Kudzu Root: Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects
People have used kudzu root in Eastern medicine for many years. More recently, kudzu root has made its way to Western countries as an herbal supplement.
You may be wondering how people use kudzu root and what to know when considering whether to give it a try.
This article examines the benefits, uses, and potential side effects of kudzu root.
What it is
Kudzu root, also called Japanese arrowroot, is native to China, Japan, and Korea. These cultures have used it widely for centuries. Today, kudzu grows in other parts of the world as well, including in the southern United States.
The plant is a trailing vine that often grows over other plants and trees. As such, some people consider it to be an invasive weed.
For over 2,000 years, people have used kudzu root in traditional Chinese medicine for purposes like treating fevers, diarrhea, and even diabetes and heart disease (1).
In its raw form, kudzu root resembles other root tubers, such as potatoes or yams. It has tan skin, white flesh, and an oblong shape.
The kudzu plant resembles poison ivy, so itâ€™s important to know how to identify it correctly.
Kudzu root is the edible part of a trailing vine native to several Asian countries. People have used it for many years in traditional Chinese medicine, and it resembles other root tubers, like yams.
Today, the most popular ways to use kudzu root are as an herbal supplement or a root tea.
However, you can also consume kudzu root as a food. People often eat different parts of the plant raw, sautÃ©ed, deep-fried, baked, or jellied.
You can eat the root as you would other root vegetables, like potatoes or rutabagas. Kudzu roots can be dried and ground into a powder, which some people use as breading for fried foods or as a thickener for soups and sauces.
Whatâ€™s more, the kudzu plant leaves, vine tips, and purple flower blossoms are also edible.
People typically use kudzu root as an herbal supplement or tea. You can also cook and eat it, or use it in dried and powdered form as a breading or thickening agent.
Kudzu root benefits
Kudzu root contains more than 70 plant compounds, some of which may be responsible for the rootâ€™s potential health benefits (1).
May reduce alcohol dependence
Some studies suggest kudzu root may help treat alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence.
One small study looked at the effects of kudzu in 17 men ages 21â€“33 who reported drinking approximately 22â€“35 drinks per week. The researchers gave participants either kudzu extract or a placebo every day for 4 weeks (2).
The participants reported their desire for and consumption of alcohol for the duration of the study. Researchers found that the kudzu extract had no effect on alcohol cravings, but it reduced the number of weekly alcoholic drinks by 34â€“57% (2).
Furthermore, the men who took kudzu had fewer heavy drinking days per week and had significantly more consecutive days with no alcohol consumption (2).
Another study found that people who took puerarin, an isoflavone extract from the kudzu plant, prior to drinking took longer to consume alcoholic beverages (3).
This effect has been seen in other studies as well. In some instances, even a single dose of kudzu extract reduced alcohol consumption and prevented binge drinking (4, 5).
Itâ€™s important to note that these studies used kudzu extract, which may have contained other parts of the kudzu plant besides the root. Thus, scientists need to do more research in this area on the effects of kudzu root specifically.
May help treat liver damage
Kudzu root is rich in antioxidants, compounds that protect cells from oxidative stress that can lead to disease. The isoflavone puerarin is the most abundant antioxidant compound in the kudzu vine (6).
One study in mice found that kudzu vine extract was highly beneficial in treating alcohol-induced liver damage by scavenging harmful free radicals and boosting the natural antioxidant system (6).
May alleviate menopausal symptoms
Some health companies sell the kudzu root species Pueraria mirifica as a supplement for menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Kudzu root contains phytoestrogens, plant compounds that scientists have found act similarly to estrogen in the human body (7, 8).
Kudzu root may help treat some of the most common menopausal complaints, including hot flashes and night sweats.
Small studies in people have observed noteworthy improvements in these menopausal symptoms, among others, like vaginal dryness (9, 10).
However, other research has found inconclusive evidence for this use (11).
Other potential benefits
While scientists need to do more research on the health effects of kudzu, some studies suggest that kudzu root may have other health benefits worth considering.
