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Researchers Say Binge Drinkers Taking Kudzu Root Extract Drink Less

Harvard University Medical School researchers say that an extract taken from the kudzu root may help alcohol abusers drink less.

The researchers looked at the isoflavone puerarin, which is extracted from kudzu root. Puerarin was selected for study based on previous research which indicated its possible utility in the treatment of alcohol addiction and due its long track record of safe use in China, where it is approved for intravenous use in the treatment of angina, myocardial infarction and coronary heart disease.

The Harvard team wanted to know how taking an extract of puerarin would affect binge drinking patterns, and to find out, they developed a study modeled around afternoon binge drinking sessions.

The Study

A group of regular heavy drinking men and women in their 20s were invited to participate in a study on binge drinking.

The research team set up an apartment with a TV and DVD player and a refrigerator stocked with favorite beers.

  • During the first week of the study each subject spent 90 minutes alone in the apartment, drinking as many beers as they wanted to.
  • After the first session, subjects were given either puerarin to take daily or a placebo. Each subject then returned at weeks 2 and 3 of the experiment to repeat their afternoon binge drinking in the research apartment.
  • For the last week of the study, subjects who had been taking a placebo were given puerarin and puerarin subjects switched to taking a placebo, and at the end of the week each subject revisited the apartment for a last session of afternoon drinking.

The Results

  • Subjects using puerarin drank significantly less than subjects on the placebo pills . In an average session, subjects on puerarin drank 2.4 beers compared to the 3.5 beers consumed by those taking the placebo pills.
  • Subjects on puerarin took more sips to finish a beer and drank a beer over a longer period of time.


Commenting on the significance of the study results, Lead study author David Penetar, PhD, said, "Our study is further evidence that components found in kudzu root can reduce alcohol consumption and do so without adverse side effects. Further research is needed, but this botanical medication may lead to additional methods to treat alcohol abuse and dependence."

The full study results have been published in the current edition of Drug and Alcohol Dependence

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