Kudzu

Kudzu

Kudzu

Common Names

  • Pueraria
  • Pueraria root
  • Ge Gen
  • Kudsu
  • Japanese arrowroot

For Patients & Caregivers

Kudzu has not been shown to treat cancer in humans.

Kudzu is an herb used in Chinese medicine to treat alcoholism, menopausal symptoms, diabetes mellitus, fever, common cold, and neck or eye pain. In vitro studies have shown that kudzu has antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory properties. It also suppressed alcohol intake. One clinical trial showed that kudzu may affect cognitive function in postmenopausal women. Patients with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers should speak with their physicians before using kudzu, as isoflavones can promote the growth of certain breast cancer cells.

  • Menopausal symptoms
    Clinical studies show that kudzu may help reduce menopausal symptoms. It does not affect hormonal levels in postmenopausal women but it influences cognitive function.
  • Alcohol abuse
    Kudzu has been shown in small studies to be effective in suppressing symptoms of alcohol intake and withdrawal.
  • Diabetes mellitus
    Kudzu is used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes.
  • Fever
    Kudzu is used in traditional medicine to treat fever. Kudzu may reduce inflammation and pain in animals when used in combination with other herbs.
  • Common cold
    Kudzu is used in traditional medicine to treat common colds. Kudzu may reduce inflammation and pain in animals when used in combination with other herbs. However, clinical data are lacking.
  • Neck or eye pain
    Kudzu may reduce inflammation and pain in animals when used in combination with other herbs.
  • You have hypersensitivity to kudzu.
  • You have hormonal-sensitive cancer: Kudzu has estrogenic activity.
  • You are taking tamoxifen: The isoflavones in kudzu may antagonize the effects of tamoxifen used for estrogen-dependent breast cancer.
  • You are taking antidiabetic medication: Kudzu can increase its activity.
  • You are taking methotrexate: When given together, a root decoction of Kudzu reduces its elimination resulting in increased levels of methotrexate in rats.
  • Liver toxicity was observed in rats exposed to high doses of Pueraria tuberosa extract over a long period.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Pueraria mirifica, Pueraria thunbergiana, Pueraria lobata L., Pueraria montana var. thomsonii, Radix puerariae

Kudzu is a botanical used in Chinese medicine to treat alcoholism, menopausal symptoms, diabetes mellitus, fever, common cold, and neck or eye pain. There are several species of Kudzu and both the flowers and root extract are used for their medicinal properties. Isoflavones, the major components of kudzu, are thought to be responsible for the beneficial effects.

Kudzu demonstrated antiproliferative (1), anti-inflammatory (3), and neuroprotective (16) (18) properties. It also has antiapoptotic effects against ethanol-induced apoptosis and suppresses alcohol intake (4).

Small studies indicate benefits of kudzu in reducing alcohol intake in heavy drinkers (9) (19) (23). Data also indicate that it does not affect the sleep cycle of moderate drinkers (20). Kudzu may improve symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats in perimenopausal women (5) (10) (21), and cognitive function in postmenopausal women (6). It may also be effective in preventing the development of gray hair (24).
However, because it has estrogenic effects (11), individuals with hormone-sensitive cancers and those taking tamoxifen should avoid kudzu.

  • Alcoholism
  • Common cold
  • Diabetes
  • Eye pain
  • Fever
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Neck pain

Isoflavones present in Pueraria mirifica are thought to be involved in alleviating symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopausal women (5) and affect cognitive function in postmenopausal women (6). The isoflavones present in the root extract suppress alcohol intake and alcohol withdrawal symptoms in mice although the mechanism is unclear (4). The anti-inflammatory property of kudzu is attributed to its ability to decrease prostaglandin E2 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha release, both of which are involved in inflammatory process (3). The flowers of Pueraria thunbergiana exhibit protective effects against ethanol-induced apoptosis in human neuroblastoma cells by inhibiting the expression of a protease, caspase-3 that is responsible for proteolytic cleavage of many proteins (7).

Peurarin may alleviate chronic alcoholic liver injury in rats via inhibition of endotoxin gut-leakage, activation of Kupffer cells, and expression of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) receptors (22).

Tectorigenin, an isoflavone present in kudzu, demonstrated antiproliferative activity against human cancer (HL-60) cells. The proposed mechanisms are induction of differentiation in the cells and a reduction in the expression of Bcl-2, an antiapoptotic protein (1).

  • Hypersensitivity to kudzu
  • Patients with estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer
  • Hepatotoxicity was observed in rats exposed to high doses of Pueraria tuberosa extract over a long period (13).
  • Tamoxifen: Because it has estrogenic activity (11), kudzu may antagonize the effects of tamoxifen.
  • Antidiabetic drugs: Kudzu can have additive effects when used with antidiabetic drugs (14).
  • Cytochrome P450 2D6: Puerarin inhibited activity of CYP2D6 in vitro and can alter the metabolism of drugs that are substrates of this enzyme (15).
  • Cytochrome P450 1A2: Puerarin was shown to induce CYP1A2 in vitro and may affect the metabolism of some drugs that are substrates of this enzyme (15).
  • Methotrexate: When coadministered, a root decoction of kudzu reduces its elimination resulting in increased methotrexate levels in rats (17).

  1. Boue SM, et al. Evaluation of the estrogenic effects of legume extracts containing phytoestrogens. J Agric Food Chem 2003; 51(8):2193-2199.

  2. MICROMEDEX(R) Healthcare Series. 120. 2004. Thomson MICROMEDEX.

  3. Cherdshewasart W, Sriwatcharakul S, Malaivijitnond S. Variance of estrogenic activity of the phytoestrogen-rich plant. Maturitas. 2008 Dec 20;61(4):350-7.

  4. Santosh N, Mohan K, Royana S, Yamini TB. Hepatotoxicity of tubers of Indian Kudzu (Pueraria tuberosa) in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Apr;48(4):1066-71.

  5. Hsu FL, Liu IM, Kuo DH, et al. Antihyperglycemic effect of puerarin in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Nat Prod. 2003 Jun;66(6):788-92.

  6. Zheng J, Chen B, Jiang B, et al. The effects of puerarin on CYP2D6 and CYP1A2 activities in vivo. Arch Pharm Res. 2010 Feb;33(2):243-6.

  7. Chiang HM, Fang SH, Wen KC, et al. Life-threatening interaction between the root extract of Pueraria lobata and methotrexate in rats. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2005 Dec 15;209(3):263-8.

  8. Penetar DM, Toto LH, Farmer SL, et al. The isoflavone puerarin reduces alcohol intake in heavy drinkers: A pilot study. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Nov 1;126(1-2):251-6.

  9. Bracken BK, Penetar DM, Maclean RR, Lukas SE. Kudzu root extract does not perturb the sleep/wake cycle of moderate drinkers. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Oct;17(10):961-6.

  10. Virojchaiwong P, Suvithayasiri V, Itharat A. Comparison of Pueraria mirifica 25 and 50 mg for menopausal symptoms. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011 Aug;284(2):411-9.

  11. Lukas SE, Penetar D, Su Z, et al. A standardized kudzu extract (NPI-031) reduces alcohol consumption in nontreatment-seeking male heavy drinkers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Mar;226(1):65-73.

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