Pueraria (KUDZU) Overview Information
Kudzu is a vine. Under the right growing conditions, it spreads easily, covering virtually everything that doesn’t move out of its path. Kudzu was introduced in North America in 1876 in the southeastern U.S. to prevent soil erosion. But kudzu spread quickly and overtook farms and buildings, leading some to call to kudzu "the vine that ate the South.”
Kudzu’s root, flower, and leaf are used to make medicine. It has been used in Chinese medicine since at least 200 BC. As early as 600 AD, it was used to treat alcoholism.
Today, kudzu is used to treat alcoholism and to reduce symptoms of alcohol hangover, including headache, upset stomach, dizziness, and vomiting. Kudzu is also used for heart and circulatory problems, including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain; for upper respiratory problems including sinus infections, the common cold, hay fever, flu, and swine flu; and for skin problems, including allergic skin rash, itchiness, and psoriasis.
Some people use kudzu for menopause symptoms, muscle pain, measles, dysentery, stomach pain (gastritis), fever, diarrhea, thirst, neck stiffness, and to promote sweating. Other oral uses include treatment of polio myelitis, encephalitis, migraine, deafness, diabetes, and traumatic injuries.
Health providers in China sometimes give puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, intravenously (by IV) to treat stroke due to a blood clot.
How does it work?
There is information that suggests kudzu contains ingredients that counteract alcohol. It might also have effects like estrogen. Chemicals in kudzu might also increase blood circulation in the heart and brain.
- Chest pains. Some research suggests that puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, might improve signs and symptoms of chest pain when given by mouth or intravenously (by IV). Some evidence suggests that using IV puerarin in combination with usual treatment might be more effective than usual treatment alone. However, studies on puerarin are generally of poor quality and might not be reliable. Puerarin injection products are not available in North America.
- Alcoholism. Preliminary research suggests that heavy drinkers who take kudzu extract for 7 days consume less beer when given an opportunity to drink. But kudzu doesn’t seem to decrease the craving for alcohol or improve sobriety in chronic alcoholics.
- Symptoms of menopause. Kudzu taken by mouth does not affect the things that change in women at menopause, including sex hormone levels, blood fat levels or bone density. It also doesn’t seem to reduce symptoms of menopause. Kudzu may, however, have a positive effect on the mental abilities of postmenopausal women.
- Stroke. An intravenous (IV) form of puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, has been used in China to treat patients with ischemic stroke, the type of stroke that is caused by a blood clot. But results have been mixed. One study found no benefit. Another found benefit, but the study design has been criticized and the results questioned.
- Symptoms of alcohol hangover (headache, upset stomach, dizziness and vomiting).
- Muscle pain.
- Stomach inflammation (gastritis).
- Neck stiffness.
- Promoting sweating (diaphoretic).
- High blood pressure.
- Abnormal heart rate and rhythm.
- Other conditions.
Pueraria (KUDZU) Side Effects & Safety
Kudzu is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when used appropriately for up to four months.
No side effects have been reported in clinical studies when kudzu is taken by mouth. There is, however, one case report of allergic reaction following use of a combination herbal product containing kudzu (Kakkonto).
Intravenously, the kudzu ingredient, puerarin, has been associated with itching and nausea. It has also caused red cells to break inside blood vessels.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of kudzu during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bleeding or blood clotting disorders: Kudzu might slow blood clotting. It might make bleeding and blood clotting disorders worse, and it might also interfere with medications used as treatment.
Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) conditions: There is a concern that kudzu might interfere with cardiovascular treatments. Kudzu extracts seem to lower blood pressure and affect heart rhythm in animals.
Diabetes: Kudzu might affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use kudzu.
Hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Kudzu might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use kudzu.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs) interacts with KUDZU
Some birth control pills contain estrogen. Kudzu might have some of the same effects as estrogen. But kudzu isn't as strong as the estrogen in birth control pills. Taking kudzu along with birth control pills might decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. If you take birth control pills along with kudzu, use an additional form of birth control such as a condom.
Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.
- Estrogens interacts with KUDZU
The body breaks down caffeine (contained in kudzu) to get rid of it. Estrogens can decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Decreasing the break-down of caffeine can cause jitteriness, headache, fast heartbeat, and other side effects. If you take estrogens, limit your caffeine intake.
Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.
- Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with KUDZU
Kudzu might slow blood clotting. Taking kudzu along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
- Methotrexate (MTX, Rheumatrex) interacts with KUDZU
Kudzu might decrease how fast the body gets rid of methotrexate (Rheumatrex). This might increase the risk of methotrexate side effects.
- Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) interacts with KUDZU
Some types of cancer are affected by hormones in the body. Estrogen-sensitive cancers are cancers that are affected by estrogen levels in the body. Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is used to help treat and prevent these types of cancer. Kudzu seems to also affect estrogen levels in the body. By affecting estrogen in the body, kudzu might decrease the effectiveness of tamoxifen (Nolvadex). Do not take kudzu if you are taking tamoxifen (Nolvadex).
Minor Interaction Be watchful with this combination
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with KUDZU
Kudzu might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking kudzu along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Pueraria (KUDZU) Dosing
The appropriate dose of kudzu depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for kudzu. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.