Kudzu and Alcoholism

August 24, 2015 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Alcohol abuse is a major health care and societal issue in the United States and around the world. Fortunately, there is greater awareness about alcoholism than ever before. And, consequently, there are now many treatment options available for those who are ready to seek help. But, even willing alcoholics sometimes find that conventional therapies aren’t sufficient to keep them “dry”. That’s where evidence-based, alternative and complementary options can make a big difference.

In some parts of the world, Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is considered an invasive weed. But, over the last few decades a positive application for this sprawling, leguminous plant has been discovered. Kudzu root is a source of bioactive chemicals, such as daidzin and puerarin. These isoflavones have demonstrated numerous medicinal properties in preliminary testing. For instance, a recent review of puerarin notes anti-cancer, anti-inflammation, cardioprotection, neuroprotection and vasodilation among a long list of attributes. Having said that, over these same last few decades, kudzu root extracts have been studied most in relation to limiting alcohol intake.

It’s unclear precisely how kudzu reduces alcohol consumption in problem drinkers. Emerging evidence suggests that it may do so by inhibiting the expression of ALDH-2, an inherited gene that is linked to alcoholism. Ultimately, what’s most important is whether or not kudzu supplementation actually curtails alcohol use in a safe manner – by whatever means. The answer to this question is a qualified, “Yes, it usually does”.

The latest trial tested the effects of an acute dose of a patented kudzu extract, Alkontrol-Herbal, in a group of binge drinkers. The researchers administered 2 grams of kudzu, standardized to 520 mgs of isoflavones, or a placebo a few hours before and after a controlled “drinking session”. The participants receiving kudzu drank less and more slowly. Several, longer-term studies report that kudzu is capable of reducing “the number of drinks consumed each week by 34% – 57%”. A decline in the number of heavy drinking days and a rise in the number of abstinent days was noted as well. Also, the side effect profile of kudzu is quite promising. For one thing, it doesn’t adversely affect the sleep/wake cycle of those using it. What’s more, it doesn’t limit alcohol consumption by increasing or prolonging the intoxicating effects of alcohol.

Positive findings about kudzu can, likewise, be found in a variety of animal studies. In animal models of alcohol dependence, kudzu supplementation has been shown to protect against intestinal and liver injuries caused by chronic alcohol abuse. On the other hand, don’t count on kudzu to mitigate hangover severity. In addition, it’s important to seek out clinically-validated products. At least one study that used a generic form of kudzu failed to find benefits in terms of alcohol cravings or sobriety status. Along those same lines, it’s vital to take kudzu as directed. Current research indicates that kudzu has a relatively short “half-life” – about 4 hours. That’s why specialists in the field recommend “three times a day dosing … as accumulation will not occur, and plasma levels remain at levels that are biologically active”.

In closing, I urge anyone seeking to abstain from alcohol not to rely on just one form of treatment. Leaving underlying lifestyle and psychological issues unaddressed isn’t a healthy approach to this or any other addiction. Contemporary studies support the efficacy of support groups (Alcoholics Anonymous and cognitive behavioral therapy) and mindfulness-based relapse prevention programs. And, while you’re at it, don’t neglect nutrition either. Heavy alcohol use often coincides with an irregular, sub-par diet and related brain dysfunction. Thankfully, improving your food choices can offset some of the cognitive consequences of ongoing alcohol consumption. Lastly, bear in mind the significance of exercise. Practices ranging from group aerobic exercise to yoga improve alcoholic treatment outcomes, balance mood and restore overall wellness.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – A New Strategy for Controlling Invasive Weeds: Selecting Valuable (link)

Study 2 – Puerarin: A Review of Pharmacological Effects (link)

Study 3 – Alcohol Use Disorders and Current Pharmacological Therapies (link)

Study 4 – Declinol, A Complex Containing Kudzu, Bitter Herbs (Gentian (link)

Study 5 – A Single Dose of Kudzu Extract Reduces Alcohol Consumption in (link)

Study 6 – A Standardized Kudzu Extract (NPI-031) Reduces Alcohol (link)

Study 7 – The Isoflavone Puerarin Reduces Alcohol Intake in Heavy Drinkers (link)

Study 8 – An Extract of the Chinese Herbal Root Kudzu Reduces Alcohol (link)

Study 9 – Kudzu Root Extract Does Not Perturb the Sleep/Wake Cycle (link)

Study 10 – Kudzu Extract Treatment Does Not Increase the Intoxicating Effects (link)

Study 11 – Puerarin Improves Metabolic Function Leading to Hepatoprotective (link)

Study 12 – Puerarin Ameliorates Experimental Alcoholic Liver Injury by Inhibition (link)

Study 13 – Effects of Puerariae Radix Extract on the Increasing Intestinal (link)

Study 14 – Pueraria Lobata (Kudzu Root) Hangover Remedies and Acetaldehyde (link)

Study 15 – A Pilot Study Exploring the Effect of Kudzu Root on the Drinking Habits (link)

Study 16 – Pharmacokinetic Profile of the Isoflavone Puerarin After Acute and (link)

Study 17 – Effects of Long-Term AA Attendance and Spirituality on the Course (link)

Study 18 – Estimating the Efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous Without Self-Selection (link)

Study 19 – Evaluation of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Drinking. Outcome of (link)

Study 20 – Mindfulness-Based-Relapse Prevention (MBRP): Evaluation of the (link)

Study 21 – Nutritional Intake and Status in Persons with Alcohol Dependency (link)

Study 22 – Antioxidant Vitamins and Brain Dysfunction in Alcoholics (link)

Study 23 – A Long-Term Fatty Fish Intervention Improved Executive Function in (link)

Study 24 – A Preliminary, Randomized Trial of Aerobic Exercise for Alcohol (link)

Study 25 – Yoga as an Adjunct Treatment for Alcohol Dependence: A Pilot Study (link)

Kudzu Supplementation Reduces Heavy Drinking Frequency

Source: Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Mar;226(1):65-73. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health, Nutritional Supplements

5 Comments & Updates to “Kudzu and Alcoholism”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated 08/24/15:

    Note: It’s important to address contributing factors such as pain.


