Kudzu is being investigated for its potential use as a therapy for alcoholism; however, sufficient and consistent clinical trials are lacking. The estrogenic activity of kudzu and the cardioprotective effects of its constituent puerarin are also under investigation, but clinical trials are limited.
Alcohol abuse: 3 g daily of kudzu extract (25% isoflavone content) has been studied in adults diagnosed with alcohol abuse/dependence. In another study, 2.4 g of kudzu root was given daily. Unstable angina: Intravenous (IV) puerarin has been used in studies of unstable angina at dosages of 200 to 500 mg daily for up to 28 days.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented. Because kudzu may decrease blood glucose, additive effects are possible with use of antihyperglycemic agents.
A few case reports of hypersensitivity reactions (ie, maculopapular drug eruption, Stevens-Johnson syndrome–type reaction) exist.
Kudzu is a fast-growing vine native to the subtropical regions of China and Japan, as well as some other Pacific islands.1, 2 The plant consists of leaves (containing 3 broad oval leaflets), purple flowers, and curling tendril spikes.3, 4 Because the stem grows up to 20 m in length and due to its extensive root system, kudzu 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 is now considered an invasive plant.
Kudzu was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s to control soil erosion.5 Although it is widely recognized as a ground cover and fodder crop in the Western world, kudzu also has a history of medicinal use in Asian cultures. Beginning in the sixth century BC, Chinese herbalists used the plant to prevent intoxication, reduce muscular pain, and treat measles.4, 6
Numerous reports have identified chemical constituents in various plant parts of kudzu.7, 8, 9 Flavonoid, isoflavonoid, and isoflavone content (including puerarin) has 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 has also been reported.25 Other constituents evaluated include daidzin, daidzein, genistein, genestin,26 tectoridin,27 kakkalide,28 formononetin, biochanin A, and plant sterols.2, 4, 29, 30, 31 In addition, morphological and anatomical identification studies of kudzu have been performed.32
Uses and Pharmacology
Available animal studies of the effects of kudzu on alcohol dependence have been reviewed.6, 33, 34 The isoflavones daidzin, daidzein, and puerarin may be responsible for the suppression of ethanol intake; 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
Few clinical trials evaluating the effects of kudzu on alcohol consumption have been conducted, with conflicting results.39 In a study of 38 military veterans, kudzu extract administered for 1 month had no effect on alcohol consumption patterns or cravings.40 Another small study (N=14) conducted over a period of several weeks demonstrated a reduction in the number of beers and total volume consumed by heavy drinkers.5, 41 The amount of isoflavone present in the extracts used in these 2 trials likely differed, which may account for the inconsistent results.5
More recent clinical studies available in the literature were all conducted by the same pool of researchers, with all demonstrating favorable effects of kudzu on moderate to heavy alcohol consumption.5, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46
In vitro data
A kudzu ethanolic extract has been evaluated for antiproliferative activity against breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer cell lines, with some components demonstrating cytotoxic activity.47
Animal and in vitro data
Kudzu has been examined for its effects on vascular smooth muscle tissue48; for its potential effects in arrhythmia, ischemia, and angina pectoris49, 50, 51; and for its antioxidant activity.52, 53
A meta-analysis examined patients with unstable angina pectoris who received puerarin as an adjunct to conventional therapy. Most of the 41 included studies (N=2,953) were conducted among Chinese populations and were of small sample size. The meta-analysis reported improvements in the incidence of angina pectoris, electrocardiogram findings, nitroglycerin consumption, and plasma endothelin levels.54
A small 12-week study (N=15) reported decreased blood pressure and enhanced plasma fibrinolytic activity with daily consumption of Indian kudzu (P. tuberosa).55
Animal and in vitro data
Isoflavones in P. lobata have demonstrated alpha-glucosidase inhibitory effects in vitro, while other constituents (eg, puerarin) have resulted in increased glucose utilization in rat models.56, 57
In a study of mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, improvements in memory and cognitive function, as well as changes in acetylcholinesterase activity, were observed.58
Animal and in vitro data
The high isoflavone content of kudzu has prompted investigation of the potential estrogenic activity of kudzu extracts. In vitro experiments suggest that daidzein is more potent than daidzin or puerarin.27 Studies comparing kudzu with red clover, soybean, mung, and alfalfa sprouts found kudzu to be the most potent19, while another study suggested the ethanol extract of P. lobata is less effective than Pueraria mirifica or Mucana collettii.21
