What is Kudzuvine Root (Kudzu Root)?
Kudzuvine Root (ge gen, 葛根), also known as Kudzu Root, comes from Kudzu Vine, a trailing vine that often grows over other plants. Under the right growing conditions, the vine spreads easily, and covers almost everything in its path. Part of the Pueraria genus, native to several Asian countries, Kudzu Root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since at least 200BC. Some common applications include treating fevers and easing symptoms of diabetes. As early as 600AD, people have also begun to treat alcoholism with this herb.
Kudzu Root was introduced to North America in 1876 to prevent soil erosion. However, the plant spread quickly and overtook farms and buildings. Thus, many started to call the plant “the vine that ate the South”.
Nowadays, the popularity of Kudzu Root is picking up in the West, where it can be found in the supplement aisle of grocery stores. It is often marketed as a treatment for alcoholism, diabetes and inflammation.
In TCM, Kudzu Root belongs to the category of ‘Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior’. This type of herbs help to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, eyes, ears, nose, throat and skin. It is believed that external diseases such as Colds and allergies can only invade the body when the external environment overwhelms our wei qi, 卫气 (immune system). Kudzu Root can help to counteract such invasion by dilating our capillary pores to induce sweating, expel the disease from our body and prevent it from further invasion.
Cool in nature, Kudzu Root tends to help individuals who have too much Heat in their body, such as those with a Yang Excess or a Yin Deficiency. Pungent and sweet, this herb also promotes the circulation of qi and body fluids in our body, slows down acute reactions and detoxifies the body. It also has a tonic effect on our body as it replenishes qi and blood. In particular, Kudzu Root targets the Spleen and the stomach.
Functions and Benefits of Kudzu Root
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Kudzu Root has the following functions.
Kudzu Root can relieve muscle tension, especially in our neck and shoulders. It can reduce stiffness and pain caused by the stagnation of external pathogens, dysfunction of meridian qi and the malnutrition of muscles and meridians. Such symptoms are usually seen as Wind-Cold exterior syndromes. As a health risk that is increasingly common among young people, it is important to manage our muscle tension before it becomes a severe issue.
Kudzu Root can expel external Wind pathogens to cure high fever caused by external contraction due to Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat. This herb can dispel both external Wind and clear internal Heat induced by pathogen Stagnation. Thus, it is often used to treat exterior syndromes, accumulated pathogens that have transformed in fire which invades the internal organs, aversion to cold, nose dryness, pain in the eyes and slight thirst.
Kudzu Root relieves thirst that is caused by warm diseases. This herb can promote the production of fluids, hence it is often used on patients who are experiencing restless thirst.
Kudzu Root helps to tackle measles that have just been contracted and yet to erupt. This is because the herb can expel external pathogens and promote eruption.
Kudzu Root can relieve the syndrome of diabetes caused by Yin Deficiency. As the herb can tonify the stomach and promote the generation of fluid, it can promote the clear qi of Spleen and stomach to ascend upwards.
Kudzu Root relieves diarrhea caused by Spleen Deficiency. For patients who suffer from diarrhoea caused by the collapse of qi, this herb can tonify qi to lift the patients’ yang and arrest diarrhoea.
Today, Kudzu Root is often used to treat alcoholism and reduce symptoms of alcohol hangover, such as headache, upset stomach, dizziness and vomiting. Other Kudzu Root benefits also include relief for heart and circulatory problems, including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and chest pain. It can also treat conditions such as Celiac disease, Dengue fever, and certain skin diseases.
As Kudzu Root is rich in antioxidants, this herb may also help to treat liver damage. Also, Kudzu Root may alleviate menopausal symptoms. As it contains phytoestrogens, plant compounds which have been found to act similarly to estrogen in the human body, it may help to treat common menopausal complaints including hot flashes and night sweats.
How to Use Kudzu Root
Kudzu Root is available in lots of forms, such as capsules, liquid extracts, powdered drink mixes and disintegrating tablets. You can find Kudzu Root supplements easily online and in a variety of natural food or supplement stores. Also, you can ingest it directly, or mix it with other foods and drinks.
Many companies also sell Kudzu Root as a food-grade starch powder. You can use this as a thickening agent in recipes like soups, batters, pie fillings, sauces, gravies, and desserts.
The recommended dosage is 9-15g per serving. If you want to consume it directly, simply remove impurities from the herb by washing it, then soak it in water, and cut it into thick slices before drying it.
It was found that to reduce alcohol intake, a single dose of 2 grams of Kudzu Root before drinking alcohol has been effective without causing significant side effects.
Cautions and Side Effects of Kudzu Root
Kudzu Root should not be used by individuals who have Cold in the stomach, or are experiencing excessive sweating.
There is evidence that suggests that the consumption of Kudzu Root might cause liver damage. Also, when given by IV drip, Kudzu Root has been associated with symptoms such as itching and nausea.
One should also note that Kudzu Root may interact with certain medications. For example, Kudzu Root may reduce the effectiveness of birth control due to its estrogenic effects.
Anecdotal sources also noted that Kudzu Root may lower blood sugar or slow down blood clotting. However, there is no available scientific evidence to back this claim up yet.
To make sure that Kudzu Root can improve your health instead of compromising it, we recommend you to speak with your healthcare provider before including Kudzu Root in your diet.
Here is a summary for Kudzu Root:
- Herb name (Chinese): 葛根
- Herb name (Pin Yin): gě gēn
- Herb name (English): Kudzuvine Root
- Herb name (Botanical): Radix Puerariae Lobatae
- Origin of species: Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi
- Part(s) of herb used: Roots
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Hunan, Henan, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Sichuan, Guangxi, Yunnan
- Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet, pungent; Cool; Administrates the Spleen and Stomach Meridians
- Actions: Eases symptoms of mild respiratory ailments, such as stiff neck and shoulders; Relieves skin rashes and constant thirst; Eases diarrhoea.
Shebek, J., & Rindone, J. P. (2000). A pilot study exploring the effect of kudzu root on the drinking habits of patients with chronic alcoholism. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 6(1), 45-48.[Accessed on 18 September 2022]
Wong, K. H., Li, G. Q., Li, K. M., Razmovski-Naumovski, V., & Chan, K. (2011). Kudzu root: traditional uses and potential medicinal benefits in diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 134(3), 584-607.[Accessed on 18 September 2022]
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