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Scientific Name(s): Pueraria lobata (Willd) Ohwi., Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr., Pueraria thunbergiana (Siebold & Zucc.) Benth., Pueraria tuberosa (Indian kudzu)
Common Name(s): Ge, Ge Gen, Japanese arrowroot, Kakka, Kakkon, Kudzu, Kudzu vine, XJL (NPI-028)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 1, 2023.

Clinical Overview


Kudzu is being investigated for treatment of alcohol use disorder and cervical spondylosis; the estrogenic activity and cardioprotective effects of kudzu and its constituent puerarin are also under investigation. However, limited clinical studies exist to recommend use for any indication.


Clinical trial data are lacking to support specific dosing recommendations.


Contraindications have not been identified.


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


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Information regarding potential adverse reactions is limited. Avoid use in individuals with known hypersensitivity to kudzu.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Fabaceae (pea)


Kudzu is a fast-growing vine native to the subtropical regions of China and Japan, as well as some Pacific islands.(Kudzu extract 1994, Penso 1980) The plant consists of leaves (containing 3 broad oval leaflets), purple flowers, and curling tendril spikes.(Chevalier 1996, USDA 2022) Kudzu has been used to control soil erosion due to its rapid vine growth and extensive root system. 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.(Gulizia 2019)


Kudzu was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s to control soil erosion.(Lukas 2005) 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.(Chevalier 1996, Xu 2005)


Numerous reports have identified chemical constituents in various plant parts of kudzu.(Chen 1985, Kurihara 1973, Kurihara 1976) Flavonoid, isoflavonoid, and isoflavone content (including puerarin) has been identified in kudzu roots and flowers.(Boué 2003, Kubo 1975, Kurihara 1975, Ma 2005, Ohshima 1988, Penetar 2006, Saĭiad 1978, Saĭiad 1979a, Xu 1987, Zhao 1985) 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.(Cherdshewasart 2004, Hayashino 2005)

Oleanene triterpene glycosides, also known as kudzu saponins, have been isolated from the plant.(Arao 1995, Arao 1997a) Analysis of isoflavonoid aglycones and their glycosides has been performed.(Rong 1998) Robinin in kudzu leaf has also been reported.(Saĭiad 1979b) Other constituents evaluated include daidzin, daidzein, genistein, genestin,(Lal 2003) tectoridin,(Park 2006) kakkalide,(Lee 2005) formononetin, biochanin A, and plant sterols.(Bruneton 1999, Chevalier 1996, Keung 1993a, Keung 1993b, Kudzu extract 1994) In addition, morphological and anatomical identification studies of kudzu have been performed.(Kartmazova 1980)

Uses and Pharmacology

Alcohol use disorder

The isoflavones daidzin, daidzein, and puerarin may help to suppress ethanol intake. Although the mechanism of action is not certain, inhibition of alcohol dehydrogenase is thought to be a major factor in kudzu's potential antidipsotropic activity.(Keung 1993a, Keung 1993c, Keung 1998, Keung 2003, Lin 1998, Xie 1994)

Animal data

Available animal studies of the effects of kudzu on alcohol dependence have been reviewed, with plant constituents (daidzin, daidzein, puerarin) showing alcohol-suppressing effects in rats.(Keung 2003, Rezvani 2003, Xu 2005)

Clinical data

Clinical trials evaluating the effects of kudzu on alcohol consumption provide conflicting results.(Ulbricht 2015) In a study of 38 military veterans, 1.2 g of kudzu root extract administered twice daily for 1 month had no effect on alcohol consumption patterns or cravings.(Shebek 2000) 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.(Herbal treatment 2005, Lukas 2005) The amount of isoflavone present in the extracts used in these 2 trials likely differed, which may account for the inconsistent results.(Lukas 2005)

Several clinical studies available in the literature and conducted by the same pool of researchers demonstrate favorable effects of kudzu on moderate to heavy alcohol consumption.(Bracken 2011, Lukas 2005, Lukas 2013, Penetar 2011, Penetar 2012, Penetar 2015)

