Benefits of Kudzu for Alcohol Cravings

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Many people struggle with excessive alcohol use, even if they want to stop, so they’re turning to solutions like kudzu for alcohol cravings. It’s mentally defeating to try and curb excessive drinking, and you may find that you face a lot of regret after alcohol consumption, binge drinking or excessive drinking. Even when you don’t have the symptoms of alcohol use disorders, you may still consider natural options that will help you change your drinking behavior.

Kudzu isn’t a standalone treatment for alcoholism or reducing voluntary alcohol intake, but if your goal is to reduce alcohol cravings or cut back, it may be a helpful natural supplement. If you’re going to try a doze of kudzu extract for alcohol cravings, our guide explores everything you should know first.

What Is Kudzu?

Kudzu is an invasive vine that natively grows in East Asia—especially China and Japan. The Chinese herbal root kudzu is part of the pea family. While it’s primarily known as being an invasive plant, there are also parts of it, especially the root, that have been used for various purposes in traditional Chinese medicine. In traditional herbal medicine, kudzu root extract has been suggested to have potential health benefits for alcoholism, hangovers, and also menopause.

The potential health benefits of kudzu include:

Alcoholism and Hangovers

Kudzu root extract has been studied for the potential to reduce symptoms related to alcohol use and to reduce oral alcohol consumption. Some studies suggest kudzu can help decrease alcohol cravings and limit intake.

Menopause Symptoms

Kudzu contains isoflavones, which is part of why it potentially reduces alcohol consumption. Those are compounds with effects similar to estrogen. Studies have looked at the benefits of kudzu extracts for managing menopause symptoms like mood swings and hot flashes.

Cardiovascular Health

The isoflavones like puerarin in kudzu have been investigated for cardiovascular benefits. These could be attributed to the vasodilatory and antioxidant effects of kudzu.

Blood Sugar Control

Some studies in animals suggest kudzu extracts may help regulate blood sugar levels.

Kudzu to Stop Drinking Urges—How Does It Work?

As mentioned, one of the main reasons people use kudzu is to help with alcohol cravings or to cut back on their use of alcohol. Regular, excessive alcohol consumption can have severe adverse health consequences.  

Physical health effects of excessive alcohol consumption can include:

  • Liver damage
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cancer risk
  • Neurological damage
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Pancreatitis

Mental health effects of alcohol consumption include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased risk of psychiatric conditions
  • Social and occupational problems

The Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Hormones and Neurotransmitter Systems

Alcohol use has complex effects on hormonal and neurotransmitter systems, contributing to imbalances.

As far as hormonal imbalances, alcohol can have the following effects:

  • Alcohol consumption can elevate cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that, when it’s chronically elevated, can lead to conditions like weight gain, immune system suppression and metabolic syndrome.
  • Chronic alcohol use can decrease testosterone in men and women. Low testosterone levels affect sexual function, mood and energy levels.
  • Alcohol can influence estrogen levels, and chronic use may lead to disruptions in fertility and menstrual cycles in women. In men, excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to an increase in their estrogen levels.
  • Drinking can affect insulin sensitivity and contribute to insulin resistance. This effect can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Neurotransmitter imbalances related to alcohol actually play a role in the benefits of using kudzu to stop drinking or taking kudzu for alcohol cravings, which we’ll talk about more later.

The impact of drinking, especially on a regular basis, on neurotransmitter systems includes:

  • Alcohol enhances the impact of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter with inhibitory effects, so it’s calming and can lead to sedation. Chronic use of alcohol can disrupt the balance of GABAergic activity, which can contribute to dependence and tolerance.
  • Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter. Alcohol inhibits glutamate, and chronic consumption can lead to an adaptive increase in the activity of glutamate. This can lead to hyperexcitability during withdrawal or not drinking, which can trigger symptoms like anxiety, seizures or tremors.
  • Drinking alcohol increases the release of dopamine in the reward pathways of the brain. This effect is why alcohol has pleasurable effects, but over time, the dopamine system can become dysregulated, contributing to cravings and addiction.
  • Initially, alcohol increases serotonin levels, so it boosts mood in the short term. In the long term, however, chronic alcohol use depletes serotonin and can contribute to depression symptoms.
  • Alcohol stimulates the release of endorphins, which are our body’s natural opioids. The release of endorphins creates feelings of reward and pleasure, but chronic drinking disrupts the endorphins system, contributing to alcohol tolerance and dependence.

Over time, chronic alcoholism leads to structural and functional changes in the brain. These changes affect parts of the brain related to emotional regulation, memory, and decision-making.

What Causes Alcohol Cravings?

Alcohol cravings are influenced by a combination of factors, which are often physiological, psychological and environmental. Understanding the underlying mechanisms is also essential in the discussion of using kudzu for alcohol cravings.

