Many of us have been there. You wake up on Saturday morning after a night out with friends with a throbbing headache and an upset stomach that only more sleep, pancakes, and lots of coffee and water seem to help. But what if there were a natural way to get rid of your hangover? Enter kudzu, some say. If you live in the southern United States, you’ve surely heard of this creeping vine, though probably not as a hangover remedy. Brought over from China and Japan in the late 1800s, kudzu was originally used to create shade and as a way for farmers to hold down topsoil. Today, the invasive plant covers thousands of acres along the East Coast and the southern United States.
However, long before it was used in agriculture, kudzu — Pueraria lobata — was used by the Chinese as an herbal remedy, according to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Today, both the kudzu root and flower are gaining popularity as potential hangover cures. Remedies that include one or both are available online, as well as in stores. It might sound like the perfect natural remedy we’ve all been waiting for, but does it really work? And is it safe?
No hangover cure-all
Both kudzu root and kudzu flower have been traditionally used to treat hangovers, with kudzu flower used more frequently. Despite its growing popularity, there’s been very little research into kudzu’s effectiveness as a treatment. Based on the few studies so far, it isn’t looking good for those hawking kudzu as a hangover cure-all. A comprehensive review of research showed no compelling evidence that any complementary intervention is effective for treating hangovers.
According to a study in the journal Alcohol, kudzu might not be the best option for curing your hangover. Chronic use of the herb in high doses is linked with the inhibition of certain genes, which can then lead to the formation of tumors. This doesn’t mean that it’s dangerous to drink your kudzu tea, but when you’ve just had too many beers, it might be best to stick with pancakes.
The key to sobriety?
Much research has been done on whether kudzu can help curb the desire to drink, but results so far are inconclusive. One study shows that drinking kudzu extract before drinking alcohol has little to no effect on the person’s desire for alcohol or on how much they were able to drink. Other findings suggest that kudzu raises the blood alcohol level in the first 30 minutes of consuming alcohol, resulting in less consumption to achieve the effects of the alcohol. Another recent study found that kudzu could be used to help prevent binge drinking.
What else might it help with?
Even though kudzu’s potential as a hangover remedy has yet to be determined, that doesn’t mean that this medicinal plant is without its wide range of uses.
According to the Mayo Clinic, kudzu shows potential as a treatment for cluster headaches. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports it may help with management of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. A study in the journal Menopause suggests it may also help with symptoms of menopause.
For now, kudzu is not a confirmed hangover cure. But it does show promise as an aid in other health-related areas, such as the management of headaches, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and symptoms of menopause. If your curiosity is still piqued by this ancient Chinese herb, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.