Some of these include:
- May reduce inflammation. One animal study found that isoorientin, a compound isolated from kudzu root, boosted antioxidant levels and reduced inflammation markers in mice with swollen paws (12).
- May promote heart health. Kudzu root offered heart-protective benefits to mice with burn-induced heart injuries. People have also used it in traditional Chinese medicine for heart disease, but scientists need to do more research on this (1, 13).
- May alleviate severe headaches. A small case report involving 16 people with frequent cluster headaches found that kudzu root reduced headache intensity in 69% of people, frequency in 56%, and duration in 31% (14).
Kudzu root may help treat alcohol dependence, liver damage, and menopausal symptoms. Scientists need to do more human studies to determine its effectiveness in other areas, like inflammation, heart health, and headaches.
While kudzu root may offer a few specific benefits, there are also some potential downsides to consider.
There is some evidence that kudzu root dietary supplements may cause liver injury. One study in mice found that taking 10 mg per day of kudzu root extract for 4 weeks caused liver toxicity (15).
In one human case study, a previously healthy 55-year-old man went to the hospital with liver injury after taking mistletoe extract for 1 month and kudzu root extract for 10 days (16).
Itâ€™s important to note that this is a case study, so it canâ€™t prove kudzu root caused this liver injury. Scientists need to do more research to investigate the potential of kudzu root to cause liver injury in humans.
Kudzu root may also interact with certain medications. For instance, it may reduce the effectiveness of birth control due to its estrogenic effects (8, 17).
Anecdotal sources also note that kudzu root may lower blood sugar too much or slow down blood clotting. However, there is no available scientific evidence for this. Nevertheless, it may be a good idea to avoid if you use blood thinning or diabetes medications.
Itâ€™s best to speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether kudzu root could interact with any medications youâ€™re taking.
Kudzu root may increase the risk of liver injury or interact with certain medications, like birth control. Anecdotal sources say it may also be harmful to take with medications for diabetes or blood clotting. Speak with a healthcare provider before taking it.
There isnâ€™t much scientific evidence available on the dosing for kudzu root as a supplement. For this reason, itâ€™s difficult to make recommendations for various uses.
Furthermore, itâ€™s likely that the suggested doses for kudzu root will vary depending on the manufacturer and the type of supplement you may be considering.
Some research specifically on the kudzu species Pueraria mirifica suggests that doses of 50â€“100 mg per day appear to have a low risk of adverse side effects (18).
For targeting alcohol dependence, studies have used dosages of 1.2 grams of kudzu root extract per day over 1 week, or a single dose of 2 grams before drinking alcohol, without noted side effects (3, 19).
Scientists need to do more research on the safe and effective dosages of kudzu root for various uses.
There is no standard dosing for kudzu root. Various studies have used single, one-time doses or daily doses for a week without reported adverse effects.
Forms and where to find it
You can find kudzu root supplements easily online and in a variety of natural food or supplement stores.
The most popular forms available appear to be powdered drink mixes, capsules, disintegrating tablets, and liquid extract drops.
Companies also sell kudzu root as a food-grade root starch powder. You can use this as a thickening agent in recipes like soups, batters, pie fillings, sauces, gravies, and desserts.
You can find kudzu root for purchase in many supplement stores or online. Stores typically sell it as a powdered drink mix, an oral capsule or tablet, liquid drops, or as a food-grade starch to use in cooking.
The bottom line
Kudzu root is the edible root of the Pueraria genus of plants. The kudzu plant is a vine that resembles poison ivy and is native to several Asian countries.
You can cook and eat kudzu root as you would other tuber vegetables, such as potatoes. People more commonly eat it in a dried and powdered form, which you can use as a thickening agent, a herbal supplement, or a tea.
While kudzu root has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, people most often use it to help treat alcohol dependence. It may also have other benefits, such as for menopausal symptoms.
Some evidence suggests kudzu root may help with liver damage, while other preliminary evidence suggests it may cause liver injury in certain cases. Scientists need to do more research on the effects of kudzu root in humans to investigate these effects in the liver.
The kudzu root may interact with certain medications or pose other health risks for certain people. Therefore, itâ€™s always best to consult your healthcare provider before taking it.
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