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Updated 18 February 2013

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)

Kudzu originated in China and was brought to the United States from Japan in the late 1800s. It is distributed throughout much of the eastern United States and is most common in the southern part of the continent.

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RELATED TERMS

Arrowroot, biochanin A, daidzein, daidzin, Fabaceae (family), Flos puerariae, ge-gen, gegen-tanj (TJ-1), genistein, genistin, glycitin, kaikasaponin III (KS-III), kakkonto, kampo, kudzu root, Kwao Kruea Khao, Leguminosae (family), pedunsaponin B2, pedunsaponin C3, puer, Pueraria lobata, Pueraria lobata L., Pueraria lobata Ohwi, Pueraria lobata root decoction, Pueraria lobata (Willd), Pueraria mirifica, Pueraria montana, Pueraria omeiensis, Pueraria peduncularis, Pueraria phaseoloides, Pueraria thomsonii, Pueraria thunbergiana, Puerariae flos, Puerariae radix, puerariae surculus, puerariaeflos, puerarin, Radix puerariae, spinasterol, tectoridin, tectorigenin, Tianbaokang, Yufengningxin.

BACKGROUND

Kudzu originated in China and was brought to the United States from Japan in the late 1800s. It is distributed throughout much of the eastern United States and is most common in the southern part of the continent.

Kudzu has traditionally been used in China to treat alcoholism, diabetes (high blood sugar), gastroenteritis (inflamed stomach or intestine), and deafness.

Evidence suggests kudzu may improve signs and symptoms of unstable angina (chest pain), improve insulin resistance, and have a positive effect on cognitive function in postmenopausal women. However, most studies have suffered from methodological weaknesses and small sample sizes.

Chinese healers have used kudzu to treat high blood pressure and chest pain and to minimize alcohol cravings. Research indicates that puerarin (a constituent of kudzu) may increase blood flow to the heart and brain which helps explain certain traditional uses.

EVIDENCE TABLE

Conditions

Uses
disclaimer: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Grade*

Alcoholism

Although preliminary study indicates that kudzu may be useful in alcoholism, additional human study is needed to make a firm recommendation.

C

Cardiovascular disease / angina

Kudzu has a long history of use in the treatment of cardiovascular (heart) disorders, including angina (chest pain), acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and heart failure. Preliminary studies have suggested that kudzu may reduce the frequency of angina events in human subjects. More research is needed in this area.

C

Deafness

Kudzu was used in one clinical trial to treat sudden nerve deafness. Additional evidence is needed to confirm these results.

C

Diabetes

Preliminary evidence suggests puerarin, a constituent of kudzu, may improve insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin, and the normal response to a given amount of insulin is reduced. As a result, higher levels of insulin are needed in order for insulin to have its effects. Insulin resistance precedes the development of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, reversing insulin resistance can lessen chances of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

C

Diabetic retinopathy

Preliminary evidence suggests that puerarin (a constituent of kudzu) injections may reduce blood viscosity, improve microcirculation, and play a positive therapeutic role in diabetic retinopathy. Well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm these results before a recommendation can be made.

C

Glaucoma

In China, the main herb-derived eye drops from glaucoma are pueraria flavonoids. The addition of puerarin to conventional drugs for glaucoma yielded favorable results. Additional research is needed to confirm these results.

C

Menopausal symptoms

There is conflicting evidence regarding the effects of kudzu on menopausal symptoms. Additional study is needed to clarify these results.

C

*Key to grades: A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

TRADITION

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below. Allergic rhinitis, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antithrombotic (blood clots), cancer, cerebral ischemia (a lack of adequate blood flow to the brain), circulation, cirrhosis (liver disease), colds, diarrhea, dysentery (severe diarrhea), elimination of toxins, encephalitis (brain infection), estrogenic effects, fever, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), gastroenteritis (inflammation of stomach, intestine), hangovers, headaches, hypertension (high blood pressure), influenza, leukemia, macular degeneration (chronic eye disease), measles, menstrual irregularities, migraine, myalgia (muscle pain), reperfusion injury (myocardial, restoration of blood flow), neck stiffness, osteoporosis, pain, Parkinson's disease, pruritus (severe itching), psoriasis (chronic skin disease), pulmonary embolism, sinusitis, sweat stimulation, tinnitus, trauma, urticaria (hives), vasorelaxant (reduces tension of the blood vessel walls).

