Kudzu is one of those plants that everyone (at least in the southeastern states) knows, but few know how nutritious and helpful an herb it is. This is the trailing and climbing vine that has been known to scale rusted-out VW buses in a single bound, completely veiling trees and shrubs, boulders and buildings, all along America’s southern highways. But when you find out that a highly “invasive” species such as this is also highly edible, and nutritious, and a useful herbal medicine, well, that’s good news isn’t it? There is plenty for the herbalist or forager to harvest, and you’ll only be helping to restrain its growth—the other native plant species will thank you.

Pueraria montana

Fabaceae—Pea family


Parts used:
Root, flower, stem, leaf

Kudzu is a diaphoretic, hypotensive, stimulant to the spleen, sobering, antitumor, antioxidant, cardotonic, and generally aids in stimulating body fluids.

Pueraria montana has long been used to treat headache and fever, as well as drunkenness, alcoholism (by reducing the desire for alcohol), and hangover, and cirrhosis of the liver; in fact, “Kudzu extracts have also been found to stimulate regeneration of liver tissue while protecting against liver toxins,” (Foster, 193). It is also potent as a remedy for a number of digestive complaints, including diarrhea, dysentery, gastroenteritis, and digestive (and venous) obstruction. Used in a variety of types of cancer, kudzu is specifically indicated in cases of leukemia and breast cancer: “Genistein may prevent development of tumors by preventing the formation of new blood vessels that nourish the tumors.”  Additional uses include deafness, measles and to promote measles eruptions, psoriasis, osteoporosis, high blood sugar and diabetes, high blood pressure and symptoms of hypertension,  sore throat and other inflamed mucous membranes, allergies, cold and flu. Externally, “Stem poulticed for sores, swellings, mastitis,” (Foster, 192).

Kudzu contains the estrogenic isoflavones, genistein, daidzein, and daidzin.

Kudzu flower

Growing information:
Pueraria montana is an infamously invasive and hardy vine, originally native to China, but now found blanketing sections of the United States from Florida to Pennsylvania, as well as Texas and Kansas, and as I stated earlier, I love abundance of things that can be used and eaten: “The people of our southern communities could control the rampant spread of Kudzu vine through their countryside by eating it,” (Green, 15). Its leaves are palmate and grow in clusters of three. Shown in the picture above, kudzu’s beautiful reddish-purple flowers blossom between July and September, growing loosely in a raceme and smelling of grapes, (Foster, 192).

Kudzu roots are generally a winter harvest—late fall through early spring. Flowers should be collected just as they fully open, and per usual, in morning after the dew has lifted.

Tea is made from both the roots and the blossoms, and a poultice is made from the stems. Leaves can be boiled and eaten like spinach, and root starch can also be eaten as food. In fact, the roots can grow to be the size of a man and were the primary food starch in China and Japan until the sweet potato came along, (Duke II, 136). The root starch makes a wonderful broth for cold, flu, and general congestion—I’ve recently had great (and tasty) luck with the “Garlic-Onion-Ginger-Kudzu Tea” from Aviva Romm’s The Natural Pregnancy Book, (Romm, 188).

Kudzu has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It was first introduced to the southeastern United States to help control erosion.


Kudzu vines