Also known as Pueria mitifica and a number of other names, Kudzu has been used in Chinese medicine since at least 200 BC. Over the centuries it has been used to treat alcoholism, hangover, gastric distress, high blood pressure and other circulatory problems, colds, flu, diabetes, skin rashes, kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy to name a few. Recently, kudzu has been used to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
For many years women who experienced hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and irritability were prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT is most often made from mare’s urine as conjugated estrogens. The most common is the prescription drug, Premarin. While pharmaceutical estrogens worked to control symptoms, they also promoted blood clots and certain types of cancer. Eventually the risks were determined to outweigh the benefits and its use declined.
But there were so many women experiencing the symptoms of menopause who needed relief. Studies on kudzu have shown not only does it relieve the usual night sweats and hot flashes, it helps to prevent bone loss and it has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
In a study by a government agency in Thailand, a group of women were given Kudzu and another group received (prescription) conjugated estrogens. At the end of the study it was concluded that there was no difference in the hormone levels of the groups. The study concluded that Kudzu was able to relieve menopausal symptoms without the dangerous side effects of estrogen. Studies have shown that the phytoestrogens (plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen) found in kudzu are pointing to the fact that not only are these effective in relieving menopausal symptoms but also might be beneficial in women with cancers that are sensitive to estrogen.
Research has shown that kudzu is safe with few if any identifiable side effects. The only precaution is that kudzu should not be used by pregnant or nursing women or those under 18. As always check with your health care provider before using kudzu or any of its related compounds.