Kudzu Alcoholism: Can This Herb Stop Your Drinking

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : December 02, 
2020 
| 4 Sources

What is Kudzu?
Can The Kudzu Herb Help Beat Alcohol Dependence



The Kudzu plant won’t help you abstain completely from alcohol, but it might help you cut down your intake.



Kudzu, alcoholism: How can this plant help you cut down on your alcohol consumption? When someone is struggling with a health concern, it is normal to look for something to be used to beat it. The same has been done with alcoholism. When someone is struggling with alcoholism. When considering options, be sure to do your research. Any decisions made regarding herbal or other medications should be discussed with your primary care physician.

Historically, there are three main herbs that have been used for centuries to curb alcohol cravings. These include kudzu, salvia miltiorrhzia and aralia elata. Each of these herbs have different effect when taken. 

The Kudzu alcoholism link is one that has caused more than its fair share of controversy. This is largely down to the fact that studies are far from conclusive on the benefits of the Kudzu herb.

For a clinical study to be considered reliable, it is necessary for similar results to be generated from a variety of studies. Studies regarding the use of Kudzu alcoholism may show similar results, however there is not many studies to compare.

But before exploring the science and what it concluded on the potential of kudzu alcoholism, let's take a look at the practicalities of using Kudzu root for its 'anti-alcohol' properties.

Where Can I Find Kudzu Herb?
What Dosage Should I Take?

Many health stores stock capsules and tinctures containing Kudzu. Generally it is advertised and marketed as a remedy for many health problems other than alcoholism. With this in mind, if you are interested in purchasing Kudzu, it is important to look at the ingredients of what you plan to take.

But be warned as many of these preparations do not contain enough of the important active ingredients said to reduce alcohol cravings. Daidzein and diadzin are the two compounds that need to be in the preparation.

The only way you can guarantee you are getting enough of these compounds is to buy the dry root. Also keep in mind that tinctures are made using ethyl-alcohol.

Chinese Herbal stores are more likely to have the dried root, and will be able to give you advice about dosage.

The Chinese Pharmacopoeia states that an effective dose of dried kudzu root is 9-15g taken prior to drinking (1 hour minimum) if you are trying to cut down on your drinking. Take 10g, 3 times a day if you are abstaining from alcohol.

Be wary of kudzu preparations purchased in herbal stores, many of their products contain very little of the ingredients they claim to. Always read the label of contents.

kudzu-alcoholismPhoto by fotografierende from Pexels

Kudzu Alcoholism
What Is Kudzu?

The Kudzu vine is a climbing, coiling, and trailing plant native to southern Japan and southeast China. Its name comes from the Japanese name for the plant, Kudzu, in Chinese it's called "gegen".

The use of kudzu can be traced back to ancient China. It was observed that individuals who used kudzu, drank less compared to those who did not. Kudzu has also been noted to help alleviate some of the symptoms commonly associated with alcohol withdrawal.

Due to its capability of rapid growth in a warm temperate climate, the Kudzu vine has earned pejorative nicknames such as:

  • "the foot-a-night vine"
  • "mile-a-minute vine"
  • "the vine that ate the South"

 The kudzu root, which can grow to the size of a human being, contains useful isoflavones such as: daidzein (an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent) and diadzin (a cancer preventive).

Kudzu root compounds can affect the same neurotransmitters (including serotonin, GABA, and glutamate) as alcohol consumption can.

It has shown value in treating migraine and cluster headaches. It is also recommended for allergies and diarrhea.

 

Clinical Kudzu Studies Using Animals As Subjects

Kudzu Alcoholism and Animals Studies:

  • 1991

There was a study conducted that tested the effect of an herbal mixture containing kudzu on drunk rats.

Findings:
The results showed that when the rats ingested the kudzu herb mixture before drinking alcohol, their motor movements became more coordinated.

  • 1992

This study built upon the findings from the study in 1991. In this study, the rats were allowed to drink alcohol for an hour each day. The rats usually drink a vast amount of alcohol. After a week of drinking, the herbal mixture (containing the herb kudzu) was given to them 15 minutes prior to their "drinking session".

Findings:
Results showed that the rats significantly lowered their alcohol consumption after drinking  the Kudzu mixture. This finding supported the hypothesis that consuming Kudzu before drinking leads to a decrease in the amount of alcohol consumed during a drinking session.

  • Another study gave the rats an unlimited amount of alcohol for 24 hours, followed by another 24 hours of no alcohol at all.