Anti-inflammatory effects

Animal and in vitro data

Animal and in vitro studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects of kudzu leaf and root extracts, as well as its active constituents puerarin and robinin. In a colitis mouse model, oral administration of puerarin reversed colonic shortening and spleen weight in a dose-dependent manner (P<0.01 for each) and significantly improved disease severity (P<0.05 at 10 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg doses; P<0.01 at a 50 mg/kg dose). Improvements were noted in antioxidant processes (ie, cyclooxygenase-2 [COX-2], prostaglandin E2) via inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B and activation of necrosis factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 pathways, as well as via reductions in the activity and levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines (ie, tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha], interleukin [IL]-1beta, IL-6).(Jeon 2020) In mouse peritoneal macrophages, kudzu leaf extract was a more potent inhibitor of the inflammatory proteins inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), COX-2, TNF-alpha, and IL-6. Robinin, found predominantly in kudzu leaves and not the roots, was found to inhibit interferon-gamma and iNOS production but not TNF-alpha, COX-2, or IL-6.(Eom 2018)

Antiviral activity

Animal and in vitro data

Puerarin administered to mice infected with influenza virus strain H1N1 significantly reduced lung inflammatory pathology and pulmonary enterovirus titer compared with untreated controls (P<0.01 each). Inflammatory lesions in the GI tract (ie, ileum, colon) were reduced, as were inflammatory cytokines (ie, TNF-alpha, IL-6, IL-7) in the lungs and intestines (P<0.05).(Zeng 2021) Anti-HIV activity of kudzu root extract was also demonstrated in vitro.(Mediouni 2018)


In vitro data

Spinocerebellar ataxia 3 (SCA3), the most common subtype among the autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxias, results in cellular polyglutamine aggregates, which contribute to cellular dysfunction and death. In an SCA3 in vitro model, the constituents puerarin and daidzein derived from P. lobata suppressed this aggregation and the proapoptotic marker BCL-2-associated X protein, as well as restored ubiquitin-proteasome system function and enhanced cellular proteasome activity.(Phang 2021)


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.(Jeon 2005)

Cardiovascular effects

Animal and in vitro data

Kudzu has been examined for its effects on vascular smooth muscle tissue.(Wang 1994) The main constituent, puerarin, has been found to inhibit endothelium-dependent contractions in mouse carotid arteries in a dose-dependent manner.(Chen 2020) Kudzu has also been studied for potential effects in arrhythmia, ischemia, and angina pectoris,(Lai 1989, Qicheng 1980, Zhou 1995) and for antioxidant activity.(Sato 1992, Zhang 2013)

Clinical data

A meta-analysis examined patients with unstable angina pectoris who received puerarin injection as an adjunct to conventional therapy. Most of the 41 included studies (N=2,953) were conducted among Chinese populations, with small sample sizes. The meta-analysis reported improvements in angina pectoris incidence, electrocardiogram findings, nitroglycerin consumption, and plasma endothelin levels.(Gao 2015)

A small 12-week study (N=15) reported decreased blood pressure and enhanced plasma fibrinolytic activity with consumption of 1.5 g of P. tuberosa (each capsule contained 0.75 g of powder) twice a day for 12 weeks.(Verma 2012)

Cervical spondylosis

Clinical data

In a 15-day observational study enrolling 200 patients with cervical spondylosis, oral administration of a nanoparticle P. lobata targeted preparation (3 g added to 250 mL physiological saline once daily) for 15 days was associated with a significantly better cure rate (41%) and total effective rate (97%), as well as a lower incidence of adverse events (3%) compared with controls (12%, 78%, and 12%, respectively) (P<0.001 for efficacy; P<0.05 for adverse events). Effects were attributed partially to a beneficial shift in the composition and distribution of gut microbiota (P<0.05).(Qin 2022)

CNS effects

Animal data

In an Alzheimer rat model, puerarin alleviated beta-amyloid–induced cognitive dysfunction by maintaining neuroplasticity.(Liu 2021) Puerarin has also demonstrated antidepressant effects in mice subjected to mild unpredictable stress; effects appeared to be due to improved gut microbiota diversity and composition.(Song 2021)


