Kudzu

Scientific Name(s): Pueraria lobata (Willd) Ohwi. or P. montana (Lour.) Merr. or P. thunbergiana (Siebold & Zucc.) Benth.

Common Name(s): Kudzu , kudzu vine , Japanese arrowroot , kakka , kakkon , Kakkonto (Japan), Ge Gen , XJL (NPI-028) (China)

Uses

Current interest in kudzu centers on its use as therapy for alcoholism, although sufficient and consistent clinical trials are lacking. Estrogenic activity of kudzu is also being investigated, although clinical trials are limited.

Dosing

Kudzu extract 3 g daily with 25% isoflavone content has been studied in adult heavy drinkers. In another study, 2.4 g kudzu root was given daily.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

A few case reports of allergy exist.

Toxicology

Limited data available.

Botany

Kudzu is a fast-growing vine native to the subtropical regions of China and Japan. The leaves of the plant contain 3 broad oval leaflets with purple flowers and curling tendril spikes. 1 , 2 Because kudzu produces stems that can grow to 20 m in length with extensive roots, it has been used to control soil erosion. Since its introduction to the United States, kudzu has become well established and proliferates in moist southern regions, where it grows vigorously and is now considered an invasive pest.

History

Kudzu was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s to control soil erosion, 3 and although widely recognized as a ground cover and fodder crop in the Western world, the plant has a long history of medicinal use in Asian cultures. Beginning in the 6th century BC, Chinese herbalists used the plant for prevention of intoxication, muscular pain, and treatment of measles. 2 , 4 Kudzu is native to Japan, China, and Fiji. 5 , 6

Chemistry

Numerous reports have identified chemical constituents in various plant parts of kudzu. 7 , 8 , 9 Flavonoid, isoflavonoid, and isoflavone content (including puerarin) have been identified in kudzu roots and flowers. 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 Kudzu contains a high total isoflavone content compared with other isoflavone-containing herbs, with the dry root containing as much as 5.32 mg/g. 20 , 21

Oleanene triterpene glycosides, also known as kudzu saponins, have been isolated from the plant. 22 , 23 Analysis of isoflavonoid aglycones and their glycosides has been performed. 24 Robinin in kudzu leaf also has been reported. 25 Other constituents evaluated include daidzin, daidzein, genistein, genestin, 26 tectoridin, 27 kakkalide, 28 formononetin, biochanin A, and plant sterols. 2 , 6 , 29 , 30 , 31 In addition, morphological and anatomical identification studies of kudzu have been performed. 32

Uses and Pharmacology

Alcoholism
Animal data

Available animal studies have been reviewed. 4 , 33 , 34 Isoflavones daidzin, daidzein, and puerarin may account for the suppression of ethanol intake, and although the mechanism of action is not certain, inhibition of alcohol dehydrogenase is thought to be a major factor in kudzu's antidipsotropic activity. 30 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38

Clinical data

Few clinical trials have been conducted, with conflicting results. Kudzu extract was found to have no effect on drinking patterns or cravings in a study of 38 military veterans after 1 month of administration. 39 Whereas, another small study (N = 14) conducted over a period of several weeks was able to demonstrate reduction in the number of beers and total volume consumed among heavy alcohol drinkers. 3 , 40 The amount of isoflavone present in the extracts used in the 2 trials probably differed, thus accounting for the inconsistent results. 3

Estrogenic activity

The high isoflavone content of kudzu has prompted several researchers to investigate the estrogenic activity of extracts. In vitro experiments suggest daidzein to be more potent than daidzin or puerarin. 27 Studies comparing kudzu with red clover, soybean, mung, and alfalfa sprouts found kudzu to be the most potent, 19 while another study suggested that the ethanol extract of P. lobata is less effective than P. mirifica or Mucana collettii . 21 One trial of 25 menopausal women found a decrease in the number of hot flushes per day when a multiple-ingredient preparation, including kudzu extract, was used. 41 However, a larger trial was unable to find positive effects of kudzu extract in treating menopause symptoms. 42

Other uses
Cancer

A kudzu ethanolic extract has been evaluated for antiproliferative activity against breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer cell lines. 43

Cardiovascular

Kuzdu has been examined for its effect on vascular smooth muscle tissue, 44 potential effects in arrhythmia, ischemia, angina pectoris, 45 , 46 , 47 and antioxidant activity. 48 Clinical studies are lacking.

Hepatoprotection

A few in vitro experiments have been conducted on mice and human cells investigating the hepato-protective effects of puerarin and saponins. 20 , 49 , 50

Hypolipidemia

Biochanin A demonstrated potential hypolipidemic activity via activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors in an in vitro experiment. 51

Osteogenic activity

Kudzu extract increased the synthesis of alkaline phosphatase in human osteoblast cells. 52

Dosage

Kudzu extract 3 g daily with 25% isoflavone content has been studied in adult heavy drinkers. 3 In another study, 2.4 g kudzu root of unknown isoflavone content was given daily. 39 A wide range of isoflavone content may exist in commercial kudzu preparations, with most containing less than 1%. 3 Based on pharmacokinetic studies in healthy adults, a 3-times-daily dosing schedule is recommended. The isoflavone puerarin was rapidly absorbed after oral administration, reaching a peak in 2 hours. 18

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Kudzu has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries with few reported toxic adverse reactions. 30 There have been a small number of case reports of allergy, specifically maculopapular drug eruption and Stevens-Johnson syndrome-type reaction, to the kudzu-containing Kakkonto decoction. 53

Toxicology

The safety profile of kudzu and its extracts has yet to be defined through systematic pharmacologic screens, although traditional Chinese medicine data indicate a lack of toxicity. 45 Acute toxicity of 4 Pueraria species has been studied comparatively. 47

Bibliography

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19. Boué SM , Wiese TE , Nehls S , et al. Evaluation of the estrogenic effects of legume extracts containing phytoestrogens . J Agric Food Chem . 2003;51(8):2193-2199.
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48. Sato T , Kawamoto A , Tamura A , Tatsumi Y , Fujii T . Mechanism of antioxidant action of pueraria glycoside (PG)-1 (an isoflavonoid) and magiferin (a xanthonoid) . Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) . 1992;40(3):721-724.
49. Arao T , Udayama M , Kinjo J , Nohara T , Funakoshi T , Kojima S . Preventive effects of saponins from Puerariae radix (the root of Pueraria lobata Ohwi) on in vitro immunological injury of rat primary hepatocyte cultures . Biol Pharm Bull . 1997;20(9):988-991.
50. Arao T , Udayama M , Kinjo J , Nohara T . Preventive effects of saponins from the Pueraria lobata root on in vitro immunological liver injury of rat primary hepatocyte cultures . Planta Med . 1998;64(15):413-416.
51. Shen P , Liu MH , Ng TY , Chan YH , Yong EL . 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.
52. Huh JE , Yang HR , Park DS , et al. Puerariae radix promotes differentiation and mineralization in human osteoblast-like SaOS-2 cells . J Ethnopharmacol . 2006;104(3):345-350.
53. Akita H , Sowa J , Makiura M , Akamatsu H , Matsunaga K . Maculopapular drug eruption due to the Japanese herbal medicine Kakkonto (kudzu or arrowroot decoction) . Contact Dermatitis . 2003;48(6):348-349.

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