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Botanical Name: Pueraria lobata
Species: P. lobata
syn.Names: P. montana, P. thunbergiana
Common Name : Kudzu
Habitat: . It is native to southern Japan and southeast China in eastern Asia. The name comes from the Japanese word for this plant, kuzu. The other species of Pueraria occur in southeast Asia, further south.
Kudzu is a climbing, woody or semi-woody, perennial vine capable of reaching heights of 20–30 m (66-98 ft) in trees, but also scrambles extensively over lower vegetation. The leaves are deciduous, alternate and compound, with a petiole (leaf stem) 10–20 cm (4–8 in) long and three broad leaflets 14–18 cm (6–7 in) long and 10 cm (4 in) broad. The leaflets may be entire or deeply 2–3 lobed, and are pubescent underneath with hairy margins.
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Silver spotted skipper on kudzuThe flowers are borne in long panicles 10–25 cm (about 4–10 in) long with about 30–80 individual blooms at nodes on the stems (see image).
Each flower is about 1–1.5 cm (about 0.4–0.6 in) long, purple, and highly fragrant. The flowers are copious nectar producers and are visited by many species of insects, including bees, butterflies and moths. Flowering occurs in late summer and is followed by production of brown, hairy, flattened seed pods in October and November, each of which contains three to ten hard seeds. Seeds, however, are only produced on plants that are draped over vegetation, fences, and other objects. Only one or two viable seeds are produced in a cluster of seed pods.
Once established, these plants grow rapidly, extending as much as 20 m (60 ft) per season at a rate of about 30 cm (12 in) per day. This vigorous vine may extend 10–30 m (30–100 ft) in length, with basal stems 1–10 cm (1–4 inches) in diameter. Kudzu roots are fleshy, with massive tap roots 10–20 cm (4–8 in) or more in diameter, reaching depths of up to 12 feet (3.7 m) in older patches, and weighing as much as 180 kg. As many as thirty stems may grow from a single root crown.
Kudzu grows well under a wide range of conditions and in most soil types. Preferred habitats are forest edges, abandoned fields, roadsides, and disturbed areas, where sunlight is abundant. Kudzu grows best where winters do not drop below ?15 °C (5 °F), average summer temperatures are regularly above 27 °C (80 °F), and annual rainfall is 1000 mm (40 in) or more. This fast growing plant does not do as well in less temperate areas.
Food:The non-woody parts of the plant are edible. The young leaves can be used for salad or cooked as a leaf vegetable, the flowers battered and fried (like squash flowers), and the starchy tuberous roots can be prepared as any root vegetable. The starchy roots are ground into a fine powder, known as kuzu, and used for varieties of Wagashi and herbal medicines. When added to water and heated, kudzu powder becomes clear and adds stickiness to the food. It is sometimes known as “Japanese arrowroot”, due to the similar culinary effect it produces.
Its leaves are high in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and protein. Its roots are rich in starch and its flowers are an excellent honey source.
The name Kudzu appeared first in Kojiki and Nihonshoki as a type of vine or Kazura used commonly by the people who lived in Kuzu, an area around present-day Yoshino, Nara prefecture. It is unclear whether the name was taken from the people or the name of the plant was applied to the people. Kudzu has been used for over 1300 years and it is speculated its use goes back even further. Records from the Nara and Heian era indicate that kudzu was collected and sent as a part of tax. Even today, “Yoshino Kudzu” has the best image of kudzu powder. The Kagoshima prefecture is the largest producer of kudzu products.
The purple flowers of Kudzu are also used to make a sweet jelly. This jelly is well known in the southern United States. This jelly has been described as tasting like either a cross between apple jelly and peach jelly or bubblegum.The viscous substance has a golden yellow color.
