Kudzu and AlcoholismAugust 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)
Tags: Addiction, Alcohol, Kudzu
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health, Nutritional Supplements