Kuzu Root: The perfect Winter Tonic

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By Bettina Zumdick

Kuzu — also known as kudzu is well known in both oriental and western medicine for its health promoting and medicinal qualities. However, in the Southern states of the US, it is considered an obnoxious weed, as this vine like plant takes over trees, yards, telephone poles and the quick growing roots erode roads. The kuzu vine has a growth rate of up to a foot a day in the summer, thus it can be challenging to control this plant.

Kuzu starch, produced from the root, contains many powerful antioxidants, such as quercetin (an antioxidant that promotes better longevity, heart health, endurance, immune function boosting and more), genistein, and many isoflavone compounds. These components help fight inflammation, treat alcoholism, reduce blood pressure, fight the flu, reduce symptoms of menopause and more.

Kuzu Benefits:

1. Anti-Inflammatory benefits Inflammation is accompanying many diseases and causing many problems in the body. Western medicine typically prescribes anti-inflammatory drugs — many of which cause serious side effects when taken for a longer period of time, including leaky gut and weakening of the bones. Kuzu in conjunctions with a well balanced diet may be natural alternative.

2. Used in Alcoholism Recovery programs Kudzu starch has been given in Alcohol recovery programs as it raises alcohol levels so the person using it gets the effect of alcohol without drinking as much. In various studies it shows that taking a kuzu drink or a kuzu supplement prior to drinking reduces alcohol consumption by up to 20%. This can be very helpful to clients whose liver is already full of scar tissue (cirrhosis) due to alcohol consumption — it can help to reverse the condition.

3. Alleviates Stomach and Intestinal disorders The beta glucanes and other phytochemicals in kuzu help soothe and heal erosion, inflammation and other disorders of the lining of the digestive system. Kuzu in conjunction with umeboshi plum is best for many digestive disorders because the umeboshi plum alkalizes, neutralizes toxins and illness causing bacteria. It can be very beneficial and healing to prepare a special drink called Ume Kuzu — however, it is always best to speak with an experienced counselor to make an assessment as to the usage and frequency of remedies such as Ume Kuzu. Ume Kuzu Drink The fiber in kuzu and the anti-inflammatory effects of both kuzu and umeboshi, are helpful in easing the symptoms of acute diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and many other disorders of the digestive system. In conjunction with a well-rounded diet, the Ume Kuzu remedy may also help alleviate and begin to heal leaky gut syndrome.

4. Alleviates Hot Flashes and Night Sweats Kudzu contains phytoestrogen, which is a naturally occurring plant nutrient that exerts an estrogen-like action on the body. Partly because of this micronutrient and many others it has been found helpful to treat menopausal and peri-menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, confusion and vaginal dryness.

I wish to make clear that kuzu has been found effective as part of a well balanced diet, in supplement form alone it has not been found as advantageous.

Where to Buy Kuzu and How to Use Kuzu Generally:

I would suggest buying kuzu root starch from a reputable company, like Eden Foods, or Mitoku or Gold Mine Foods or in your local health food store. When sold in Asian markets kuzu may be cut with arrowroot powder or potato starch and contain a lot of pesticides/herbicides. Kuzu is a bit more pricey than other starches, but it is well worth it and a little goes a long way. Kuzu is great for thickening sauces, jams, or other recipes that may call for potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder.

In my experience, Kuzu is much more strengthening and soothing to the digestive tract than other starches. It also strengthens the kidneys and bladder which are associated with water energy and winter energy according to the oriental philosophy and healing understanding, as well as generally boosting the immune function, which makes Kuzu a great tonic for winter.

Note: If you decide to make kuzu part of your weekly menu, please be aware that kuzu taken along with diabetes medications could cause your blood sugar to go very low. For more information on Kuzu or to learn how to use kuzu, please visit my website for upcoming classes: www.culinarymedicineschool.com or send me an email: www.bettinazumdick@gmail.com.

Bettina Zumdick