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Kud-zu pass me the bottle?

kudzu root hangover remedy

Photo by Mario [flickr.com/mariotto52] under CC BY-NC 2.0

Guidelines on the use of medicinal herbs typically address safety and dosage. Often, there is a relationship between these two standards. For side effects are often dose-dependent; and an herb that has been shown to cause side effects can feasibly be safely consumed as long as the proper dosage (and frequency) is followed.

An issue that can be overlooked—especially in pop-culture, over-the-counter remedies—is the relationship between herb safety and the part of the plant that is used.

A kudzu root hangover remedy is a good pop-culture example.

Kudzu is a weed that grows invasively throughout the southern United States. It is also abundant in Asia, and its root has been long-used in Chinese medicine for head and body aches that accompany upper respiratory infections, and to alleviate thirst in feverish conditions.

In the West, it has become common to attribute another healing effect to kudzu root: the ability to relieve hangovers.

Acetaldehyde is a byproduct of alcohol metabolism and is a suspected culprit in hangovers. While kudzu has been shown to aid the breakdown of acetaldehyde in the body…

The part of the plant that is used, matters greatly. It is the kudzu flowers that help neutralize acetaldehyde. Of greater note (and caution) is that kudzu root has been shown to cause a buildup of acetaldehyde in the body, with possible long-term health risks.

This adverse effect of kudzu root does not appear to be latent. This means the side effect appears to occur only if kudzu root (or a kudzu root hangover remedy) is taken during times of high alcohol consumption.


McGregor NR (November 2007). “Pueraria lobata (Kudzu root) hangover remedies and acetaldehyde-associated neoplasm risk.” Alcohol. 41(7): 469-78.  doi:10.1016/j.alcohol.2007.07.009

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous June 23, 2019, 9:15 pm

    So, the kudzu flower helps eliminate acetaldehyde, but, kudzu root clogs acetaldehyde and possibly causes cancer/neoplasm. Is that correct?

    • Carl Balingit June 24, 2019, 1:43 am

      Correct—the flower and root appear to have opposite effects on acetaldehyde.

      On any connection between kudzu root and cancer, the key word is: possibly. I highlighted a study on the potential risk in order to motivate deeper thought when considering trendy herbal supplements. While herbs can act like drugs, the regulation of herbal supplements is minimal compared to drugs. So some skepticism about supplements can be good for your health.

      If you are concerned about cancer, I hope this post did not come across as alarmist. While acetaldehyde is a carcinogen, it is one of hundreds that we are exposed to regularly. The best we can do is to try to minimize our exposure, and to optimize our immune systems.

      The irony of using kudzu root to treat hangover (headache, nausea, dizziness, etc.) is that the root is clinically used to treat alcoholism. Because the root inhibits the detoxification of acetaldehyde, it helps create an aversion to alcohol by causing the very symptoms that the hangover remedies claim to treat. In other words, it is used to prevent the consumption of alcohol in the first place; not as a band-aid for drinking too much.

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