About the Kudzu Plant
If you live in the Southern United States you probably recognize Kudzu as an invasive species of vine that grows quickly and devours everything in it's path. It can cover abandoned cars and homes, trees and power lines.
It kills all other plants beneath it, by blocking out the light.
The plant was introduced from Japan in the 1920s as a means to control soil erosion.
How invasive is it? Right now it's found in roughly two million acres in South Eastern United States. It's estimated that a single acre of kudzu would expand to 5,250 acres if left uncontrolled for 100 years. (Virgina Tech)
But, did you know that the plant has been used in China for centuries as a cure for hangovers and its name translates roughly into "drunkeness dispeller".
New research suggests it may help people with a drinking problem cut down on the amount of alcohol they consume.
Let's See What Kudzu Looks Like
Research on the link between Kudzu and diminished alcohol consumption has been going on for some time and continues today.
In 1991, after spending some time in China and seeing people drink kudzu as a hangover cure, Dr. David Lee suggested that scientists at the Bowies Center for Alcohol Studies test kudzu.
They used lab rats that had been selectively bred to crave alcohol and fed them compounds made from Kudzu.
The compounds significantly and drastically reduced the amount of alcohol the rats consumed.
A small clinical study showed that Kudzu reduced alcohol intake in men and women who were very heavy drinkers. One theory is that Kudzu increases the effects of alcohol so you need to drink less to get the desired effect.
There may be some merits to the theory. In China some Kudzu compounds are used to increase blood flow. That would suggest it would help get alcohol to the brain faster.
Researchers at McLean Hospital in Belmont Mass decided to test the theory. They put fourteen men and women with an average age of twenty-four into an apartment setting and allowed them access to beer, with a limit of six each.
They kept track of each individuals drinking patterns. Then they gave have the group a capsule containing Kudzu and the other half a placebo.
Amongst those taking kudzu, alcohol consumption was cut roughly in half. They drink less and they drank slower.
To further test the theory they switched things up. The group that had been getting Kudzu was given the placebo and vice versa. Once again, those getting Kudzu drank less.
Research into Kudzu is still in a fairly early stage. Not all tests have had such dramatic results.
Can Kudzu Help You Drink Less?
If you are a heavy drinker Kudzu is not going to make you quit overnight.
However, Kudzu may help you drink less, also known as harm reduction. That means less money spent on alcohol, fewer hangovers and more time and energy to spend on more productive activity.
Even if you're not a heavy drinker, Kudzu may be great to have on hand, particularly during the holiday party season. It's easy to get carried away, and light and moderate drinkers may find it difficult to avoid the pressure to drink to excess.