In one trial of 25 menopausal women, a decrease in the number of hot flushes per day occurred when a multiple-ingredient preparation containing kudzu extract was used.59 However, in a larger trial, a P. lobata extract did not demonstrate positive effects on symptoms of menopause.60 In another study, P. lobata root given to postmenopausal women for 60 days prior to hysterectomy resulted in increased collagen and elastin content and less blood loss during surgery.61
Animal and in vitro data
A few experimental studies in mice and human cells that investigated the hepatoprotective effects of puerarin and saponins demonstrated some antihepatotoxic activity.20, 62, 63
In vitro data
In an in vitro experiment, biochanin A demonstrated potential hypolipidemic activity via activation of peroxisome proliferator–activated receptors.64
The effects of kudzu flower (as Pueraria thomsonii extract) on obesity have been evaluated in a clinical trial (N=81). Reduced body mass index and visceral (but not subcutaneous) fat was demonstrated over 12 weeks.65
In vitro data
In an in vitro study of a Radix puerariae (kudzu root) extract, an increase in the synthesis of alkaline phosphatase in human osteoblast cells was observed.66
Based on pharmacokinetic studies in healthy adults, a 3-times-daily dosing schedule is recommended. In one study, the isoflavone puerarin was rapidly absorbed after oral administration, reaching peak levels in 2 hours.18 Isoflavone content varies widely among commercial kudzu preparations, with most containing less than 1%.5
3 g daily of kudzu extract (25% isoflavone content) has been studied in adults with a diagnosis of alcohol abuse/dependence.5 In another study, 2.4 g of kudzu root of unknown isoflavone content was given daily.40
IV puerarin has been used in studies of unstable angina at dosages of 200 to 500 mg daily for up to 28 days.54
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented. Several in vitro and animal studies indicate glucose-lowering effects; therefore, additive effects are possible with use of antihyperglycemic agents.56, 57 Puerarin and other compounds from Radix puerariae (kudzu root) affect cytochrome P450 (CYP-450) isoenzymes; study results demonstrate contradictory effects (ie, a complex pattern of CYP modulation was observed, including both induction and inactivation).67
Kudzu has historically been used for medicinal purposes, with few reported adverse reactions.30 There are a few case reports of hypersensitivity reactions (ie, maculopapular drug eruption, Stevens-Johnson syndrome–type reaction) to the kudzu-containing Kakkonto decoction.68
Although data regarding use in traditional Chinese medicine indicate a lack of toxicity, the safety profile of kudzu and its extracts has not been determined by systematic pharmacologic screens.49 Acute toxicity of 4 Pueraria species has been studied comparatively.51
1. Penso G. Inventory of Medicinal Plants Used in the Different Countries. World Health Organization; 1980.2. Kudzu extract shows potential for moderating alcohol abuse. Am J Hosp Pharm. 1994;51(6):750.80103113. Puerarialobata [kudzu]. USDA, NRCS. 2007. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, February 2008). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed July 6, 2017.4. Chevalier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing; 1996.5. 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):756-762.158977196. Xu BJ, Zheng YN, Sung CK. Natural medicines for alcoholism treatment: a review. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2005;24(6):525-536.163612097. Kurihara T, Kiruchi M. Studies on the constituents of flowers. I. On the components of flower of Pueraria thunbergiana Benth [in Japanese]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1973;93(9):1201-1205.47975778. Kurihara T, Kiruchi M. Studies on the constituents of flowers. VI. On the components of the flower of Pueraria thubergiana Benth [in Japanese]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1976;96(12):1486-1488.10356329. Chen MH. Studies on the chemical constituents of Pueraria lobata [in Chinese]. Zhong Yao Tong Bao. 1985;10(6):34-36.293417110. Saĭiad SA, Borysov MI. Flavonoids of the flowers of Pueraria lobata [in Ukrainian]. Farm Zh. 1978;(6):83-84.72977111. Saĭiad SA, Borysov MI. Flavonoids of the rhizomes of Pueraria [in Ukrainian]. Farm Zh. 1979;(2):76-77.22260712. Xu LX, Liu AR, Zhang XQ. Differential pulse polarographic determination of flavonoids in Pueraria lobata [in Chinese]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1987;22(3):208-211.366120813. Ohshima Y, Okuyama T, Takahashi K, Takizawa T, Shibata S. Isolation and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) of isoflavonoids from the Pueraria root. Planta Med. 1988;54(3):250-254.317486214. Kubo M, Sasaki M, Namba K, Naruto S, Nishimura H. Isolation of a new isoflavone from Chinese Pueraria flowers. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1975;23(10):2449-2451.121276115. Kurihara T, Kikuchi M. Studies on the constituents of flowers. V. On the components of flower of Pueraria thunbergiana benth. (2). Isolation of a new isoflavone glycoside [in Japanese]. