An Extract of the Chinese Herbal Root Kudzu Reduces Alcohol Drinking by Heavy Drinkers in a Naturalistic Setting

Authors

  • Scott E. Lukas,

    Corresponding author
    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • David Penetar,

    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • Jeff Berko,

    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • Luke Vicens,

    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • Christopher Palmer,

    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • Gopinath Mallya,

    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • Eric A. Macklin,

    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • David Y.-W. Lee

    1. From Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (SEL, DP, JB, LV, CP, GM) and Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory (DY-WL), McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts; Harvard Medical School (SEL, DP, CP, GM, DY-WL), Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New England Research Institutes (EAM), Watertown, Massachusetts.
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  • Supported by Grant AA10536 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and Senior Scientist Career Development Award DA00345 (to SEL) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Reprint requests: Scott E. Lukas, BPRL/NIC, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478; Fax: 617-855-3711; E-mail: lukas@mclean.harvard.edu

Abstract

Background:

Of the available medications for treating alcohol-related problems, none are universally effective, and all have side effects that may limit their use. Extracts of kudzu containing a variety of isoflavones have been shown to reduce alcohol drinking in rats and hamsters.

Methods:

The present study was designed to test the efficacy of a kudzu extract in a clinical population. Male and female “heavy” alcohol drinkers were treated with either placebo or a kudzu extract for 7 days and then given an opportunity to drink their preferred brand of beer while in a naturalistic laboratory setting. Participants served as their own controls, and order of treatment exposure was counterbalanced. Drinking behavior was monitored by a digital scale that was located in the top of an end table.

Results:

Kudzu treatment resulted in significant reduction in the number of beers consumed that was paralleled by an increase in the number of sips and the time to consume each beer and a decrease in the volume of each sip. These changes occurred in the absence of a significant effect on the urge to drink alcohol. There were no reported side effects of kudzu treatment.

Conclusion:

These data suggest that an extract of this leguminous plant may be a useful adjunct in reducing alcohol intake in a naturalistic setting.

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