Chinese Herb Kudzu May Help Drinkers Cut Down
In Small Study, Harvard Researchers Find Kudzu Extract Reduces Drinking
Results of Puerarin Treatment continued...
On average, the men and women drank 3.5 beers after placebo and 2.4 after puerarin.
After placebo treatment, three people drank five beers and one drank six. After the herbal treatment, no one drank five or six.
When they had the herbal treatment, people also took more sips to finish a beer, took longer to down it, and reduced their sip size, Penetar found.
During the week of puerarin treatment, they drank slightly less than during the placebo week -- three drinks a day compared to 3.4.
No serious side effects were reported.
For drinkers who want to cut down, this may help, Penetar says.
He does not know exactly how it works. "We suspect it may work because it increases blood flow," he says. "It may deliver alcohol to the brain's reward center faster. So you get an effect sooner; therefore, you don't drink as much."
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funded the study. One study co-author is a member of the scientific advisory board at Natural Pharmacia International. It provided the puerarin. Another co-author is an employee of NPI.
Penetar holds the investigational new-drug application for puerarin. McLean Hospital has a licensing agreement with NPI for the extract.
The hope, Penetar says, is to market the extract over-the-counter.
The kudzu root is already widely sold as a dietary supplement. At the dose used in the study, three weeks' worth costs about $6.
Herb to Curb Drinking: Perspective
"I'm hopeful but skeptical," says David J. Hanson, PhD, professor emeritus of sociology at State University of New York at Potsdam. He reviewed the study for WebMD.
The new study has a good research design, he says, but a very small sample size.
"There is no understanding of the mechanism whereby this might work," Hanson tells WebMD. "If we know that, we would have more confidence in the findings."
In Penetar's study, the men and women took the puerarin for a week. Would people in real life do that?
"It depends on a person's motivation," Hanson says. Someone who is told by their doctor to cut down on drinking for health reasons might, he says.
Penetar knows that is an obstacle. They are now studying a single large dose before a planned drinking session to see if it works, too.