Kudzu – proven benefits and uses

kudzu

kudzu

Scientific names Common names
Dolichos hirsutus Thunb. Baai (Ig.)
Dolichos hirsutus Thunb. Tahaunon (Mbo.)
Dolichos japonicus hort. Ke hemp (Engl.)
Dolichos lobatus Willd. Kudzu (Engl.)
Neustanthus chinensis Benth. Kudzu vine (Engl.)
Pachyrhizus thunbergiana Siebold & Zucc. Mile-a-minute vine (Engl.)
Pueraria argyi H.Lev & Vaniot Japanese arrowroot (Eng.)
Pueraria bodinieri H.Lev. & Vaniot Pueraria root (Engl.)
Pueraria caerulea H.Lev. & Vaniot  
Pueraria harmsii Rech.  
Pueraria hirsuta (Thunb.) Matsum.  
Pueraria koten H.Lev. & Vaniot  
Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi  
Pueraria montana var. lobata (Willd.) Sanj. & Prad.  
Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi  
Pueraria neo-caledonica Harms  
Pueraria novo-guineensis Warb.  
Pueraria pseudo-hirsuta T.Tang & Wang  
Pueraria thunbergiana (Seibold & Zucc.) Benth.  
Pueraria triloba (Houtt.) Makino  
Pueraria volkensii WaHosok.
Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Gan shu teng, Ge teng, Ye ge, Ge gen, Fen ge teng, Ko t’eng, Ko ten.
FINNISH: Purppurakudzu.
FIJI: Aka, Wa-yake, Yaka.
FRENCH: Kudzu, Nepalem, Vigne japonoise, Koudsou, Koudzou.
GERMANY: Kopoubohne.
INDONESIAN: Bitok, Ngu lok, Tebi, Tobi.
ITALIAN: Pueraria.
JAPANESE: Kuzu, Daisumame, Fusi maki kadsura, In ken maki, Katsi maki, Kudzu, Saitzu mame.
KOREAN: Chilk, Cheulk, Chuk, Chik.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Goruma, Gosima, Kagomba, Mapumb, Mudja, Nggaoka, Ngko-ko, Owitu, Sifu.
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Lebu.
SPANISH: Kudzu comun, Kudzu ordinario.
THAI: Tum yaa krua.
TONGA: AKA, FUE ALPUAKA, FUE’AE PUAKA.
VIETNAMESE: Cu nang, Cu san day.

Kudzu is a rather coarse, climbing, hairy, annual, herbaceous vine reaching a height of 8 meters. Leaflets are entire or slightly repand, ovate, 10 to 20 centimeters long, the upper surface smooth or nearly so, the lower surface densely covered with soft, grayish hairs. Flowers are about 2 centimeters long, borne on axillary racemes, 15 to 30 centimeters long. Calyx is hairy. Corolla is bright purple, 2 centimeters wide, with a large yellow spot at the base. Pods are 5 to 8 centimeters long, about 1 centimeter wide, covered with spreading brown hairs.

Distribution

– Open grasslands and thickets, at low and medium altitudes, and in many regions ascends to 2,000 meters.

– Found in Bataan, Benguet, Quezon and the Rizal Provinces in Luzon; in Biliran; Banton; Negros and Mindanao.

– Also found in India to Japan southward to Malaya.

– A common food crop in Java, Sumatra, and Malay.

– In the United States viewed as an invasive plant.

Constituents

• Active constituents include daidzin, daidzein, puerarin, genistin, genistein, tectorigenin, glycitin, tectoridin, 6″-O-xylosyltectoridin, 6″-O-xyloglycitin, biochanin A, and spinasterol.

• Leaves contain glutamic acid, adenine, asparagin, butyric acid.

• Roots have yielded more than 25 isoflavonoids and flavonoids, including daidzein, daidzin, and puerarin.

• Other isofavones isolated are kakkalide, tectoridin and tectorigenin.

• Flowers yielded six isoflavonoids, tectorigenin, glycitein, tectoridin, glycitin, 6″-O-xylosyltectoridin, and 6″-O-xylosylglycitin.

• Root starch yields

340 calories per 100 g, 16.5% moisture, 0.2 g protein, o.1g fat, 83.1 g total carbohydrate, o.1 g ash, 35 mg ca, 18 mg P, 2.0 mg Fe and 2 mg Na. (see study)

• Root (fresh weight) in grams (g) or milligrams (mg) per 100 g (fresh weight) yields

113 calories, water 68.6%, protein 2.1g, fat 0.1 g, carbohydrate 27.8g, fiber 0.7g, ash 1.4g; minerals: calcium 15 mg, phosphorus 18 mg. (see study)

• Study of Pueraria lobata flower extract isolated two new isoflavone compounds: 5,6,7,4′-tetrahydroxyisoflavone-6,7-di-O-β-d-glucopyranoside and 5,6,7-trihydroxy-4′-methoxyisoflavone-6,7-di-O-β-d-glucopyranoside. (see study )

Properties

• Acrid, sweet, cold.