Findings:
On the third day the rats' alcohol intake increased from 20% to 30%. However, when the rats were given the herbal mixture, the rats either lowered their alcohol intake or drank the same amount as the first day. These results support the previous studies.

  • 1995

A Harvard University study was conducted using hamsters because of their natural tendency to choose alcohol over water. Some hamsters were given daidzein, an active ingredient in kudzu, and all of the hamsters were allowed to drink as much alcohol as they wanted.

Findings:
The results showed that the hamsters receiving daidzein, dropped their alcohol intake by 70%.



Clinical Kudzu Studies Using Humans As Subjects

The First Documented Evidence of the Kudzu alcoholism link and that the plant could reduce drinking in humans was led by Scott E Lukas, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School which was published in 2005.


Scott Lukas recruited 14 men, all of whom were heavy drinkers, consuming an average of 25 alcoholic beverages per week, but none of them were alcohol dependent or had a family history of alcoholism.

The 14 men were invited to a four 90-minute sessions consuming beer and watching TV.

After the first session, the "control" group received a placebo while the experimental group took two 500-milligrams kudzu capsules three times a day.

The results demonstrated two important findings:

  • Those who took kudzu pills drank an average of 1.8 beers as against the 3.5 beers taken by those who were given placebos.
  • None of the participants experienced side effects from mixing the kudzu pills with beer.

 Needless to say the results pushed the whole kudzu alcoholism effort a huge step forward.

Scott Lukas on the results of his research:

"The rapid infusion (due to the action of Kudzu) of alcohol is satisfying them and taking away their desire for more drinks. Thats only a theory. It's the best we've got so far."

"It's perfectly safe, from what we can tell... Individuals reported feeling a little more tipsy or lightheaded, but not enough to make them walk into walls or stumble and fall."

"We suspect the kudzu treatment is causing the alcohol to get into the brain more quickly."

Lukas' main observation is that Kudzu won't help drinkers abstain completely from alcohol, but it might help them cut down on their intake. Which he viewed as a step in the right direction. His belief is that kudzu slows the breaking down of alcohol in the blood stream. This increases the blood alcohol level and makes the drinker feel drunker than he would if he had not taken kudzu.

Lukas envisions Kudzu being used alongside group therapy to treat alcoholism and would like to test it on college-age students - a group prone to binge drinking.

Dr. Wing Ming Keung of Harvard is also currently working on kudzu, attempting to find the compound within the herb that has the anti-craving effect. Such a compound could then be used to create the anti-craving medicine of the future.

It is likely that as time goes on, continued research will likely occur looking at the potential benefits of taking Kudzu before drinking.


Not All Agree On the Alcoholism Kudzu Link

Kudzu appears, at least according to Lukas, to contain a compound that can be effective in reducing alcohol intake among humans.

However, there is another study that calls into question the usefulness of Kudzu for alcoholism.

The study used patients with a diagnosis of chronic alcoholism (unlike the volunteers in Lukas study who were heavy drinker NOT alcohol dependent) and found that Kudzu root appeared to be just as effect as a placebo in decreasing alcohol cravings.

An additional conflict would be that the most common thinking for treatment of chronic alcoholism is abstinence. Many alcoholics are referred to detoxification programs, inpatient programs and outpatient programs. The use of Kudzu with alcohol appears to fit into a harm reduction approach, which is not common for alcoholism.

Scott E Lukas was quoted stating: 

"We want to develop a medication that would be effective and safe, without side effects like other drugs on the market."

Despite conflicting findings, there seems to be a reason to be optimistic regarding the kudzu alcoholism use. For more on herbal treatments for alcoholism, please click the link.




Other Alcoholism Alternative Treatments:



Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


Hello!

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More



Sources:  

Clinical blog providing further information about natural treatments for alcohol withdrawal provided by Psychology Today: Natural Treatments of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Withdrawal | Psychology Today

Article of an interview with Dr. Scott E. Lukas regarding the use of kudzu to reduce alcohol cravings: Study Says Kudzu Extract Might Reduce Alcohol Craving : NPR

Research article testing the use of kudzu’s role in reducing drinking in heavy drinkers provided by the National Library of Medicine:  An extract of the Chinese herbal root kudzu reduces alcohol drinking by heavy drinkers in a naturalistic setting - PubMed (nih.gov)

Additional research article testing the role kudzu has in reducing alcohol use provided by the National Library of Medicine:  A standardized kudzu extract (NPI-031) reduces alcohol consumption in nontreatment-seeking male heavy drinkers - PubMed (nih.gov)



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