Kudzu, also called Japanese arrowroot, is a group of plants in the genus Pueraria, in the pea family Fabaceae. It is native to Asia and the Pacific Islands. The name is derived from the Japanese name for the plants, kuzu (クズ or 葛?). It tends to be a very invasive plant and grows as a vine.
Figure 1. Kudzu root (Source)
Figure 2. Flowers of Pueraria montana var. lobata (Source)
The Chinese derived the traditional medicine called Gegen (Ge Gen) from Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi, a specieis of Pueraria.
Figure 3. Puerarin molecule (Source)
One of the major bioactive ingredients of Kudzu is puerarin and is its is most abundant secondary metabolite. Since its isolation in the 1950’s, puerarin has been extensively investigated for its pharmacological properties. It has been widely used in the treatment of:
- cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases
- diabetes and diabetic complications
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
The beneficial effects of puerarin on the various medicinal purposes may be due to its wide spectrum of pharmacological properties such as:
- alleviating pain
- promoting bone formation
- inhibiting alcohol intake
- attenuating insulin resistance
A number of studies have showed that puerarin from Kudzu possesses anti-cancer properties.
From a study published in 2006, treatments with puerarin revealed a dose-dependent reduction of colon cancer HT-29 cellular growth through the activation of caspase-3, a key executioner of apoptosis. 1
The findings from this 2006 study indicate that puerarin may act as a chemopreventive and/or chemotherapeutic agent in colon cancer cells by reducing cell viability and inducing apoptosis.