    Addiction. 2015 Aug;110(8):1262-71.

    Pain as a predictor of heavy drinking and any drinking lapses in the COMBINE study and the UK Alcohol Treatment Trial.

    AIMS: To test the association between pain and heavy drinking lapses during and following treatment for alcohol use disorders (AUD).

    DESIGN: Secondary data analysis of data from two clinical trials for AUD.

    SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Participants included 1383 individuals from the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions (COMBINE) Study in the United States [69.0% male, 76.8% non-Hispanic White average age = 44.4, standard deviation (SD) = 10.2] and 742 individuals from the UK Alcohol Treatment Trial (UKATT) in the United Kingdom [74.1% male, 95.6% White, average age = 41.6 (SD = 10.1)].

    MEASUREMENTS: Form-90 (a structured assessment interview) was used to assess the primary outcome: time to first heavy drinking day. The Short Form Health Survey and Quality of Life measures were used to assess pain interference and pain intensity.

    FINDINGS: Pain was a significant predictor of heavy drinking lapses during treatment in UKATT [odds ratio (OR) = 1.19, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.08, 1.32, P = 0.0003] and COMBINE (OR = 1.12, 95% CI = 1.03, 1.21, P = 0.009), and was a significant predictor of heavy drinking lapses following treatment in COMBINE (OR = 1.163, 95% CI = 1.15, 1.17, P < 0.00001). After controlling for other relapse risk factors (e.g. dependence severity, self-efficacy, temptation, psychiatric distress), pain remained a significant predictor of heavy drinking lapses during treatment in UKATT (OR = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.06, 1.34, P = 0.004) and following treatment in COMBINE (OR = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.07, 1.92, P = 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Among people treated for alcohol use disorder, being in physical pain appears to predict heavy drinking lapses during or after treatment. Be well! JP

  2. JP Says:

    Updated 08/24/15:


    J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2015 Feb;8(1):23-9.

    Acupuncture reduces memory impairment and oxidative stress and enhances cholinergic function in an animal model of alcoholism.

    Currently, the therapeutic strategy against memory deficit induced by alcoholism is not satisfactory and is expensive. Therefore, an effective, low-cost strategy is required. On the basis of the memory-enhancing effect of stimulation of the HT7 acupoint, we aimed to determine whether acupuncture at the HT7 acupoint can reduce alcoholism-induced memory impairment. The possible underlying mechanism was also explored. Alcoholism was induced in male Wistar rats weighing 180-220 g. The alcoholic rats received either acupuncture at HT7 or sham acupuncture for 1 minute bilaterally once daily for 14 days. Their spatial memory was assessed after 1 day, 7 days, and 14 days of treatment. At the end of the study, the malondialdehyde level and the activities of catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and acetylcholinesterase enzymes in the hippocampus were determined using colorimetric assays. The results showed that acupuncture at HT7 significantly decreased the acetylcholinesterase activity and the malondialdehyde level, but increased the activities of catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase in the hippocampus. These results suggest that acupuncture at HT7 can effectively reduce the alcoholism-induced memory deficit. However, further studies concerning the detailed relationships between the location of the HT7 acupoint and the changes in the observed parameters are required.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 08/24/15:


    J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Oct;20(10):750-6.

    The effect of a yoga intervention on alcohol and drug abuse risk in veteran and civilian women with posttraumatic stress disorder.

    BACKGROUND: Individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often exhibit high-risk substance use behaviors. Complementary and alternative therapies are increasingly used for mental health disorders, although evidence is sparse.

    OBJECTIVES: Investigate the effect of a yoga intervention on alcohol and drug abuse behaviors in women with PTSD. Secondary outcomes include changes in PTSD symptom perception and management and initiation of evidence-based therapies.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: The current investigation analyzed data from a pilot randomized controlled trial comparing a 12-session yoga intervention with an assessment control for women age 18 to 65 years with PTSD. The Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) and Drug Use Disorder Identification Test (DUDIT) were administered at baseline, after the intervention, and a 1-month follow-up. Linear mixed models were used to test the significance of the change in AUDIT and DUDIT scores over time. Treatment-seeking questions were compared by using Fisher exact tests.

    RESULTS: The mean AUDIT and DUDIT scores decreased in the yoga group; in the control group, mean AUDIT score increased while mean DUDIT score remained stable. In the linear mixed models, the change in AUDIT and DUDIT scores over time did not differ significantly by group. Most yoga group participants reported a reduction in symptoms and improved symptom management. All participants expressed interest in psychotherapy for PTSD, although only two participants, both in the yoga group, initiated therapy.

    CONCLUSIONS: Results from this pilot study suggest that a specialized yoga therapy may play a role in attenuating the symptoms of PTSD, reducing risk of alcohol and drug use, and promoting interest in evidence-based psychotherapy. Further research is needed to confirm and evaluate the strength of these effects.

    Be well!


  4. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    My son thought that kudzu extract helped him get off alcohol.
    And I can vouch he has turned his life around.

  5. JP Says:

    Thank you, Iggy!

    I’m happy to hear your son overcame his challenge!

    Be well!


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