Kudzu root, also called Ge Gen in TCM, is an edible vegetable in southern China. It is so sweet, cool, and delicious that people there often use it for cooking soup. What’s more, as one of common Chinese herbs, it is frequently used for a number of sicknesses. Actually its high medicinal value and nutritional value have rightfully earned kudzu herb a reputation as the “Asian ginseng” and “longevity powder” in Japan, where it is honored as the “Royal Special food.” And today’s research also discovered that the concentration and activity of isoflavones contained in kudzu are far more than that found in soybeans. No wonder now it is enjoying great popularity in the west and Japan for a variety of purposes, e.g. weight loss, breast enlargement, hair loss treatment, alcoholism prevention, liver tonic, and so on. So, what is kudzu root good for? And does it work? Next, we are going to answer these questions one by one from the perspective of TCM.
What is kudzu root?
Medicinally it refers to the dried root of Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi or Pueraria thomsonii Benth., a vine plant in family legume. As you can see, these two mentioned species are slightly different from pueraria mirifica, the one you may be familiar with. Other common names include Radix Puerariae, Radix Puerariae, Kudzuvine Root, Pueraria lobata root, radix puerariae lobatae, Root of Lobed Kudzuvine, Root of Thomson Kudzuvine, pueraria root, puerariae radix, pueraria herb, radix puerariae lobata, and so on. Pueraria lobata root is mainly produced in Hunan, Henan, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Sichuan and other provinces in China. And the root of pueraria thomsonii Benth. is mainly cultivated in Guangxi, Guangdong, Sichuan, Yunnan, and other places.
Medicinal pueraria lobata is rectangular thick slices by longitudinal cutting or small cubes, 5 to 35cm in length, and 0.5 to 1cm in thickness. Skin is rough, pale brown, and with longitudinal wrinkles. Cross section is yellow-white and with unconspicuous texture. It is tough, fibrous, odorless, and slight sweet; medicinal Pueraria thomsonii Benth. is cylindrical, spindle-shaped or semi-cylindrical, 12 to 15cm long, and 4 to 8cm in diameter. Some are longitudinal or oblique thick slices and in various sizes. Surface is yellowish-white or pale brown or grayish brown if left unpeeled. Cross section sees light brown fibrous concentric ring patterns. Longitudinal section shows a number of vertical lines formed by fibers. It is weighty, hard, and rich in starch.
Main chemical constituents are isoflavones of puerarin, puerarinxyloside or PG-2, daidzein, daidzin, β-sitosterol, arachidic acid, and large amounts of starch, which is 19 to 20% in fresh kudzu, 37% in dry root of Thomson Kudzuvine, and 15 to 20% in pueraria lobata. And hindu congener isolated ingredients like puerarin, daidzein, daidzin, β-sitosterol, 4, 6-diacetyl-puerarin and stigmasterol.
Kudzu root benefits
Thailand’s medical experts ever discovered an interesting fact that women, who live in the mountainous area of northern Thailand and frequently eat Kudzu roots, tend to have bigger breasts, curvy figure, fair complexion, better health condition, and longevity. And in China, this valuable herb has been put in use for more than 1,000 years for clearing away heat and toxic materials, unclogging meridians and dispelling the effects of alcohol, protecting the liver and kidney, and more. All the information mentioned can be found in dozens of medical documents, such as “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic”, “Compendium of Materia Medica”, and “Chinese Pharmacopoeia”. Today modern medical research has found that pueraria lobata isoflavones have anti-cancer and estrogen-like effects, which can be used as natural breast enhancer and beauty product that helps look younger, especially for middle-aged women and postmenopausal women. And now many kudzu related products, including kudzu root tea, powder, extract, supplement, pills, soup, tincture, and tablets, are available for convenient consumption. Its pharmacology can give some hints on why it is so popular and has so many health benefits.
Modern pharmacological actions of kudzu roots
1. All its decoction, alcohol infusion, total flavonoids, daidzein, and puerarin can fight against vasopressin-induced acute myocardial ischemia;
2. Its total flavonoids can expand coronary artery and cerebral blood vessels, increase coronary blood flow and cerebral blood flow, reduce myocardial oxygen consumption, and increase oxygen supply;
3. It can directly dilate blood vessels and decrease the peripheral resistance, which thus significantly lowers the blood pressure and eases the symptom of stiff neck in hypertensive patients;
4. It can improve microcirculation, increase local micro-blood flow, and inhibit platelet aggregation;
5. It has extensive β-receptor blockade. And to isolated intestine of mice it has significant spasmolysis, which can antagonize acetylcholine-induced bowel spasms;
6. It also has obvious antipyretic effect and a slight hypoglycemic effect.
Proven kuzu root herbal remedies
According to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is sweet and acrid in taste and neutral in properties. It covers meridians of spleen, stomach, lung , and bladder. Main functions are resolving the flesh to bring down a fever, relieving muscles for promoting the eruption, helping produce saliva to slake thirst, and invigorating splenic yang to check diarrhea. And main kudzu root uses and indications are exogenous fever, headache and painful stiff nape, initial stage of measles, inhibition of rash eruption, thirst in febrile diseases, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and so on. Recommended kudzu root dosage is from 10 to 15 grams in decoction.
1. Ge Gen Qin Lian Tang or Ge Gen Huang Qin Huang Lian Tang. This formula comes from Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage). It is mainly designed for heat dysentery and heat or splenasthenic diarrhea. Other herbal ingredients are Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome), Huang Qin (Scutellaria), and Gan Cao (Licorice).
2. Ge Gen Tang. This prescription is from On Cold Damage. It is basically formulated for common cold due to wind-cold, exterior excess without sweating, aversion to cold, and stiff neck. Other major herbs are Ma Huang (Ephedra), Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig), and so on.
3. Sheng Ma Ge Gen Tang. This recipe comes from Yan Shi Xiao Er Fang Lun (Yanshi Formula for Infantile Diseases). It is mainly used for inhibition of rash eruption. Other main herbs are Sheng Ma (Black Cohosh Rhizome), Shao Yao (Peony), Licorice, and more.
4. Tian Hua San. Tian Hua San is from Ren Zhai Zhi Zhi Fang (Effective Recipes from Renzhai House). It is exclusively used for thirst in heat diseases and diabetes. The rest other herbs are Tian Hua Fen (Trichosanthes), Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon Tuber), and more.
Potential kudzu root side effects and contraindications
Kudzu root has no significant toxicity, drug interactions, and adverse reactions. However, TCM wise, use it with care in case of deficient cold of spleen and stomach.