Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, USA.
Extracts of kudzu containing a variety of isoflavones have been shown to reduce alcohol drinking in rats and hamsters. The present study was designed to test the efficacy of a kudzu extract in a clinical population. Male and female “heavy” alcohol drinkers were treated with either placebo or a kudzu extract for 7 days and then given an opportunity to drink their preferred brand of beer while in a naturalistic laboratory setting. Participants served as their own controls, and order of treatment exposure was counterbalanced. Drinking behavior was monitored by a digital scale that was located in the top of an end table. Kudzu treatment resulted in significant reduction in the number of beers consumed that was paralleled by an increase in the number of sips and the time to consume each beer and a decrease in the volume of each sip. These changes occurred in the absence of a significant effect on the urge to drink alcohol. There were no reported side effects of kudzu treatment. These data suggest that an extract of this leguminous plant may be a useful adjunct in reducing alcohol intake in a naturalistic setting.

Comparison of Pueraria lobata with hormone replacement therapy in treating the adverse health consequences of menopause.
Menopause 2003.
Kudzu is used as a traditional Chinese herbal remedy for menopausal symptoms, as well as an ingredient in preparations for conditions affecting menopausal women, such as osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, and some hormone-dependent cancers. The scientific basis for its action may be its action as a phytoestrogen. To examine the effects of kudzu root in comparison with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) on lipid profile, sex hormone levels, bone turnover markers, and indices of cognitive function. For the study, 127 community-living, postmenopausal women aged 50 to 65 years were randomized to receive HRT, kudzu root (equivalent to 100 mg isoflavone), or no treatment for 3 months. The following measurements were carried out : menopausal symptoms questionnaire; neuropsychological tests covering memory, attention, motor speed, and word-finding ability; quality of life; lipid profile; urinary deoxypyridinoline; dietary phytoestrogen intake and urinary phytoestrogen; estradiol; follicle-stimulating hormone; and luteinizing hormone. Only participants in the HRT group showed a mean reduction in cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol that was significantly different from that of the control group. No significant changes in lipid profile or follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone were observed in the PL group compared with the controls. However, both the HRT and PL groups showed an improvement in Mini-Mental State Examination score and attention span compared with the case of participants receiving no treatment. HRT and PL had different effects on cognitive function; HRT improved delayed recall, whereas flexible thinking seemed improved in the PL group. This study was unable to demonstrate a scientific basis for the use of kudzu root for improving the health of postmenopausal women in general. However, the effect of kudzu root on cognitive function deserves further study.

Metabolic syndrome, blood sugar, cholesterol, lipids, triglycerides
Chronic dietary kudzu isoflavones improve components of metabolic syndrome in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats.
J Agric Food Chemistry. 2009.
The present study tested the long-term effects of dietary kudzu root extract supplementation on the regulation of arterial pressure, plasma glucose, and circulating cholesterol in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SP-SHR). Female SP-SHR were maintained for 2 months on a polyphenol-free diet, with or without the addition of 0.2% kudzu root extract. Half of the rats in each diet group were ovariectomized, whereas the other half remained intact. Following 2 months on the diets, the 0.2% kudzu root extract supplementation (compared to control diet) significantly lowered arterial pressure, plasma cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, and fasting plasma insulin in both the ovariectomized and intact SP-SHR. These results indicate that long-term dietary kudzu root extract supplementation can improve glucose, lipid, and blood pressure control in intact and ovariectomized SP-SHR.

Rodents studies
Phytomedicine. 2012. The Chinese Pueraria root extract ameliorates impaired glucose and lipid metabolism in obese mice. Prasain JK, Peng N, Rajbhandari R, Wyss JM. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA..  In this study, chronic administration of kudzu root extract (8 months, 0.2%, w/w, in diet) decreased baseline fasting plasma glucose (183ą14 vs. 148ą11 mg/dl) and improved glucose and insulin tolerance in C57BL/6J ob/ob mice (1.67ą0.17 ng/ml [kudzu treated] vs. 2.35ą0.63 ng/ml [control]), but such treatment did not alter these parameters in lean control mice. Among the mice on the kudzu supplementation, plasma levels of isoflavone metabolites were significantly higher in ob/ob versus lean control mice, and unmetabolized puerarin (11.50ą5.63 ng/g) was found in adipose tissue only in the treated mice. Together, these data demonstrate that a puerarin containing kudzu diet improves glucose and insulin responsiveness in ob/ob mice, suggesting that puerarin may be a beneficial adjuvant for treating metabolic disease.

Pueraria mirifica
Characteristic chemical components of the essential oil from white kwao krua (Pueraria mirifica).
J Oleo Sci. 2013.

Pueraria tuberosa
Hepatotoxicity of tubers of Indian Kudzu (Pueraria tuberosa) in rats.
Food Chem Toxicol. 2010.
Methanolic extract of tubers of Pueraria tuberosa (PTME) has been tested for hepatoxicity in rats. In acute study, PTME (100-400 mg/100g BW, given orally) showed LD(50) at 227.5mg. For sub-chronic study, its repeated doses (5-100mg/100g BW, for 30 days), significantly increased hepatic enzymes in blood, sinusoidal congestion, disruption of central vein, inflammatory cell infiltration and hepatocellular necrosis in liver in dose dependent manner, with increase in NO, iNOS and ROS levels. In a kinetic study, there was sequential decrease in GSH and enhanced NO suggesting free radical generation as the primary cause of cell damage. It is concluded that the higher dosing of PTME or its continuous use for longer period (even in low doses) is hepatotoxic by inducing oxidative stress.

Pueraria thomsonii
Pharmacological studies on Puerariae Flos. IV: Effects of Pueraria thomsonii dried flower extracts on blood ethanol and acetaldehyde levels in humans.
Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 2002.
We investigated the effects of extracts from the dried flower of Pueraria thomsonii on blood ethanol and acetaldehyde levels in humans consuming alcoholic beverages. These results suggest that Pueraria thomsonii promotes the elimination of blood acetaldehyde in humans. The present study clinically suggests that a modest stimulatory effect of Pueraria thomsonii on the elimination of blood acetaldehyde may passively mitigate acetaldehyde toxicity, such as flushing, palpitation, headache, etc., associated with excessive alcohol intake.

Questions from readers
If PTH levels were much higher than normal, yet blood calcium and Vitamin D levels normal, would Kudzu 1,000 reduce PTH levels to normal, even if a tumor on any parathyroid gland was present. Would it be likely to shrink a tumor, avoiding surgery?
There is not enough human research with this herbal product to know the answer to this question.

Over the counter pills
A few vitamin companies sell kudzu extract in the form of capsules. Here are some examples and one product you can purchase:

Purchase Kudzu Blend 500 mg per capsule (Extract) (Pueraria lobata) (root) Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) (root) (Standardized to contain 1% Daidzein)
Proprietary Blend 600 mg per capsule Kudzu (root) and Kudzu, dried extract (root)

Purchase Kudzu extract capsules from a reliable online store