Kudzu, or Pueraria omeiensis, is a member of the Fabaceae botanical family, which includes several very closely related subspecies of the genus Pueraria. The plant’s common name is kudzu, and it grows as a vine and an invasive ground cover throughout the U.S, China, Japan, India and most of southeast Asia. Kudzu has been used as a medicinal supplement in the Far East for centuries. Anecdotal evidence indicates it may provide several therapeutic benefits such as having rejuvenating effects, promoting hair growth, improving appetite, for treatment of diabetes, reducing blood pressure and supplying estrogenic properties — qualifying it as a phytoestrogen.
To avoid confusion on the part of the reader, Pueraria Omeiensis is referred to by several names of the nearly identical subspeicies in its genus. You may come across it being referred to as Pueraria montana or Pueraria mirifica or Pueraria lobata, according to The Plant List and Columbia University. The differences between the subspecies are so subtle and virtually non-existent, making them interchangeable with one another and enabling them to breed with one another.
Kudzu root is used to treat a variety of women’s health concerns in traditional Chinese medicine. Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants that act on the body in a similar manner as natural estrogen. Compounds found in various phytoestrogenic plants may help reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, manage symptoms of PMS, and augment breast size.
Daidzein and Genistein Isoflavones
Kudzu contains the isoflavones daidzein and genistein, which are also present in soy products. Daidzein contains anti-inflammatory properties and is used to fight microbial infections, promote the menstrual cycle, reduce spasms and cramping in the muscles, relax the coronary arteries, and protect against certain forms of cancer, according to Columbia University. They add that genistein may protect against leukemia. Additional research is needed.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have discovered a variety of isoflavones including puerarin — only found in kudzu — that help control a variety of the body’s metabolic processes. On studies with rats, they found that those given small amounts of puerarin had lowered blood sugar, insulin, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Blood glucose levels are related to obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In this instance, the puerarin helps redirect glucose away from blood vessels and fat cells and toward muscles where it can be more beneficial to the body. Additionally, no side effects were detected after a two month trial.
Helio Acupuncture Book, Chinese Herbal Medicine — Materia Medica; Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble
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