Chinese Herb Kudzu Reduces Consumption Of Alcohol
According to a new study published in the current issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence by McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers, an extract of the Chinese herb kudzu reduces binge drinking and could be useful in the treatment of alcoholism.
David Penetar, PhD, lead author of the study from the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital, explains: “Our study is further evidence that components found in kudzu root can reduce alcohol consumption and do so without adverse side effects. Further research is needed, but this botanical medication may lead to additional methods to treat alcohol abuse and dependence.”
One of the major components of the kudzu root, the isoflavone puerarin, was investigated to determine whether it would reduce alcohol consumption in a laboratory simulation of an afternoon drinking session.
Puerarin was selected over other kudzu root components because of its previously established safety and efficacy in humans, particularly in China where it is approved for intravenous injection to treat coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction and angina.
Puerarin is also less potent than other parts of the kudzu plant, so it has few side effects and has none of the estrogenic activity found in other components, making it safer for women than other herbal remedies.
The original study consisted of 90 minutes in which subjects were allowed to consume as many beers as they wanted – up to a maximum of six. After the session, each was given either puerarin or a placebo and told to take it daily for a week. Then, each returned to do the experiment again.
After two weeks, a third session was initiated to study if they had returned to their baseline drinking levels. After that, each subject was given the pill he or she didn´t get the first time and told to take it for a week. Each then returned for a fourth and final drinking session.
The results of the study showed a reduction in the number of beers consumed, from an initial 3.5 beers to an average of 2.4.
“This was a simulation of a binge drinking opportunity and not only did we see the subjects drinking less, we noted that their rate of consumption decreased, meaning they drank slower and took more sips to finish a beer,” explained Penetar. “While we do not suggest that puerarin will stop drinking all together, it is promising that it appears to slow the pace and the overall amount consumed.”
The Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital has been involved in a series of research projects for more than 10 years, looking at the ability of extracts of the kudzu root and its components to reduce excessive drinking with very encouraging results.