Is The Chinese Herb Kudzu the Next Cash Crop?

Some folks complain that Kudzu is an invasive weed, others call it a highly profitable cash crop.  In Asia it is a medicinal herb.

I was reading a story recently about kudzu taking over the backyard and destroying a fence on a homeowners property.  Funny and sad at the same time because kudzu is well known in Asia for its healing properties.

Michael Wyss, Ph.D., a Neuroscientist with the University of Alabama says kudzu contains healthy substances, called isoflavones. One particularly important isoflavone is puerarin, found only in kudzu. In fact, its the most abundant isoflavone in the plant.  Puerarin is important because it can help control insulin for diabetics and reduce cholesterol.

The Chinese have used kudzu, a prominent Chinese herb in Traditional Chinese medicine, for centuries.  It has been a proven mainstay for relieving muscular tension, reducing hypertension, dysentery and is commonly used for fevers due to the flu. Kudzu’s is full of health benefits and from my point of view could be the next cash crop.

Researchers  in the U.S. investigated the effects of kudzu in rats. Female rats were given an extract made from kudzu root for two months. Another group of rats were fed a standard diet.  At the end of the study, the rats given the kudzu extract had lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar and insulin levels than the rats that ate the control diet. According to Wyss, only a very small amount of kudzu root extract was needed to achieve these results.

The study suggests that kudzu may be an effective alternative treatment that could be used in conjunction with traditional drugs to control insulin and cholesterol levels, and ultimately lower a patient’s risk for metabolic syndrome. In some cases, doctors may be able to give patients lower doses of other drugs, reducing the chance for side effects from the medication and making medications more affordable.

The root is the part of the kudzu plant or Pueraria lobata which holds the herbal medicine. It can grow to the size of a human body and is the source used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and modern herbal products. Kudzu grows in mostly in shaded areas of mountains, fields, along roadsides and thin forests, throughout most of China and many parts of the Southern U.S.

If your looking for kudzu as an individual herb supplement you will most likely have trouble finding it.  In TCM kudzu is always used in formulas or combinations with other herbs. If  your looking to lower your cholesterol  or balance your insulin levels using natural herbs, I suggest  finding a licensed Acupuncturist who is knowledgeable in Chinese herbal medicine. If you need help finding someone in your neighborhood we are happy to make recommendations. Just call or email us.

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The Southern Weed Kudzu May Benefit Alcoholics


Prevent Hypertension with Watermelon, A Natural Botanical Medicine

watermelon a chinese herb call xia gua for heat and hypertensionThe first documentation of it's kind (in the U.S.), watermelon is shown to be an effective natural herbal alternative for high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease. Even though watermelon has been used in Traditional Chinese herbal medicine for centuries it is not well known in the West as a medicinal food or herb.

Scientists at The Florida State University have been studying watermelon, a fruit also use in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It is both a functional medicinal food and herb with vasodilatory effects.  This means the properties of watermelon extract may help reduce the risks of  pre-hypertensions from progressing to heart attacks and strokes.   

"FSU Assistant Professor Arturo Figueroa and Professor Bahram H. Arjmandi found that when six grams of the amino acid L-citrulline/L-arginine from watermelon extract was administered daily for six weeks, there was improved arterial function and consequently lowered aortic blood pressure in all nine of their pre-hypertensive subjects (four men and five postmenopausal women, ages 51-57)."

"Given the encouraging evidence generated by this preliminary study, we hope to continue the research and include a much larger group of participants in the next round," he said.

Why watermelon?

Interestingly, Chinese herbal medicine classifies watermelon as a cooling food/herb to clear heat, (hypertension is an example of excess heat) and to drain fire (heat)  from the body.  This Chinese herb is known as Xi Gua,  and typically the rind is used, but the ripe fruit may also be used and even the seeds. 

Watermelon frost has also been used as a traditional herbal remedy for mouth ulcers (sores), open wounds, sore throats, gum infections, toothaches… you get the idea.  What is watermelon frost?  Well, you remove the fruit part or insides of a watermelon,  then pack it with salt, put it in a bowl, seal well and after a few days, a ‘frost’ appears on the skin. This is the active ingredient  that can be used as an herbal medicine.

"Watermelon is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, which is closely related to L-arginine, the amino acid required for the formation of nitric oxide essential to the regulation of vascular tone and healthy blood pressure," Figueroa said.

Once in the body, the L-citrulline is converted into L-arginine. Simply consuming L-arginine as a dietary supplement isn't an option for many hypertensive adults, said Figueroa, because it can cause nausea, gastrointestinal tract discomfort, and diarrhea.  In contrast, watermelon is well tolerated. Participants in the Florida State pilot study reported no adverse effects.  Watermelon also provides an abundant amount of vitamin A, B6, C, fiber, potassium and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Watermelon may even help to reduce serum glucose levels, according to Arjmandi.  "The optimal dose appears to be four to six grams a day" according to Figueroa.

Findings from Figueroa's latest pilot study at Florida State are described in the American Journal of Hypertension. A copy of the paper ("Effects of Watermelon Supplementation on Aortic Blood Pressure and Wave Reflection in Individuals With Prehypertension: A Pilot Study") can be accessed online.