In The News: Kudzu Plant May Help Curb Binge Drinking

| 5/23/2012 2:18:14 PM

J.PattonResearchers at Harvard may have found a way to prevent binge drinking with the kudzu plant, a climbing and coiling vine native to southeast China and southern Japan.

Kudzu was initially brought to the United States in the late 1800s to control soil erosion. At first, it seemed this member of the pea family was going to be an excellent tool for farmers and gardeners alike. However, it soon turned into an invasive pest, consuming a half million acres in the Southeast, climbing over trees and shrubs and growing so rapidly that it killed much of the greenery with the heavy shade it created. In 1953, it was declared a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The invasive kudzu plant may actually hold some medicinal benefits.
Photo by dmott9/Courtesy

Overseas, kudzu isn’t viewed as such a nuisance. In fact, it is a popular ingredient in eastern Asian cuisine. Also, in China and India, kudzu is used as an aphrodisiac, contraceptive and diuretic. It is also used to treat angina pectoris and high blood pressure.

In 1997, researchers in India administered a root extract of the herb to rats exposed to carbon tetrachloride, a chemical reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is known to cause liver toxicity. The root extract worked wonders. After taking the extract, the rats enjoyed stabilized activity of liver enzymes, stimulated regeneration of liver tissue, and a greater resistance to liver damage.

This isn’t the first time kudzu has been used to treat alcohol-related issues, either. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, kudzu flower and root preparations have been used to help sober up.