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1975;95(11):1283-1285.124092616. Zhao SP, Zhang YZ. Quantitative TLC-densitometry of isoflavones in Pueraria lobata (Willd) Ohwi [in Chinese]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1985;20(3):203-208.407268817. Ma Z, Wu Q, Lee DY, Tracy M, Lukas SE. Determination of puerarin in human plasma by high performance liquid chromatography. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2005;823(2):108-114.1600960518. Penetar DM, Teter CJ, Ma Z, Tracy M, Lee DY, Lukas SE. Pharmacokinetic profile of the isoflavone puerarin after acute and repeated administration of a novel kudzu extract to human volunteers. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12(6):543-548.1688434519. 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):2193-2199.1267015520. Hayashino Y. Is herbal "root" effective for reducing alcohol drinking? Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005;29(10):1913.1626992321. Cherdshewasart W, Cheewasopit W, Picha P. The differential anti-proliferation effect of white (Pueraria mirifica), red (Butea superba), and black (Mucuna collettii ) Kwao Krua plants on the growth of MCF-7 cells. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;93(2-3):255-260.1523476122. Arao T, Kinjo J, Nohara T, Isobe R. Oleanene-type triterpene glycosides from Puerariae radix. II. Isolation of saponins and the application of tandem mass spectrometry to their structure determination. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1995;43(7):1176-1179.758606223. Arao T, Kinjo J, Nohara T, Isobe R. Oleanene-type triterpene glycosides from Puerariae radix. IV. Six new saponins from Pueraria lobata. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1997;45(2):362-366.911845024. Rong H, De Keukeleire D, De Cooman L, Baeyens WR, Van der Weken G. Narrow-bore HPLC analysis of isoflavonoid aglycones and their O- and C-glycosides from Pueraria lobata. Biomed Chromatogr. 1998;12(3):170-171.964692825. Saĭiad SA, Borysov MI, Koval'ov VM. Isolation, identification and quantitative determination of robinin in the leaves of Pueraria lobata [in Ukrainian]. Farm Zh. 1979;(4):52-55.22519626. Lal A, Warber S, Kirakosyan A, Kaufman PB, Duke JA. Upregulation of isoflavonoids and soluble proteins in edible legumes by light and fungal elicitor treatments [published correction appears in J Altern Complement Med. 2003;9(4):597]. J Altern Complement Med. 2003;9(3):371-378.1281662527. Park EK, Shin J, Bae EA, Lee YC, Kim DH. Intestinal bacteria activate estrogenic effect of main constituents puerarin and daidzin of Pueraria thunbergiana. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006;29(12):2432-2435.1714297728. Lee HU, Bae EA, Kim DH. Hepatoprotective effects of irisolidone on tert-butyl hyperoxide-induced liver injury. Biol Pharm Bull. 2005;28(3):531-533.1574408429. Keung WM, Vallee BL. Daidzin: a potent, selective inhibitor of human mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993;90(4):1247-1251.843398530. Keung WM. Biochemical studies of a new class of alcohol dehydrogenase inhibitors from Radix puerariae. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1993;17(6):1254-1260.811684031. Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. Paris, France: Lavoisier; 1999.32. Kartmazova DS, Tkachenko NM, Borysov MI, Saĭiad SA. Morphological and anatomical diagnosis of the subterranean vegetative organs of Pueraria lobata [in Ukrainian]. Farm Zh. 1980;(3):61-63.740912233. Rezvani AH, Overstreet DH, Perfumi M, Massi M. Plant derivatives in the treatment of alcohol dependency. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):593-606.1289567734. Keung WM. Anti-dipsotropic isoflavones: the potential therapeutic agents for alcohol dependence. Med Res Rev. 2003;23(6):669-696.1293978935. Keung WM, Vallee BL. Daidzin and daidzein suppress free-choice ethanol intake by Syrian golden hamsters. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993;90(21):10008-10012.823424836. Keung WM, Vallee BL. Kudzu root: an ancient Chinese source of modern antidipsotropic agents. Phytochemistry. 1998;47(4):499-506.946167037. Xie CI, Lin RC, Antony V, et al. Daidzin, an antioxidant isoflavonoid, decreases blood alcohol levels and shortens sleep time induced by ethanol intoxication. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1994;18(6):1443-1447.769504238. Lin RC, Li TK. Effects of isoflavones on alcohol pharmacokinetics and alcohol-drinking behavior in rats. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68(6)(suppl):1512S-1515S.984852639. Ulbricht C, Costa D, Dam C, et al. An evidence-based systematic review of kudzu (Pueraria lobata) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Diet Suppl. 2015;12(1):36-104.2484887240. Shebek J, Rindone JP. A pilot study exploring the effect of kudzu root on the drinking habits of patients with chronic alcoholism. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6(1):45-48.1070623541. Herbal treatment helps curb urge to drink. Harv Womens Health Watch. 