DOSING

disclaimer: The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (over 18 years old)

Several doses of kudzu have been studied. For alcoholism, 1.2 grams kudzu root extract twice daily for one month has been used. For menopausal symptoms, 50 milligrams daily and 100 milligrams daily of Pueraria mirifica once daily for six months has been used. Kudzu powder (containing 100 milligrams isoflavones) dissolved in water once daily for three months has also been used.

Puerarin 400 milligrams daily for ten days has been taken by mouth to improve heart function in patients with chronic cardiac failure. Puerarin 500 milligrams has also been given as an injection daily for two weeks to reduce the size of infarction in patients with acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). Doses between 400-500 milligrams are typically used to treat diabetes, diabetic retinopathy and unstable angina pectoris (chest pain). Injections should only be given under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.

Children (under 18 years old)

There is no proven safe or effective dose for kudzu.

SAFETY

disclaimer: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to Pueraria lobata or the Fabaceae/Leguminosae family. There is one case report of allergic reaction following the use of a combination herbal product containing kudzu involving a maculopapular (elevated, spotted rash-like skin condition) eruption starting on the thighs and spreading over the entire body.

Side Effects and Warnings

Currently, there are no side effects reported of kudzu treatment when taken by mouth. Intravenous puerarin has caused intravascular hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells). Intraperitoneal administration of puerarin or crude extracts of Pueraria lobata caused hypothermia (low body temperature).

In theory, intraperitoneal administration of puerarin or crude extracts of Pueraria lobata may cause hypothermia. Kudzu root may also cause weight loss, although this has not been well studied in humans.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Kudzu is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.

INTERACTIONS

disclaimer: Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

Kudzu isoflavones are reported to have antiestrogenic activity. Theoretically, kudzu might competitively inhibit the effects of estrogen therapy.

Kudzu extracts or individual isoflavones suppress voluntary alcohol intake in animal models of alcoholism.

The kudzu constituent, daidzin, may have antiarrhythmic properties and, theoretically, kudzu may interfere with antiarrhythmic agents (used to treat irregular heartbeat). Daidzin may also act by inhibiting serotonin and dopamine metabolism. Theoretically, concurrent use of kudzu with drugs that affect the metabolism of serotonin and dopamine (e.g. MAOIs) may lead to increased serotonin levels and increased risk of serotonin syndrome.

Kudzu may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin©) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix©), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Motrin©, Advil©) or naproxen (Naprosyn©, Aleve©).

Kudzu may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

Although not well studied in humans, puerarin may lessen the feelings of anxiety and, theoretically, it may have an antagonistic effect with benzodiazepines. Puerarin may also suppress the bone resorption, promote bone formation and interfere with bisphosphonates. Puerarin may have vasorelaxant properties, possibly by blocking beta-adrenergic receptors.

Kudzu inhibits and induces cytochrome P450 isoenzymes. It is unclear which cytochrome P450 isoenzymes are affected and to what degree. Concurrent use of drugs metabolized by the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme system may result in altered therapeutic levels.

Theoretically, kudzu may interfere with blood pressure lowering agents. Kudzu has vasodilatory (blood vessel dilating) and hypotensive (blood pressure lowering) effects.

Kudzu may weaken the effects of mecamylamine.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

The kudzu constituent, daidzin, may have antiarrhythmic (treats irregular heartbeat) properties and, theoretically, kudzu may interfere with these antiarrhythmic herbs and supplements.

Kudzu isoflavones may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.

Kudzu may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.

Kudzu inhibits and induces cytochrome P450 isoenzymes; however, it is unclear which CYP isoenzymes are affected and to what degree. Concurrent use of herbs and supplements metabolized by the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme system may result in altered therapeutic levels.

