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.
In his book, Macrobiotic Home Remedies, Michio Kushi recommends using kuzu in the following ways:
- To relieve tiredness and restore vitality.
- To treat digestive and intestinal issues such as indigestion and colitis.
- For colds, which are often related to intestinal weakness.
- As a drink to relieve over acidity, bacterial infection and excess water in the case of diarrhea.
- To bring quick relief from abdominal pain and intestinal irritation.
Recipe for Kuzu Tea: Dissolve one teaspoon of kuzu powder in a small amount of cool or room temperature water. Stir to dissolve all the pieces. To the dissolved kuzu add one cup of boiling water and stir well. Add some sea salt or tamari soy sauce and drink slowly. Use this remedy in the case of headaches, colds, influenza, indigestion and intestinal weakness. Safe to drink as a daily beverage.
Baby Bok Choy w/ Ginger
1 Tbs. sesame oil
2 inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2-3 bunches of baby bok choy, washed and separated
1 teaspoon kuzu
1 tablespoon tamari
¼ cup water
1. In a heavy skillet heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic and ginger.
2. Cook until just tender, then add the bok choy and cook stirring well.
3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to cook, stirring occasionally until leaves are tender. About 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, dissolve the kuzu in water and add the tamari. Stir into the bok choy and as the liquid thickens it will coat the vegetable. Salt to taste. Serve immediately. Yields 4 servings
The Book of Kudzu: A Culinary and Healing Guide by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi.
Kudzu: The Vine to Love or Hate, by Diane Hoots
Macrobiotic Home Remedies, by Michio Kushi
Healing Ourselves, by Noboru Muramoto