Kudzu (Pueraria Lobata or Pueraria Thomsonii) has a bad reputation in the southern United States. When it gets “loose”, it spreads and smothers out everything in its path. It climbs up trees, forms thick mats over the fields, and quickly hides abandoned cars and homes.
Photo of kudzu vines by Janice Boling at Payne Mountain Farms
It may come as a surprise to southern gardeners that kudzu is good for many ailments and has powerful medicinal properties. Kudzu is used to treat heart problems, high blood pressure, and conditions with symptoms of fever, headache, or stiff neck. Kudzu is also used in the treatment of allergies, migraines, and diarrhea. Kudzu root tea is even used to sober up a drunk. Not only can it sober up someone that is intoxicated, kudzu can also help overcome addictions.
Kudzu, originally from Japan, was imported for use as an ornamental in the landscape, as animal fodder, and for soil erosion control. Kudzu soon became an invasive plant in the southeastern U.S escaping from pastures and covering valuable forest land. Now southerners dread the thought of kudzu sprouts taking over their property.
One of the most promising uses for kudzu is in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction withdrawals. The root of the kudzu plant is taken in powder or extract form. Nine to fifteen grams of powder are given daily to inhibit the desire for alcohol. Kudzu also stimulates regeneration of liver tissue while protecting against toxins. Scientists say that two isoflavones, daidzin and daidzein, are responsible for these properties.
Kudzu root has isoflavones with chemical structures that resemble the hormone estrogen. They appear to protect against hormone-related disorders such as breast cancer and prostate cancers. A recent study has demonstrated that isoflavones have potent antioxidant properties, comparable to that of the well-known antioxidant vitamin E. The antioxidant powers of isoflavones can reduce the long-term risk of cancer by preventing free radical damage to DNA.
Kudzu roots contain high levels of isoflavones (up to 12%), which are known to facilitate improved blood flow throughout the body, help ease menopausal symptoms, and improve bone health.
Kudzu was mentioned in the ancient, oriental herbal text of Shen Nong in A.D. 100. These writings tell how Kudzu was used in the treatment of wei or superficial syndrome. Kudzu has been recognized as an important herbal remedy in the Far East for thousands of years.
A poem titled, “Kudzu”, by James Dicky starts out, “In Georgia, the legend says that you must close your windows at night to keep it out of the house.” Kudzu has many names including mile-a-day plant.
The kudzu plant is a coarse, high climbing, twining, perennial vine with attractive, sweet-scented, lavender flowers. It grows better in the South than it does in its native land and has no insect enemies here in the U.S. The huge, deep growing root can become the size of a human body. Many areas of the south have resorted to herbicidal spraying programs to keep the vine under control although goats, when staked out in a patch of kudzu, can keep it under control -- possibly even killing it out. Some kudzu plants may take as long as ten years to kill, even with the most effective herbicides.
Kudzu is not recommended for home gardens due to its invasive habits.
* Please consult with a physician before using any herbal remedy.
Kudzu bloom on Payne Mountain Farms - photo by Janice Boling
"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... Janice Boling, herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer
* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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