If you’ve ever lived in or traveled through the South you know what kudzu is. You’ve seen it blanket entire fields, consume barns and other structures, climb telephone poles and extend along the lines, and create a horizon that on one hand looks like a green velvet blanket while on the other appears as though some alien being has taken over the earth. Not unlike the blob.
Yes, there’s a house under there.
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) was introduced to the US from Asia in 1876 for use as animal fodder, to help prevent soil erosion, and as an ornamental vine. It seemed to like the soil in the Southeast US, quickly taking root and spreading via its rhizome network. It grew so rapidly that it ate up fields and neighborhoods and became known by many colorful names: the “foot-a-night vine” or the “vine-that-ate-the-South.” It grows just that quickly.
But kudzu might be more than that as it seems to possess some significant medical properties. There is ongoing research into its use in such medical problems as migraine headaches, vertigo, cancer prevention, various allergies, gastrointestinal upsets, and as a treatment for alcohol abuse. Now comes a report that it might be useful in the “Metabolic Syndrome.”
The Metabolic Syndrome is an extremely common medical problem that is manifested by obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol (the good one), insulin resistance, and type II diabetes. If untreated, the victims of this syndrome will ultimately develop atherosclerosis manifested by heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Kudzu contains many compounds, including a group known as
isoflavones, which lower blood pressure, improve the cholesterol profile, reduce insulin resistance, and perhaps prevent the onset of diabetes.
And to think most people see it as a nuisance. Which of course it can be.