When you drink, as mentioned, it affects your neurotransmitter systems, including dopamine. Chronic use of alcohol can lead to changes in the neurotransmitter systems, creating dependence on alcohol so that neurotransmitters related to pleasure are released. Your brain may signal alcohol cravings as a way to seek the rewarding effects it can have.

Over time, if you regularly drink, you’re likely to develop a tolerance and need more alcohol to achieve the desired effects. When you stop consuming alcohol or reduce your intake, you may have withdrawal symptoms, including cravings.

There are emotional and psychological contributors to cravings, including stress, depression and anxiety, which can lead to using alcohol as a way to self-medicate. Alcohol cravings often appear in response to emotional triggers.

Some people have a genetic predisposition to becoming dependent on alcohol and may be more vulnerable to the reinforcing effects it can have.

Can You Use Kudzu To Stop Drinking?

If you’re considering trying kudzu for alcohol cravings or to cut back on your alcohol consumption, the following are things to know:

  • Kudzu is thought to influence the brain’s reward system associated with alcohol consumption. Research suggests that kudzu extracts, especially its active compound puerarin, could affect neurotransmitters like dopamine. These effects can reduce the rewarding effects of alcohol and decrease cravings.
  • A kudzu extract can potentially affect how the body metabolizes alcohol. Some studies have shown it could enhance the activity of enzymes needed to break down alcohol in the body. This could lead to a faster elimination of alcohol from the bloodstream, resulting in less intoxication and lessening alcohol’s pleasurable effects.
  • Taking a kudzu extract for alcohol cravings or alcohol abuse could help because of its interaction with neurotransmitter systems in the brain. This could include modulating GABA receptors.
  • Kudzu contains components, like isoflavones, that have antioxidant properties. Consuming alcohol increases oxidative stress in the body, and kudzu’s antioxidant effects may help reduce some of the damage associated with alcohol use.

Some studies have looked at the topic of taking kudzu to stop drinking. For example, an older study published in 2005 found that kudzu extract reduced alcohol consumption in a group of heavy drinkers. In that study, participants who took kudzu extract consumed fewer beers and had lower alcohol intake measures compared to the placebo-treated group.

Some studies have found that the puerarin in kudzu does, in fact, influence dopamine release in some areas of the brain.

Another study from 2009 looked at the effects of kudzu extract on alcohol cravings and consumption in a group of heavy drinkers and found similarly promising results compared to placebo treated groups.

Kudzu to Stop Drinking: How Does It Work

When it comes to how to take kudzu for alcohol cravings or alcohol abuse, we’ve briefly touched on its mechanism of action. Still, it’s worthwhile to delve more deeply into how it works to help reduce alcohol consumption.

Dopamine System Modulation

Dopamine is one of the primary neurotransmitters that play a role in the reinforcing effects of alcohol and other addictive substances. Kudzu is thought to modulate the dopaminergic system, and by influencing dopamine release and receptor activity, it may reduce the rewarding effects of alcohol. When the rewarding effects of alcohol aren’t present, it can diminish the motivation to drink more.

Kudzu extracts like puerarin have been looked at for their potential to modulate the release of dopamine in certain brain regions. Kudzu may influence the dopamine receptors, especially D2 receptors. These are involved in the regulation of the brain’s reward pathways.

Changes in the activity of the D2 receptor pathways can impact the reinforcing effects of addictive substances. Cravings are often linked to the rewarding effects of alcohol, so kudzu’s ability to change the dopamine system can impact cravings and their intensity.

GABA System Modulation

Kudzu extracts may interact with GABA receptors and enhance the inhibitory effects of GABA. The modulation of this system could reduce alcohol cravings or help treat alcohol abuse by lowering anxiety levels and stress that are often triggers to drink.

Glutamatergic System Modulation

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and kudzu extract treatment is thought to influence the glutamatergic system, reducing the excitatory effects of alcohol withdrawal or cravings.

Serotonin System influence

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter closely associated with mood regulation. Imbalances are thought to be associated with depression and anxiety, both of which are contributors to alcohol cravings. Kudzu may influence the serotonergic system and contribute to the effects of reducing alcohol cravings.

Kudzu Root Dosage for Alcoholism

When it comes to how to take kudzu root for alcohol use and cravings, the optimal dose hasn’t been established. In current research, doses of kudzu extract for issues related to alcohol have ranged from 300 mg to 2000 mg a day. It’s important to note that the standardized content of the important active compounds, primarily puerarin, varies among different products.

It may be a good idea to take kudzu before you would drink alcohol to reduce the desire.

How Does Kudzu Curb Alcohol Cravings?

Studies and anecdotal reports suggest kudzu can reduce alcohol cravings and the desire to drink through its effects on the neurotransmitter system. It modulates the dopamine, GABA and serotonin systems, diminishing the rewarding and reinforcing effects of alcohol and reducing the desire to drink. As a result of these effects, it may also help treat binge drinking patterns.

