Scientists believe they may have found a natural way to curb drinking.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School
conducting a study at McLean Hospital
found that components of a Chinese herb, Kudzu, may help reduce an individual's desire to consume alcohol.
The scientists examined 10 men and women, all in their 20s, who consumed alcohol on a regular basis. As part of the study, the participants were entertained for 90 minutes each week in a room which provided a DVD player, television, and a refrigerator filled with their favorite beers and soft drinks. They were told that they could consume up to six beers during a session.
Following the first session, the participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were given substances to take each day over the following week. One group received puerarin, an active ingredient of the Kudzu herb, while the other group received a placebo (a substance with no active ingredient). Following session 3, the substances were switched among the participants; the placebo group received puerarin, while the puerarin group received a placebo.
The findings showed that in each case, participants who received puerarin consumed less beer than those given the Placebo. The average consumption of beer fell from 3.5 to 2.4 bottles.
No side effects from the kudzu herb were noted.
The project was led by David Penetar, Ph.D., from the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital
, whose study appears in the latest issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
"Our study is further evidence that components found in kudzu root can reduce alcohol consumption and do so without adverse side effects. Further research is needed, but this botanical medication may lead to additional methods to treat alcohol abuse and dependence," said Dr. Penetar.
"This was a simulation of a binge drinking opportunity and not only did we see the subjects drinking less, we noted that their rate of consumption decreased, meaning they drank slower and took more sips to finish a beer. While we do not suggest that puerarin will stop drinking all together, it is promising that it appears to slow the pace and the overall amount consumed,” concluded Penetar.