Kudzu King

In the 1940s, Channing Cope, the influential farm editor of the Atlanta Constitution, created a cult following centered on kudzu. In his book "Front Porch Farmer," he touts kudzu as the latest crop that "works while you sleep," promising farmers a new life of leisure [source: Britton]. From his own front porch in Covington, Ga., Cope aired a radio show espousing the benefits of kudzu and became a media magnate in the process.

Alternative Uses for Kudzu

As we learned earlier, kudzu's history begins in ancient Asia. For centuries, people in China, Japan and India have used kudzu for homeopathic remedies for symptoms of heart disease and high blood pressure [source: Drugsite Trust]. It's even been used as an alternative remedy to relieve muscular aches and to treat measles. Herbalists take the root of the plant and boil it to make a starchy powder or solid kudzu root starch. Some make liquid concoctions like ginseng extract or vanilla extract from the root. Yet others make tea from it.

Some studies suggest that kudzu extract can reduce alcohol cravings and others indicate that kudzu can be used to prevent and treat hangovers. In any case, the scientific community has found evidence that kudzu affects alcohol consumption in humans in some form. One study even found that although kudzu didn't deter subjects from drinking, people actually did drink less after ingesting it. Why? People who took kudzu actually got drunker off fewer beers than participants who didn't ingest the plant. Researchers thought that the plant may contain a compound that increases blood alcohol levels in humans and enhances its effects [source: Associated Press].

Kudzu has several uses outside of the medicinal realm. In fact, it's considered a delicacy in many areas. Legend has it that the Chinese ruler Shennong, the "divine farmer" and father of Chinese herbal medicine, tasted each and every herb in the area, including kudzu, and created a book based on his research [source: Dharmananda]. Since then, people have come up with more ways to put kudzu on the menu. Some use it as the main ingredient in a variety of condiments and dishes. In the Southeastern U.S., some people make and sell kudzu blossom jellies and syrups. If there's a way to prepare kudzu, you can bet you'll probably find a recipe for it -- quiche, salad, salsa, candy, soda and tea, just to name a few.