Kudzu isoflavones are reported to have antiestrogenic activity. Theoretically, kudzu might competitively inhibit the effects of herbs and supplements with estrogen activity.

Theoretically, kudzu may interfere with blood pressure lowering herbs and supplements. Kudzu has vasodilatory (blood vessel dilating) and hypotensive (blood pressure lowering) effects.

The daidzin in kudzu may act by inhibiting serotonin and dopamine metabolism. Theoretically, concurrent use of kudzu with herbs that affect the metabolism of serotonin and dopamine (e.g. MAOIs) may lead to increased serotonin levels and increased risk of serotonin syndrome.

Puerarin may have vasorelaxant properties, possibly by blocking beta-adrenergic receptors.

ATTRIBUTION

This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

  • Chiang HM, Fang SH, Wen KC, et al. Life-threatening interaction between the root extract of Pueraria lobata and methotrexate in rats. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2005;209(3):263-268. View abstract
  • Jeon GC, Park MS, Yoon DY, et al. Antitumor activity of spinasterol isolated from Pueraria roots. Exp Mol Med 2005;37(2):111-120. View abstract
  • Jiang RW, Lau KM, Lam HM, et al. A comparative study on aqueous root extracts of Pueraria thomsonii and Pueraria lobata by antioxidant assay and HPLC fingerprint analysis. J Ethnopharmacol 2005;96(1-2):133-138. View abstract
  • Jin LH, Liu CF, Zeng Y. [Protective effects of puerarin on radiation injury of experimental rats]. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao 2005;3(1):43-45. View abstract
  • Lau CS, Carrier DJ, Beitle RR, et al. A glycoside flavonoid in Kudzu (Pueraria lobata): identification, quantification, and determination of antioxidant activity. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 2005;121-124:783-794. View abstract
  • Lukas SE, Penetar D, Berko J, et al. An extract of the Chinese herbal root kudzu reduces alcohol drinking by heavy drinkers in a naturalistic setting. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2005;29(5):756-762. View abstract
  • Mercer LD, Kelly BL, Horne MK, et al. Dietary polyphenols protect dopamine neurons from oxidative insults and apoptosis: investigations in primary rat mesencephalic cultures. Biochem Pharmacol 2005;69(2):339-345. View abstract
  • Pan HP, Mo XL, Yang JZ, et al. [Effect of puerarin on the expression of Hsp70 in the rats with cerebral injury induced by acute local ischemia]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 2005;30(7):538-540. View abstract
  • Shen P, Liu MH, Ng TY, et al. Differential effects of isoflavones, from Astragalus membranaceus and Pueraria thomsonii, on the activation of PPARalpha, PPARgamma, and adipocyte differentiation in vitro. J Nutr 2006;136(4):899-905. View abstract
  • Trisomboon H, Malaivijitnond S, Watanabe G, et al. Ovulation block by Pueraria mirifica: a study of its endocrinological effect in female monkeys. Endocrine 2005;26(1):33-39. View abstract
  • Xiao LZ, Gao LJ, Ma SC. [Comparative study on effects of puerarin and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in treating acute myocardial infarction]. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 2005;25(3):210-213. View abstract
  • Xu X, Zhang S, Zhang L, et al. The Neuroprotection of puerarin against cerebral ischemia is associated with the prevention of apoptosis in rats. Planta Med 2005;71(7):585-591. View abstract
  • Zhang S, Ji G, Liu J. Reversal of chemical-induced liver fibrosis in Wistar rats by puerarin. J Nutr Biochem 2005. View abstract
  • Zhang Y, Chen J, Zhang C, et al. Analysis of the estrogenic components in kudzu root by bioassay and high performance liquid chromatography. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2005;94(4):375-381. View abstract
  • Zhao Y, Du GY, Cui HF, et al. [Experimental study of protective effect of pueraria compound on the cerebral ischemic injury]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 2005;30(7):548-551. View abstract
disclaimer: Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2011 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions. disclaimer: While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy. disclaimer: The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)



Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
 
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