Kudzu and alcohol have a long tradition together. In fact, traditional Chinese medicine has used the plant for over 2,500 years.
Kudzu is an invasive vine that flourishes in many southern states. It was introduced into the US from Asia decades ago to reduce soil erosion
During a trip to China, chemist Dr. David Lee noticed that many people use an herbal tea containing Kudzu.
Its name in Chinese, loosely translated, means “drunkenness dispeller.” The tea is often used to try to sober up after drinking and to relieve hangovers.
Research on Kudzu and Alcohol
Then Dr. Lee and scientists at a university in China began testing a compound from from this tea. They gave lab rats alcohol and the compound. They found that it improved the rats’ motor coordination. That is, it made them act less intoxicated.
Next, Dr. Lee contacted researchers at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. He suggested that they test Kudzu to see if it would reduce alcohol consumption among their rats. Specifically, they were strains of rats that ha selectively bread to crave alcohol.
As a result, the researchers gave compounds from Kudzu root to the special lab rats. The investigators found that the compounds reduced the rats’ alcohol intake.
These very promising results led to research involving humans. Giving a Kudzu root extract twice daily failed to reduce craving and sobriety scores. The subjects were veterans taking the extract and those taking a placebo.
However, researchers made a small clinical study of 14 men and women who were heavy drinkers. They found that kudzu reduced the quantity of alcohol they drank. The investigator speculated that the puerarin in Kudzu increases blood alcohol concentration. As a result, people need less alcohol to feel its effects.
The evidence regarding Kudzu’s effectiveness is mixed and much more research needs to be done.
Dr. Neil McGregor has warned that the active components of Kudzu have been linked to cancer. Specifically to a 650% increase in cervical cancer. Thus, Kudzu products could be a danger to women’s health. They are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
In the meantime it’s a case of buyer beware. Researchers at McLean Hospital bought a variety of Kudzu extracts from stores and Internet sites. Then they tested them. They found that none of them worked to reduce craving for alcohol.
Analyses showed that all of the products contained less than one percent of active Kudzu. The products would probably need at least 30%.
There are no studies showing that Kudzu can serve as a morning-after potion for reducing hangovers.
The best way to prevent hangovers is to drink in moderation or to abstain.
There is also good evidence that drinking clear spirits reduces the severity of hangovers. Such spirits would include vodka and gin.
- Fundukian, L. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Farmington Hills: Gale, 2009.
- Penetar, D., et al. Kudzu extract treatment does not increase the effects of alcohol in humans. Alco, 2011, 35(4), 726-34.
- Ulbricht, C. Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide. Mosby, 2016.