Chinese Herbal Extract May Help Reduce Alcohol Consumption

A new study finds an extract of the Chinese herb kudzu may help curb binge drinking. The study found components found in the kudzu root can reduce alcohol consumption, without side effects.

Researchers at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston studied a major component of the kudzu root, called puerarin. The study included 10 adults in their 20s who regularly drank alcohol, reports. A lab was set up with a TV, DVD players, reclining chair, and a refrigerator containing the participants’ favorite beer and non-alcoholic drinks.

In the first 90-minute session of the study, participants were told to drink as many beers as they wanted, up to a maximum of six. They were then given either puerarin or a placebo, and told they should take it each day for a week. They returned for a second drinking session. After two weeks, they came back for a third session. They were then given the pill they hadn’t received the first time—either puerarin or a placebo—and told to take it daily for one week. They then returned for a fourth session of drinking.

The researchers found participants who took puerarin drank fewer beers—decreasing from an average of 3.5 beers to 2.4. The results appear in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“This was a simulation of a binge drinking opportunity, and not only did we see the subjects drinking less, we noted that their rate of consumption decreased, meaning they drank slower and took more sips to finish a beer,” lead author David Penetar, PhD said in a news release. “While we do not suggest that puerarin will stop drinking all together, it is promising that it appears to slow the pace and the overall amount consumed.”