Kudzu, Hangovers  and  Cancer

by David J. Hanson, Ph. D.

Kudzu is a vine (Pueraria lobata) that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,500 years and is now being marketed as a cure for hangovers.

There is conflicting evidence whether or not Kudzu and its active component , diadzein (or diazen) and its metabolic product equol, have any effect on reducing the consumption of alcohol. In addition, no studies have demonstrate that kudzu can serve as a morning-after substance for reducing or eliminating hangovers as used in traditional Chinese practice. It should be noted that traditional Chinese medicine is neither based on nor uses scientific research and evidence.

On the other hand, Dr. Neil McGregor has pointed out that the active components of Kudzu have been linked with a 650% increase in cervical cancer. Thus, Kudzu products, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, may be not only ineffective but dangerous to women’s health.

The best way to prevent hangovers is to drink in moderation or abstain. There is some evidence that drinking clear distilled spirits beverages such as vodka or gin reduces the severity of hangovers, other things being equal.

 

Reference:

  • Appreciation is expressed to Neil McGregor, MDSc., Ph.D.,  for providing much of the information and many of the references used in this report.

Readings:

  • Atkinson C, Frankenfeld CL, Lampe JW. Gut bacterial metabolism of the soy isoflavone daidzein: exploring the relevance to human health. Exp.Biol.Med.(Maywood.) 2005; 230:155-170.
  • Bensky D, Clavey S, Stoger E. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. 2004; 3rd edition. Page 73.
  • Cromie, William J. Kudzu cuts alcohol consumption: The weed that whacks binge drinking. Harvard University Gazette, May 27, 2005.
  • Hernandez BY, McDuffie K, Franke AA, Killeen J, Goodman MT. Reports: plasma and dietary phytoestrogens and risk of premalignant lesions of the cervix. Nutr.Cancer 2004; 49:109-124.
  • Ju YH, Fultz J, Allred KF, Doerge DR, Helferich WG. Effects of dietary daidzein and its metabolite, equol, at physiological concentrations on the growth of estrogen-dependent human breast cancer (MCF-7) tumors implanted in ovariectomized athymic mice1. Carcinogenesis 2006.
  • Setchell KD, Clerici C, Lephart ED, Cole SJ, Heenan C, Castellani D, Wolfe BE, Nechemias-Zimmer L, Brown NM, Lund TD, Handa RJ, Heubi JE. S-equol, a potent ligand for estrogen receptor beta, is the exclusive enantiomeric form of the soy isoflavone metabolite produced by human intestinal bacterial flora. Am.J.Clin.Nutr. 2005; 81:1072-1079.
  • Scott, E., et al. An extract of the Chinese herbal root kudzu reduces alcohol drinking by heavy drinkers in a naturalistic setting. Addiction: Clinical & Experimental Research, 2005 (May), 29(5), 756-762.
  • Shebek, J., & Rindone, J.P. A pilot study exploring the effect of kudzu root on the drinking habits of patients with chronic alcoholism. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2000 Feb; 6(1): 45-48.
  • Spivey, Angela. Sobering effects from the lowly kudzu. Endeavor Magazine (April, 1996) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Woodside JV, Campbell MJ, Denholm EE, Newton L, Honour JW, Morton MS, Young IS, Leathem AJ. Short-term phytoestrogen supplementation alters insulin-like growth factor profile but not lipid or antioxidant status. J.Nutr.Biochem. 2005.

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