Radix Puerariae (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.
- Alcoholism. Early research suggests that heavy drinkers who take kudzu extract for 7 days consume less beer when given a chance to drink. But kudzu doesn’t seem to decrease the craving for alcohol or improve sobriety in long-term alcoholics.
- Chest pains. Some early research suggests that puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, might improve signs and symptoms of chest pain when taken by mouth or injected intravenously (by IV). Some evidence suggests that using IV puerarin along 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.
- Preventing chest pain during a procedure called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA). Early research suggests that injecting 200 mL of puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, intravenously (by IV) one week before and immediately prior to percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) might reduce episodes of chest pain. Puerarin injection products are not available in North America.
- Coronary heart disease (CHD). Early research suggests that injecting 500 mL of puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, intravenously (by IV) once daily for 3 weeks might reduce “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, increase “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and reduce pre-meal insulin levels in people with coronary heart disease. Puerarin injection products are not available in North America.
- Diabetes. Early research suggests that taking puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, 750 mg daily by mouth along with the diabetes medication rosiglitazone (Avandia) reduces blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, injecting puerarin intravenously (by IV) does not appear to reduce blood sugar. Puerarin injection products are not available in North America.
- Kidney disease in people with diabetes (diabetic nephropathy). Early research suggests that taking puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, 750 mg daily by mouth along with the diabetes medication rosiglitazone (Avandia) improves kidney function in people with diabetic nephropathy.
- Problems with the retina of the eye in people with diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). Some research suggests that injecting puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, intravenously (by IV) does not improve vision in people with diabetic retinopathy. Puerarin injection products are not available in North America.
- Exercise performance. Early research suggests that taking a combination supplement containing kudzu isoflavones along with other ingredients might improve exercise performance in some people.
- Heart failure. Early research suggests that taking puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, 400 mg/day by mouth for 10 days might improve heart function in people with heart failure.
- Stroke. Some early research suggests that taking puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, alone or with aspirin, might improve brain function in some people after stroke. However, other research shows that injecting puerarin intravenously (by IV) does not reduce death or dependency after a stroke.
- Low back pain. Early research suggests that injections of puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, might reduce pain in some people with low back pain. Puerarin injection products are not available in North America.
- Symptoms of menopause. Research on kudzu for symptoms of menopause has been conflicting. Some research suggests that taking kudzu by mouth can reduce hot flashes and improve vaginal dryness in women going through menopause. Other research shows that taking kudzu does not affect sex hormone levels, blood fat levels, bone density, or other symptoms of menopause. However, it might have a positive effect on the mental abilities of postmenopausal women.
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction). Early research suggests that injecting puerarin, a chemical in kudzu, intravenously (by IV) along with usual treatment might help some people after a heart attack. Puerarin injection products are not available in North America.
- Weight loss. Early research suggests that taking kudzu extract 300 mg by mouth daily for 12 weeks reduces body fat and body mass index (BMI) in people who are obese. However, taking kudzu extract 200 mg daily does not appear to have the same effects.
- 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.
Radix Puerariae (KUDZU) Side Effects & Safety
Kudzu is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth appropriately for up to 4 months or when injected intravenously (by IV) for up to 20 days.
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). Another report suggests that taking kudzu root by mouth might cause liver damage.
When given by IV, 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: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking kudzu if you are pregnant or 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.
Liver disease: There is some concern that taking kudzu might harm the liver. In theory, kudzu might make liver diseases, such as hepatitis, worse. People with liver disease or a history of liver disease should avoid kudzu.
Surgery: Kudzu might affect blood sugar levels and might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop taking kudzu at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
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.
Radix Puerariae (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.