• Considered antidote, antiemetic, antipyretic, antispasmodic, antivinous, demulcent, depurative, galactagogue, hypolgycemic, hypotensive, styptic.

• Root considered antifebrile, antiemetic and antidote.

• Studies have shown antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, cytotoxic, cardioprotective, fibrinolytic, antiosteoporotic, nootropic, anti-inflammatory properties.

Parts utilized

Roots, seeds, flowers, leaves.

kudzu seeds

Uses
Edibility

• Roots, flowers, leaves.

• Equal to alfalfa in nutritive value.

• Flour made from roots used in soups.

• Flowers cooked or made into pickles. Stems and young leaves eaten raw or cooked. (see study)

Folkloric traditional medicine remedies, benefits and uses of kudzu 

• Root of the plant is both food and medicine; however, above ground part is considered emetic.

• Root prescribed for fevers, colds, influenza, dysentery, snake bites.

• Use to counteract the effects of croton oil and other poisonous drugs.

• Externally applied to dog bites.

• Seeds used for dysentery and alcoholic excess.

• Flowers also used for alcohol excess.

• Leaves used on wounds as styptic.

• Shoots used to stimulate secretion of milk; applied to incipient boils and aphthous stomatitis in children.

• Every part of the plant used for skin rashes.

• Flowers used as diaphoretic and febrifuge.

• An ingredient in many traditional Chinese medicine formulas.

• In Chinese traditional medicine, used to treat tinnitus, vertigo, deafness, diabetes; used as a remedy for alcoholism and hangover; flowers used to detoxify the liver. Also used as diaphoretic and febrifuge. Root decoction used for colds, dysentery, and fever.

Alcoholism

• Animal studies have shown daidzin and daidzein to diminish the craving for alcohol. Chinese Pharmacopoeia suggests 9-15 grams of kudzu root daily. However, results of use and supplementation in humans have shown conflicting results.

Other uses 

• Feed: Kudzu is primarily grown for pasture, hay, and silage; palatable to all types of livestock.

• Flour: In China and Japan, Ko-fen flour is obtained from tuberous roots

• In the U.S. kudzu is used to make soaps, lotions, jelly and compost.

• Fiber: Fiber obtained from the stems; studied for potential use as wallpaper, clothing and paper. Cultivated in China and Japan for its textile fiber and root.

• In the U.S., kudzu used to make soaps, lotions, jelly, and compost. Considered a potential valuable asset for the production of cellulosic ethanol.

• Used for erosion control and soil improvement on banks.

Science proven benefits, and uses of kudzu

Inhibition of Cisplatin-Induced Damage / Free Radical Scavenging:

Study showed the radix of Pueraria thunbergiana prevented cisplatin-induced HEI-OC1 cell damage through inhibition of lipid peroxidation and scavenging activities of free radicals.

KS-III (Kaikasaponin III) / Hypoglycemic / Hypolipidemic:

Study investigated the immunosuppressive effect of kaikasaponin III (KD-III) saponin in the diabetic rat. KS-III prolonged bleeding time and plasma clotting time in STZ-treated mice and increased TF (tissue factor) activity. Results showed its hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects may be due to up-regulating or down-regulating antioxidant mechanisms via changes in enzyme activities.

Antioxidant / Aldose-Reductase Inhibition:

Study showed antioxidant and aldose reductase inhibitory activities.

Anti-Inflammatory / Antinociceptive / reduces pain, swelling and inflammation:

Study of the combine extracts from three Chinese herbal medicines – Kalopanax pictus, Pueraria thunbergiana and Rhus verniciflua – used for diabetes mellitus in Korea were investigated for anti-inflammatory effects. Results showed inhibition of NO production, decreased PGE2 and TNF-a release, dose-dependent analgesic activities in varying degrees among the different extracts.

Tectorigenin / Cytotoxicity / Leukemia:

Study isolated six isoflavonoids. Among these isoflavonoids, tectorigenin and genistein exhibited cytotoxicity against various human cancer cells. Tectorigenin induced differentiation of human promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells and caused apoptotic changes of DNA in the cells. Results suggest a potential for tectorigenin as a therapeutic agent for leukemia.

Cognitive Effects:

In a study comparing HRT and Pueraria lobata, the results did not demonstrate scientific basis for use of PL for postmenopausal health in general. However, cognitive improvements were noted. Both showed improvement in Mini-Mental State Exam and attention span. Also, HRT improved delayed recall, while PL improved flexible thinking.

Suppression of Alcohol Intake and Withdrawal:

In a study of Kudzu root in alcohol-preferring rats showed a 50-60% reduction in alcohol consumption and abolishment of withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Intake Reduction / Beer Drinkers:

In a study of male and female “heavy” alcohol drinkers, kudzu treatment resulted in significant reduction in the number of beers consumed, with decrease volume of each sip, and increase in the number of sips. Results suggest the plant may be a useful adjunct in reducing alcohol intake in a naturalistic setting.

