Kudzu: The Weed that Fights Alcoholism

A compound in the common kudzu weed seems to help drinkers cut back on their alcohol consumption, the Associated Press reported May 17.

Following up on anecdotal evidence from China, researchers at McLean Hospital in Boston, led by Scott Lukas, gave test subjects either kudzu or a placebo and measured their beer consumption. They found that the kudzu group drank an average of 1.8 beers per research session, compared to 3.5 beers consumed by the control group.

Lukas said that it is possible that kudzu raises blood-alcohol levels quickly, so drinkers need to consume less to feel drunk. “That rapid infusion of alcohol is satisfying them and taking away their desire for more drinks,” Lukas said. “That’s only a theory. It’s the best we’ve got so far.”

Animal research conducted in 2003 also suggested that kudzu reduced alcohol intake. “There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence from China that kudzu could be useful, but this is the first documented evidence that it could reduce drinking in humans,” said researcher David Overstreet, who conducted the animal study.

Fourteen men and women in their 20s, who habitually consumed three or four drinks daily, took part in the study, spending four 90-minute sessions drinking beer and watching TV.

Kudzu won’t prevent drinking, researchers said, but could help heavy drinkers cut their consumption.

The report appears in the May 2005 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Epidemiological Research.

Lukas, S., et al. (2005). An Extract of the Chinese Herbal Root Kudzu Reduces Alcohol Drinking by Heavy Drinkers in a Naturalistic Setting. Alcoholism: Clinical and Epidemiological Research, 29(5): 756-762.

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical and Epidemiological ResearchAssociated Press May 17 2005

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