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Can an Herbal Treatment Curb Binge Drinking?

An extract of the Chinese herb kudzu root has been shown to help curb binge drinking, according to a study by Harvard Medical School. The research could prove useful in designing alcoholism rehabilitation programs, particularly for those seeking more natural, holistic treatment strategies.

Understanding Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is defined as consuming at least 4 to 5 alcoholic beverages over a 2-hour period. Binge drinking might not seem like a big deal — after all, bars are packed every weekend with revelers consuming 4, 5 or more drinks over the course of a night out. Yet binge drinking is closely associated with a wide range of health and social problems. For example, individuals who binge drink are more likely to be involved in a violent crime, either as a victim or as the perpetrator. Binge drinkers are also more likely to overdose on alcohol, sustain an injury, drive drunk, and develop alcoholism. Many people who suffer from alcoholism developed it after increasing the frequency of binge drinking. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell when alcoholism has started because the early stages of the disease can resemble normal social drinking. Warning signs of alcoholism include:

  • Binge drinking with greater frequency
  • Drinking at unusual times, such as in the morning, in the car, or at work
  • Denying or lying about drinking, or hiding how much drinking is going on
  • Avoiding situations, responsibilities and people where drinking is frowned upon
  • Hanging out more alone or with a new crowd
  • Ignoring responsibilities, loved ones, and favorite activities
  • Drinking to avoid feeling sick, shaky, or anxious

Avoiding binge drinking altogether can reduce the chances alcoholism will become a problem. If researchers can consistently demonstrate herbal treatments such as puerarin can help, the rate at which people develop alcoholism may be reduced.

The Extract

The Harvard study examined puerarin, an isoflavone of kuzdu root that is already used safely in China to aid in the treatment of heart disease. Researchers chose puerarin over other compounds in the herb because of its proven track record and lack of estrogenic properties, making it safe for women.

The Experiment

In this study, ten twenty-something binge drinkers were given access to six beers in an environment designed to simulate an afternoon binge drinking session, complete with a recliner, DVD player and refrigerator stocked with each subject’s favorite beer. Their baseline alcohol consumption was recorded. They were then asked to take a pill containing either 19% puerarin extract or a placebo daily for a week, and to return to repeat the experiment. The procedure was repeated with the other pill, with researchers recording the quantity and rate of alcohol consumption each time.

The Results

The results were impressive, with subjects taking puerarin drinking fewer beers. The average drop in consumption was from 3.5 beers to 2.4. The subjects also drank more slowly, taking more sips and waiting longer to open the next beer. No adverse effects were recorded.Previous research has indicated puerarin as an aid in curbing heavy drinking. While further research is needed, peurarin extract definitely shows promise as a potential tool in overcoming alcohol addiction. If you are interested in using peurarin extract to aid in the treatment of alcoholism, be sure to talk to your doctor or treatment specialist to determine the best course of action. Image: Public domain, Photographed by Peggy Greb

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