Tectorigenin / Anaphylaxis Inhibition / Anti-Allergic Drug:

Tectoridin from the flowers of P. thunbergiana is metabolized by human intestinal microflora into tectorigenin. Study in rats showed the main metabolite tectorigenin potently inhibited the passive cutaneous anaphylaxis reaction and inhibited in vitro release of IgE-induced beta-hexosaminidase from RBL-2H3 cells. Results suggest tectoridin is a prodrug, and presents as a candidate for an antiallergic drug.

Anti-Thrombotic Effects / Puerarin:

Animal and clinical studies have shown antithrombotic effects, possibly through an inhibition of platelet aggregation and blood viscosity. Puerarin can increase superoxide dismutase activity, decrease lipoprotein level and enhance fibrinolytic activity.

Neurologic Effects:

Kudzu may be protective to the neurons. Daidzin has been shown to inhibit serotonin and dopamine metabolism. Puerarin has shown an improvement effect against memory impairment in an aging-mice model induced by D-galactose.

Useful in reducing alcohol intake:

Extracts of kudzu containing a variety of isoflavones have been shown to reduce alcohol drinking in rats and hamsters.

Estrogenic Effects:

Isoflavone constituents have shown both estrogenic and antiestrogenic activity.

Hypoglycemic Effects / Puerarin:

Animal studies have suggested hypoglycemic effects. Puerarin lowers plasma glucose via increase in glucose utilization. It also activates alpha1-adredoreceptors in the adrenal glands to enhance secretion of beta-endorphins to decrease blood glucose.

Antiosteoporotic Effects:

In animal studies, Pueraria lobata has exhibited increase in bone mineral density. Puerarin also suppressed bone resorption and promotes bone formation.

Puerarin / Fibrinolytic Activity / Coronary Heart Disease:

Study evaluated the effect of puerarin on superoxide dismutase (SOD), lipid peroxidation (LPO), tissue plasminogen (TPA) and plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1) of coronary heart disease (CHD) patients. Results showed puerarin can increase SOD activity, decrease LPO level and enhance fibrinolytic activity.

Cardioprotective / good for heart:

Study evaluated the benefits of D&G–Danshen (dried root and rhizome of perennial herb Salvia miltiorrhiza) and Gegen (dried roots of Pueraria lobata) as adjunctive therapy on atherogenesis in high-risk hypertensive individuals. Results showed D&G to be well tolerated and significantly improved atherogenesis in high-risk hypertensive patients, with a potential in primary atherosclerosis prevention.

Antioxidant / Isoflavonoids / Roots:

Study evaluated the isoflavonoid content and antioxidant activity of P. lobata roots, including the root outer bark and whole root. The root outer bark yielded higher isoflavonoids cont3nt that whole root or kudzu root. The antioxidant potential of the root outer bark by total phenolic content, DPPH, ABTS and reducing power were also higher. The main isoflavonoids were puerarin, daidzin, genistin and genistein. Puerarin in the root outer bark showed the greatest antioxidant activity in P. lobata roots.

Isoflavones / Flowers / Quantitative Analysis:

Study aimed to develop a new HPLC method for the determination of two major isoflavones tectoridin and 6″-O-xylosyltectoridin in P. lobata flowers. Quantitative study on the two major isoflavones in flowers of P. lobata showed the flowers from northern China to yield more isoflavones (26.46-43.28 mg/g of tectoridin and 30.90-48.23 mg/g of 6″-O-xylosyl-tectoridin) than those from southern China (10.00-19.81 mg/g of tectoridin and 11.08-37.03 mg/g of 6″-O-xylosyl-tectoridin).

Effect of Kudzu on Various Cytochromes P450s:

Study evaluated the effects of kudzu on various cytochrome P450s. Different human cytochrome 450 isoforms (P450 2E1, 2A6, and 1A2) were selected based on their ability to convert relatively inert foreign chemical species into toxic metabolites. The most inhibitory effects were noted with the interaction between cytochrome P450 1A2 and ethanolic kudzu root extract and cytochrome P4502C9 and ethanolic kudzu root extract.

Isoflavones / Anti-Inflammatory On Cerebral Ischemia: Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory effects of Total Isoflavones of P. lobata (TIPL) in ischemia in vivo models. TIPL reduced the brain infarct volume and attenuated ischemic-induced cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) up-regulation, reduced activation of glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP) and CD11b antibody. Results showed TIPL can protect brain from ischemic damage after MCAo. The effects may be due to anti-inflammatory properties by inhibition of COX-2 expression, astrocyte expression,, and microglia.

Isoflavonoids / BBB Penetration / Roots:

Study evaluated the brain penetration and pharmacokinetics of five active isoflavonoids—puerarin (PU), 3′-methoxypuerarin (MPU), 3′-hydroxypuerarin (HPU), daidzein (DA) and daidzein-8-C-apiosyl-(1-6)-glycoside (DAC)—in the ventricular CSF and plasma of rats after administration of a Pueraria isoflavonoids (PIF) extract. Results showed the isoflavonoids can quickly penetrate to the brain through the BBB (blood brain barrier) and may be responsible for the neuro-pharmacological activities of P. lobata.

Availability

Wild-crafted.

Root powder and root extracts in the market.

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