Soil improvement and preservation
Kudzu has been used as a form of erosion control and also to enhance the soil. As a legume, it increases the nitrogen in the soil via a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil. Its deep tap roots also transfer valuable minerals from the subsoil to the topsoil, thereby improving the topsoil. In the deforested section of the Central Amazon Basin in Brazil, it has been used to improve the soil pore-space in clay latosols and thus freeing even more water for plants than in the soil prior to deforestation. .
Kudzu can be used by grazing animals as it is high in quality as a forage and greatly enjoyed by livestock. It can be enjoyed up until frost and even slightly after. Kudzu hay typically has a 15–18% crude protein content and over 60% total digestible nutrient value. The quality of it decreases, however, as vine content increases relative to the leaf content. Kudzu also has low forage yields despite its great deal of growth, yielding around two to four tons of dry matter per acre annually. It is also difficult to bale due to its vining growth and its slowness in shedding water. This makes it necessary to place kudzu hay under sheltered protection after being baled. Kudzu is readily consumed by all types of grazing animals, yet frequent grazing over 3 to 4 years can ruin stands. Thus kudzu only serves well as a grazing crop on a temporary basis.
In the Southern United States, where the plant has been introduced with devastating environmental consequences, kudzu is used to make soaps, lotions, jelly, and compost. It has even been suggested that kudzu may become a valuable asset for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
Studies have shown that kudzu can reduce both hangovers and alcohol cravings. Persons who take kudzu will still drink alcohol; however, they will consume less than if they had not taken kudzu. The mechanism for this is not yet established, but it may have to do with both alcohol metabolism and the reward circuits in the brain. The Harvard Medical School is studying kudzu as a possible way to treat alcoholic cravings, by turning an extracted compound from the herb into a medical drug.
Kudzu also contains a number of useful isoflavones, including daidzein (an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent), daidzin (a cancer preventive) and genistein (an antileukemic agent). Kudzu is a unique source of the isoflavone puerarin. Kudzu root compounds can affect neurotransmitters (including serotonin, GABA, and glutamate) and it has shown value in treating migraine and cluster headache.
In traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as gé g?n , kudzu is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. It is used to treat tinnitus, vertigo, and Wei syndrome (superficial heat close to the surface).
Kudzu is a nourishing herb used to alleviate diarrhea, allay thirst, and treat colds and can be effective added to ginger tea to alleviate nausea. It is also used to help relax stiff muscles. An extract from kudzu may reduce alcohol craving according to some modern clinical reports and laboratory tests. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the herb is used to hasten recovery from measles and to treat symptoms of hypertension such as headache, dizziness, and ringing in the ears. Kudzu contains substantial amounts of the dietary phytoestrogens genistein and daidzein, which have shown benefits for relieving hot flashes and slowing bone loss during and after menopause. These compounds are receiving increased interest for their cancer-protective and cardiovascular-protective effects. Kudzu has a taste of SWEET, ACRID and a temperature of COOL.
Indicated for colds, fever and chills with attendant aches in shoulders, neck and back; dry throat and stomach. The root is good for most external, acute conditions and is particularly useful in relieving stiff neck and muscular tension due to wind-heat injury, as well as in treating colds, flu, headache and diarrhea. Because of its mild tonic properties and its ability to replenish body fluids, it may be used for the treatment of diabetes and hypoglycemia. Plant has long been used in Chinese medicine to treat alcohol abuse and has recently been publicized as a potentially safe and effective treatment. The chemicals daidzin and daidzein in both roots and flowers suppress the appetite for alcohol. For measles it is often used in combination with sheng ma. Chinese studies indicate that kudzu increases cerebral blood flow in patients with arteriosclerosis, and eases neck pain and stiffness.Roots: counter poisons; induce sweating; treat fever, vomiting, dysentery, diarrhea, chicken pox, influenza, diabetes, typhoid fever, excessive gas in the system. Dry pan roasted, it is very good for spleen deficient diarrhea and loose bowls. Flowers: treat excessive influence of alcoholic drinks, dysentery, gas in the intestine. Vine (without the leaves): treats coughs, general weakness
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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