Animal and in vitro data

Isoflavones in P. lobata have demonstrated alpha-glucosidase–inhibitory effects in vitro. Other constituents (eg, puerarin) have resulted in increased glucose utilization in rat models.(Hsu 2003, Wang 2017)

In a study of mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, improvements in memory and cognitive function, as well as changes in acetylcholinesterase activity, were observed.(Liu 2015)

Estrogenic activity

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 exhibits more potent estrogenic activity than daidzin or puerarin.(Park 2006) In studies comparing estrogenic effects of legume extracts containing phytoestrogens, kudzu was more potent than red clover, soybean, mung, and alfalfa sprouts.(Boué 2003) In another study, P. lobata was less effective than Pueraria mirifica or Mucana collettii, with no proliferation and a mild antiproliferation effect on the growth of MCF-7 cells observed.(Cherdshewasart 2004)

Clinical data

In one trial of 25 menopausal females, a decrease in the number of hot flushes per day occurred when a multiple-ingredient preparation containing kudzu extract was used.(Lukaczer 2005) However, in a larger trial (N=127), a P. lobata extract given daily for 3 months did not demonstrate positive effects on symptoms of menopause.(Woo 2003) In another study in postmenopausal females with pelvic floor dysfunction (N=60), P. lobata root administration (one 0.33 g tablet [including 0.425 mg of isoflavones] per day) for 60 days prior to hysterectomy resulted in increased collagen and elastin content and less blood loss during surgery compared to controls.(Yan 2016)

Hepatoprotective effects

In vitro data

In experimental studies in mouse and human cells investigating the hepatoprotective effects of puerarin and saponins, some antihepatotoxic activity was demonstrated.(Arao 1997b, Arao 1998, Hayashino 2005)


In vitro data

In an in vitro experiment, biochanin A demonstrated potential hypolipidemic activity via activation of peroxisome proliferator–activated receptors.(Shen 2006)

Clinical data

The effects of kudzu flower (as Pueraria thomsonii extract) on obesity have been evaluated in a 12-week clinical trial (N=81). Reductions in body mass index and visceral (but not subcutaneous) fat were demonstrated.(Kamiya 2012)

Osteogenic activity

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.(Huh 2006)


Animal data

Puerarin protected against gentamicin-induced ototoxicity in mice, as demonstrated by significant improvements in the auditory brainstem response thresholds as well as surviving outer and inner cochlear hair cells compared with untreated controls (P<0.01 for each). In vitro experiments indicated the effects were related to improved antioxidant activity, protective effects on the mitochondrial membrane, and reduction in apoptosis.(Niu 2021)


In one pharmacokinetic profile study, the isoflavone puerarin was rapidly absorbed after oral administration, reaching peak levels in 2 hours.(Penetar 2006) Isoflavone content varies widely among commercial kudzu preparations, with most containing less than 1%.(Lukas 2005)

Cervical spondylosis

In a 15-day observational study of patients with cervical spondylosis, oral administration of a nanoparticle P. lobata targeted preparation (3 g added to 250 mL physiological saline once daily) for 15 days was evaluated for effects on clinical symptoms.(Qin 2022)

Estrogenic activity

In a small study in postmenopausal females with pelvic floor dysfunction, P. lobata root (one 0.33 g tablet [including 0.425 mg isoflavones] per day) was administered for 60 days prior to hysterectomy to evaluate effects on collagen and elastin content.(Yan 2016)

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. 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.(Hsu 2003, Wang 2017) Puerarin and other compounds from Radix puerariae (kudzu root) affect CYP-450 isoenzymes; study results demonstrate contradictory effects (ie, a complex pattern of CYP modulation was observed, including both induction and inactivation).(Guerra 2000)

Adverse Reactions

Kudzu has historically been used for medicinal purposes, with few reported adverse reactions.(Keung 1993a) There are a few case reports of hypersensitivity reactions (ie, maculopapular drug eruption, Stevens-Johnson syndrome–type reaction) to the kudzu-containing Kakkonto decoction.(Akita 2003)


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.(Qicheng 1980) Acute toxicity of 4 Pueraria species has been studied comparatively.(Zhou 1995)

Index Terms

  • Pueraria thomsonii
  • Radix puerariae



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.

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