Kuzu, or known in America as kudzu root, has been prized for its medicinal properties in China and Japan for thousands of years. In America we know it as “the weed that ate Dixie” covering most of our southern states and proving impossible to eradicate. It was first brought to the U.S. in 1876 as part of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia by the Japanese government as part of their garden display. Later kuzu was used in the U.S. for erosion control and that’s when it spread its 200 pound roots and flourished. In 1972 the USDA officially declared kuzu to be a weed and set about researching methods for its destruction. Meanwhile, those in the know pay top dollar for kuzu root to be imported to the U.S. for cooking and medicinal purposes.
A member of the legume family, the kuzu root produces a starch-like powder that can be used as a thickening agent in place of cornstarch or arrowroot powder. The rubber-like kuzu vines are used to make strong baskets and the leaves can be eaten and used in recipes. Clinical studies, done in China, have shown that kuzu root preparations can reduce high blood pressure, relieve chronic migraines and ease aches in the shoulders and neck. The flavonoids in kuzu have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and protect against heart disease. As reported by Harvard medical researcher Wing-Ming Keung, kuzu can curb the desire for alcohol and help heal the organs damaged by alcoholism.