2005;13(1):6-7.1622906442. Bracken BK, Penetar DM, Maclean RR, Lukas SE. Kudzu root extract does not perturb the sleep/wake cycle of moderate drinkers. J Altern Complement Med. 2011;17(10):961-966.2201078043. Lukas SE, Penetar D, Su Z, et al. A standardized kudzu extract (NPI-031) reduces alcohol consumption in nontreatment-seeking male heavy drinkers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;226(1):65-73.2307002244. Penetar DM, Toto LH, Lee DY, Lukas SE. A single dose of kudzu extract reduces alcohol consumption in a binge drinking paradigm. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;153:194-200.2604863745. Penetar DM, Toto LH, Farmer SL, et al. The isoflavone puerarin reduces alcohol intake in heavy drinkers: a pilot study. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012;126(1-2):251-256.2257852946. Penetar DM, Maclean RR, McNeil JF, Lukas SE. Kudzu extract treatment does not increase the intoxicating effects of acute alcohol in human volunteers. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2011;35(4):726-734.2124443947. Jeon GC, Park MS, Yoon DY, Shin CH, Sin HS, Um SJ. Antitumor activity of spinasterol isolated from Pueraria roots. Exp Mol Med. 2005;37(2):111-120.1588652448. Wang LY, Zhao AP, Chai XS. Effects of puerarin on cat vascular smooth muscle in vitro [in Chinese]. Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1994;15(2):180-182.801011749. Qicheng F. Some current study and research approaches relating to the use of plants in the traditional Chinese medicine. J Ethnopharmacol. 1980;2(1):57-63.746418550. Lai XL, Tang B. Recent advances in the experimental study and clinical application of Pueraria lobata (Willd) Ohwi [in Chinese]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1989;14(5): 308-311, 277.251295251. Zhou Y, Su X, Cheng B, Jiang J, Chen H. Comparative study on pharmacological effects of various species of Pueraria [in Chinese]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1995;20(10):619-621, 640.867908252. 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):721-724.161168453. Zhang Z, Lam TN, Zuo Z. Radix Puerariae: an overview of its chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, and clinical use. J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;53(8):787-811.2367788654. Gao Z, Wei B, Qian C. Puerarin injection for treatment of unstable angina pectoris: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015;8(9):14577-14594.2662894155. Verma SK, Jain V, Singh DP. Effect of Pueraria tuberosa DC. (Indian Kudzu) on blood pressure, fibrinolysis and oxidative stress in patients with stage 1 hypertension. Pak J Biol Sci. 2012;15(15):742-747.2417126056. Wang XL, Jiao FR, Yu M, et al. Constituents with potent α-glucosidase inhibitory activity from Pueraria lobata (Willd.) ohwi. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2017;27(9):1993-1998.2834387657. Hsu FL, Liu IM, Kuo DH, Chen WC, Su HC, Cheng JT. Antihyperglycemic effect of puerarin in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Nat Prod. 2003;66(6):788-792.1282846358. Liu ZH, Chen HG, Wu PF, et al. Flos Puerariae extract ameliorates cognitive impairment in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:873243.2606050259. Lukaczer D, Darland G, Tripp M, et al. Clinical effects of a proprietary combination isoflavone nutritional supplement in menopausal women: a pilot trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2005;11(5):60-65.1618994960. Woo J, Lau E, Ho SC, et al. Comparison of Pueraria lobata with hormone replacement therapy in treating the adverse health consequences of menopause. Menopause. 2003;10(4):352-361.1285151961. Yan B, Ma J, Jiang G, Wang Y, Ma Q. Effects of pueraria root (Pueraria [sic] radix) on the content of collagen and elastin in pelvic floor dysfunction patients. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2016;9(11):21988-21995.62. 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):988-991.933198263. 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(5):413-416.969034264. 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):899-905.1654944865. Kamiya T, Takano A, Matsuzuka Y, et al. Consumption of Pueraria flower extract reduces body mass index via a decrease in the visceral fat area in obese humans. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2012;76(8):1511-1517.2287819566. 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):345-350.1645521667. Guerra MC, Speroni E, Broccoli M, et al. Comparison between Chinese medical herb Pueraria lobata crude extract and its main isoflavone puerarin antioxidant properties and effects on rat liver CYP-catalysed drug metabolism. Life Sci. 2000;67(24):2997-3006.1113301268. 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):348-349.14531887
This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.
This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.
Subscribe to receive email notifications whenever new articles are published.
Drugs.com provides accurate and independent information on more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and natural products. This material is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Data sources include IBM Watson Micromedex (updated 1 Mar 2019), Cerner Multum™ (updated 1 Mar 2019), Wolters Kluwer™ (updated 28 Feb 2019) and others. Refer to our editorial policy for content sources and attributions.