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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Chinese Herb Kudzu May Help Drinkers Cut Down

In Small Study, Harvard Researchers Find Kudzu Extract Reduces Drinking
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 17, 2012 -- An extract from the Chinese herb kudzu may help drinkers cut down on drinking, according to a new pilot study.

"It didn't stop the drinking," says researcher David M. Penetar, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "They still drank, but they drank less."

He studied the extract puerarin. It is one of the substances known as isoflavones found in kudzu.

The study is published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Drinking Problems

More remedies are needed to help drinkers who overdo it cut down, Penetar says. The medications approved for treating alcohol abuse and dependence don't work for everyone, he says.

About 1 in 6 U.S. adults binge drinks, according to a CDC report. Experts disagree on the definition of binge drinking. According to the CDC, binge drinking is having four or more drinks on one occasion for a woman and five or more for a man.

Kudzu: A Brief History

In Chinese pharmacy books, kudzu is listed as a possible treatment for alcohol-related hangovers and cravings, Penetar tells WebMD.

"Some of the references go back to 600 A.D.," he says.

Today, it's used in China and other countries to treat coronary problems and blood-flow problems, Penetar says. "It has a good safety record already."

It's touted as a hangover remedy. However, studies looking at the effects of kudzu extracts have produced mixed findings, Penetar says.

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