Puerarin, a Potent Bioactive Ingredient from Kudzu, Shows Promise as a Neuroprotective Agent


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.

Image result for Kudzu root

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.

Image result for puerarin

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
  • osteonecrosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • endometriosis
  • cancer

The beneficial effects of puerarin on the various medicinal purposes may be due to its wide spectrum of pharmacological properties such as:

  • vasodilation
  • cardioprotection
  • neuroprotection
  • antioxidant
  • anticancer
  • antiinflammation
  • alleviating pain
  • promoting bone formation
  • inhibiting alcohol intake
  • attenuating insulin resistance

Recent studies have revealed that puerarin can be neuroprotective in the following areas:

  • learning and memory impairment induced by D-galactose  1
  • protected neurons against apoptosis in the cortex and hippocampus of Alzheimer’s diseased rats caused by Aβ25–35 through downregulating Aβ1–40 and Bax expression in brain tissues, therefore alleviating the spatial learning and memory impairment of diseased animals.  2 
  • ischemic brain injury.  Puerarin could improve the learning-memory ability after global cerebral ischemia and reperfusion in rats. The protective mechanism might be related to the effect of inhibiting or delaying the cell apoptosis through up-regulating the expression of Bcl-2 after ischemia and reperfusion.  3 

The anti-Alzheimer’s disease effects of puerarin were also suggested to be related to its abilities in decreasing the lipid peroxidase levels and increasing superoxide dismutase levels in brain tissues, enhancing cerebral blood flow, and improving brain microcirculation   4