If you live in the Southeastern part of the United States, you probably encounter invasive Kudzu on a regular basis. You may have some in your yard or see it alongside the road. It's a bright green vine that looks like a topiary. When left uncontrolled, Kudzu will grow over any stationary object in its path. Although this hardy plant may be found anywhere, the ideal growing conditions of the American South have caused the growth of the plant to explode. Kudzu is native to Japan and China and was introduced to the U.S. in the 1880s. The Kudzu root is used in traditional Chinese dishes for both flavor and medicinal purposes. With a generous amount of phytochemicals, Kudzu has many unique health benefits.
Phytochemicals occur naturally in plants, as a result of photosynthesis. These chemicals, especially the isoflavone compounds daidzein, daidzin, tectorigenin, and puerarin, contain properties that are used to prevent and treat disease. Balancing the presence of "free radicals" that break down cells with antioxidants in the body helps ensure proper health and regenerative growth of cells. The nutrients Vitamin C and Vitamin E seem to work especially well in blocking free radical chains. As your gut bacteria break down substances containing phytochemicals, you may lose some of the nutrients due to lack of absorption. The resulting breakdown that occurs in digestion creates new chemical compounds that can be absorbed by the body and aid in blocking free radicals. These substances may cause cancer cells to self-destruct or prevent cells from becoming cancerous in the first place.
Phytochemicals found in Kudzu have disease prevention properties, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease. Regular consumption of flavonoid has been shown in lab experiments and in dietary studies to reduce mortality from coronary artery disease. The compound seems to help keep artery walls supple, and prevent the buildup of fats and plaque in the arteries. This allows the blood to move freely through the body and prevents risky clots. Studies have also shown that consumption of all varieties of flavonoids reduces the total blood cholesterol levels, as well as the plasma total cholesterol and the LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
While treatment of alcoholism using Kudzu is not recommended without approval from a qualified physician, ingesting Kudzu root has been shown to reduce the number of drinks people had in a session. More than five drinks in a row are considered binge drinking and have severe effects on the liver, arteries, and heart. It also produces unpleasant side effects, like a hangover! The presence of Kudzu in the bloodstream actually raises the level of alcohol in the blood, thus making the drinker "feel" the effects of alcohol without consuming the corresponding amount of drinks. According to the BBC, participants in the study drank an average of 20 percent less when taking Kudzu root supplements than those who did not. In addition, the Kudzu extract decreased the number of days that participants drank alcohol.
According to a study by Yale University, Kudzu extract has been shown to reduce the frequency of cluster headaches - painful and debilitating headaches the prevent the sufferer from enjoying everyday activities and working. In addition to limiting the frequency of cluster headaches, Kudzu extract has been demonstrated to reduce the pain associated with the headaches - a pain that some say surpasses any other human pain. Although the extract may not alleviate all of the pain from cluster headaches, even mitigating that pain has been a blessing for sufferers. Chemicals in Kudzu increase cerebral blood flow, thus increasing the blood going to the brain. It also is shown to prevent swelling and stiffness in the neck, which can exacerbate cluster headaches.
Kudzu can help ease digestion and improve bowel movements, both of which are causes for a tummyache. With its anti-inflammatory properties, it can help with bowel irritation and promote healthy gut bacteria. Regular consumption of the kudzu root as food, versus the extract, has been shown to alleviate discomfort from irritable bowel syndrome and acute diverticulitis. The thick, viscous consistency of Kudzu coats the interior walls of the stomach and small intestine, protecting it from harsh stomach acids that cause irritation and heartburn. Stomach ulcers can also receive the protection Kudzu root provides, and the fiber in the root helps digestion flow properly, thus eliminating some of the severity of "leaky gut syndrome."
Menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes, may be relieved by the use of Kudzu root extract. Research indicates that taking the extract by mouth can reduce hot flashes throughout the day. And relieve vaginal dryness associated with menopause. There is also some indication that Kudzu root extract may improve the cognitive abilities of menopausal women. Thus preventing the dreaded change brain. This is thought to be due to the increased blood flow as a result of Kudzu extract consumption. The extra blood helps to keep the vaginal walls lubricated. And it increases the body's ability to cool itself during hot flashes.
For those who suffer from joint pain, the anti-inflammatory properties of the chemical Daidzein found in Kudzu root may provide welcome relief. It does so by increasing blood flow to the joints including knees and ankles. Kudzu helps your body naturally heal from stress caused by overuse or improper movement in your joints. In addition to helping your body move more naturally, Kudzu has anti-inflammatory properties. They can help reduce swelling of the joints and increase mobility. Users may experience a greater range of motion once the swelling begins to recede, and greater mobility as walking, standing, and even jogging become easier.
The chemical puerarin, one of the phytochemicals found in Kudzu, has been demonstrated to aid in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. This includes increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar. It aids the metabolic processes in the body, including processing glucose. It does this by directing glucose away from fat cells and the blood and toward muscle cells. Thus not only decreasing the body's blood sugar but making it more efficient in movement, as well. People with diabetes will find relief from better-managed metabolism and blood sugar regulation. Interestingly athletes, especially endurance athletes, may enjoy the benefits of having better glucose processing in their muscles.
Many parts of the Kudzu plant are edible. The roots may be eaten by themselves, or dried and ground into a powder for consumption. The vines and leaf tips are edible, too, and may be prepared in a salad or stir-fry. Finally, Kudzu produces fragrant, purple blossoms, which may be made into jellies, syrups, and candies. Kudzu root tea can be found at many health food stores, as a supplement. For the meal preparation of the whole root, treat it like a potato - bake it or boil it. You may also season it similarly to a potato, or use it in place of parsnips in recipes.
Although Kudzu is generally safe to ingest, and in fact is used in Chinese and Southern cuisine, rare major medical side effects have been reported. Acute interstitial nephritis has been reported after ingesting Kudzu Juice, as well as epigastric discomfort and azotemia. In these cases, the symptoms decreased rapidly after discontinuation of use. If you are harvesting Kudzu, take care not to confuse it with poison ivy, as they look similar. Wash your kudzu thoroughly, as it may have been sprayed with pesticides.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.