Herb: Kudzu Vine

Latin name: Pueraria montana lobata

Synonyms: Dolichos lobatus, Pueraria hirsuta, Pueraria lobata, Pueraria thunbergiana

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Kudzu Vine:

The kudzu vine, known as Ge Gen in China, is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs. Recent research has shown that compounds called "daidzin" and "daidzein", which are contained in the roots and the flowers, are a safe and effective method for treating alcohol abuse. They work by suppressing the appetite for alcohol, whereas existing treatments interfere with the way the alcohol is metabolised and can cause a build-up of toxins. The plant is often used in combination with Chrysanthemum x morifolium in treating alcohol abuse. The flowers and the roots are antidote, antiemetic, antipyretic, antispasmodic, demulcent, diaphoretic, digestive, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic and hypotensive. A concoction of the flowers and tubers is used to treat alcoholism, fever, colds, diarrhoea, dysentery, acute intestinal obstruction etc. It is useful in the treatment of angina pectoris and migraine. The root is frequently used as a remedy for measles, often in combination with Cimicifuga foetida. The root contains puerarin. This increases the blood flow to the coronary artery and protects against acute myocardial ischaemia caused by the injection of pituitrin. The root can be harvested from the autumn to the spring and is used fresh or dried. The flowers are harvested just before they are fully open and are dried for later use. The stems are galactogogue and are also applied as a poultice to incipient boils, swellings, sore mouths etc. The seed is used in the treatment of hangover and dysentery. The leaves are styptic.

Description of the plant:

Perennial Climber

10 m
(33 feet)

to October

Perennial Climber

Habitat of the herb:

Thickets and thin woods all over Japan.

Edible parts of Kudzu Vine:

Root - cooked. Rich in starch. The root can be up to 1.8 metres long and has been known to weigh 35 kilos or more. The root contains about 10% starch, this can be extracted and used as a crispy coating in deep fried foods, or for thickening soups etc. It can also be made into noodles, or like agar or gelatine is used as a gelling agent for salads. This plant is a staple food in Japan, the peeled root contains about 2.1% protein, 0.1% fat, 27.1% carbohydrate, 1.4% ash. The starch of the roots contains (per 100 g) 340 calories, 16.5 percent moisture, 0.2 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 83.1 g total carbohydrate, 0.1 g ash, 35 mg Ca, 18 mg P, 2.0 mg Fe, and 2 mg Na. A nutritional analysis for the whole root is available. Flowers - cooked or made into pickles. Stems and young leaves - raw or cooked. A very nutritious food, the fresh young shoots taste like a cross between a bean and a pea. The cooked leaves contain (per 100 g) 36 calories, 89.0 percent moisture, 0.4 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 9.7 g total carbohydrate. 7.7 g fiber, 0.8 fat, 34 mg Ca, 20 mg P, 4.9 mg Fe, 0.03 mg thiamin, 0.91 mg riboflavin, 0.8 mg niacin.

Other uses of the herb:

A tough, strong fibre from the stems is used to make ropes, cables, coarse cordage and textiles. The fibre is 2 - 3mm long and can be used to make paper. Straight first year stems, 2 - 2.7 metres long, are harvested in mid summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The fibres are then cooked for 2 hours with lye, tough vines might require 4 hours cooking, and the fibre put in a ball mill for 3 hours. The resulting paper is greenish/cream in colour. Can be used as a ground cover plant in a sunny position. Plants have an extensive root system which can be 1.8 metres deep, they are used for erosion control and for rebuilding depleted soils. A member of the Leguminosae, so it adds nitrogen to the soil through the actions of root bacteria.

Propagation of Kudzu Vine:

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and sow in a warm greenhouse in early spring. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frosts. Cover the young plants with a frame or cloche until they are growing away well. Division of young shoots from the crown. The young shoots are removed in the spring with some of the underground part of the stem, preferably with some roots already formed. They are potted up and will usually develop new roots from the nodes. They are planted out in the summer if growth is sufficient, otherwise they are grown on in pots for a year and planted out late the following spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Thickets and thin woods all over Japan.

Known hazards of Pueraria montana lobata:

Although no specific mention has been found for this species, the leaves of the closely related P. hirsuta (which might be no more than a synonym for this species) have barbed hairs and these can cause severe irritation.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.