Kudzu vs. Naltrexone

Kudzu and naltrexone are both substances that can have effects on alcohol consumption, but they differ in how they work. Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist prescription medication. Naltrexone works by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors, which reduces the rewarding effects of alcohol. It’s believed that naltrexone decreases the reinforcement associated with consuming alcohol, reducing the desire to drink and cravings.

Kudzu vs. Acamprosate

Acamprosate is a medication approved to treat alcohol use disorder. It works by modulating glutamate transmission and acting as an NMDA receptor antagonist. Acamprosate restores the balance between inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain, and it’s demonstrated in clinical trials that it can help reduce alcohol relapse rates, relieve some of the symptoms of withdrawal, and help maintain abstinence.

Kudzu works somewhat similarly to acamprosate in many ways, but since it is an approved prescription medication, there’s more clinical evidence to show the benefits of acamprosate.

Taking Kudzu For Hangovers

In addition to using it to reduce alcohol cravings, some people believe kudzu helps with hangovers. That idea stems from traditional uses of the plant in Chinese medicine. One reason that people feel it helps with hangovers is because it may influence the metabolism of alcohol.

There’s also evidence to suggest that kudzu extracts may help improve hydration, and dehydration tends to be one of the big contributors to the symptoms of a hangover. The anti-inflammatory properties may alleviate some hangover symptoms as well, many of which are due to inflammation related to alcohol use.

What Happens If You Drink Alcohol While Taking Kudzu?

It’s never a good idea to combine alcohol with any substance, including herbal supplements. If you drink while taking kudzu, it could lead to increased sedation because both have sedative effects on the central nervous system. If you were to combine them, it could cause not only excessive drowsiness but also dizziness and impaired coordination.

If you take medicines, there’s an increased risk if you combine alcohol, kudzu and these substances. The interactions can affect the metabolism and how effective medicines are.

Alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, and kudzu can also have potential effects on the digestive system. A combination of alcohol while taking kudzu could increase your risk of side effects or GI discomfort.

How Does Kudzu Make You Feel?

The effects of kudzu can vary depending on the person, but in general, some of the effects on mood and feelings can include:

  • Kudzu tends to have a relaxing or calming effect for many people, including mild sedation. The reason that kudzu has these relaxing properties is that it contains compounds like isoflavones that interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, including the GABAergic system.
  • The extract can be a mood modulator and may contribute to a sense of well-being.
  • Reduced cravings, as we’ve talked about through this guide, are a big reason people use kudzu supplements. You might experience a subjective feeling of wanting to drink less, and that can contribute to more feelings of self-control.

Kudzu is thought to help with anxiety because of its effects on GABA and its modulation of neurotransmitters. This reduced anxiety can be another reason that it helps reduce cravings and drinking—drinking alcohol is often linked to a desire to self-medicate anxiety. If you can reduce anxiety in other ways, you might rely less on alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Who Should Not Take a Kudzu Extract?

While kudzu has promising benefits to curb drinking, some people should likely avoid it as a supplement, including:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid kudzu.
  • If you have hormone-related conditions like uterine cancer, breast cancer or endometriosis, you should be cautious with kudzu or avoid it altogether. Kudzu contains compounds with estrogen-like effects.
  • Avoid kudzu if you’re on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
  • You could be allergic to kudzu if you have a history of allergies to plants in the legume family.
  • Kudzu can cause or worsen GI symptoms, including bloating, nausea or bowel habits.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you take medications that are metabolized by the liver or that affect blood clotting.
  • If you have a history of liver conditions or liver disease, be cautious with kudzu, as it can potentially affect liver enzymes.
  • Kudzu can affect blood clotting, so if you’re scheduled for any surgery, talk to your healthcare provider about using it.

Is Kudzu Alcohol Treatment?

While taking a kudzu supplement for alcohol cravings can be beneficial and has research-backed evidence to support it, there’s something critical to note.

Alcoholism and alcohol dependence can be severe. While kudzu can help you cut back on your drinking, if you believe that you’re alcohol-dependent or you’re struggling with addiction, you should talk to a professional. Kudzu won’t help alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can ultimately be deadly. It’s also not a replacement for professional addiction treatment, which includes behavioral therapies and other approaches.

Kudzu for alcohol cravings is just one approach to reducing your intake, but addiction is a complicated psychological disease that requires a more comprehensive treatment plan.

Kudzu for Alcohol Cravings & Reducing Alcohol Consumption—Final Thoughts

We tend to associate kudzu with being an invasive vine-like plant, but using it as a supplement has the potential to help you reduce your alcohol intake naturally. Kudzu extract supplements can impact neurotransmitters in the brain and make drinking alcohol less rewarding. If you ever have questions about alcohol use disorder or taking a new supplement, you should always speak to your health care provider.

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