By Lisa Ann Bargeman
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata), often colloquially called “the bane of the South” in the United States, is actually a beautiful purple-flowering plant and climbing vine that is non-parasitic in nature. Similar to wisteria in appearance when flowering, it grows and flowers up telephone poles and walls, frequently covering other plants. Carolina Biological Supply Company in Elon College, North Carolina noted in October 2007 that it “covers… 7 million acres.”
Kudzu, imported from Japan in 1876, has traditionally been used in the production of baskets, soaps, and for its edible roots. But could there be even more practical uses of this prevalent plant? Recent science has shown that there are.
In a laboratory in Arkansas within the last 3 years, experiments took place to determine whether kudzu was more than just a weedy pest. The result? Kudzu was found to be a “germ-fighter,” and not a minor one, either. The research showed kudzu to have more “antioxidant activity” and “high radical-scavenging activity… [than] spinach” – and the human body is constantly fighting oxidative damage (Lau et al.)
Kudzu contains “phytoestrogens with high levels of estrogenic activity” that, in recent years, are heavily studied because of their potential effects in fighting cancer. “Flavonoids may play a preventive role in development of cancer and heart disease owing to their antioxidant activities…. Phytoestrogens have been shown to prevent cancer, act as antioxidants, scavenge free radicals, [and] lower serum cholesterol” (Lau et al.) Kudzu has also been shown to prevent certain kinds of common intestinal disorders.
Have diabetes? Drink a little more than you should? Kudzu contains chemicals “shown to contribute to antidipsotropic ([anti-]alcohol abuse) activity in rats,” and have also been shown to have antidiabetic properties (Lau et al.)
Kudzu supplements are now commonly sold in the retail market. Maybe it’s time to pick up some, or to admire that backyard plant just a little bit more.
Lau S, Carrier DJ, Beitle R, Howard LH, Lay Junior JO, Liyanage R, and Clausen EC. A Glycoside Flavonoid in Kudzu (Pueraria lobata.) Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology Vol. 121-124. Humana Press; Totowa, NJ 2005.
Authors Bio: Lisa Bargeman has spent the last 7 years working professionally for scientific publishers and producing 3 books, including a Top 3 electronic bestseller of its publisher. That book was thrice critically acclaimed by Midwest Book Review and placed on their Small Press Bookwatch. Lisa_Bargeman@yahoo.com