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Kudzu originated in China and was brought to the United States from Japan in the late 1800s. It is distributed throughout much of the eastern United States and is most common in the southern part of the continent. Kudzu has traditionally been used in China to treat alcoholism, diabetes (high blood sugar), gastroenteritis (inflamed stomach or intestine), and deafness. Evidence suggests kudzu may improve signs and symptoms of unstable angina (chest pain), improve insulin resistance, and have a positive effect on cognitive function in postmenopausal women. However, most studies have suffered from methodological weaknesses and small sample sizes. Chinese healers have used kudzu to treat high blood pressure and chest pain and to minimize alcohol cravings. Research indicates that puerarin (a constituent of kudzu) may increase blood flow to the heart and brain which helps explain certain traditional uses.
5-HTP is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is obtained commercially from the seeds of the plant Griffonia simplicifolia . 5-HTP has been suggested as a treatment for many conditions. There is some research to support the use of 5-HTP in treating cerebellar ataxia, headache, depression, psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, and as an appetite suppressant or weight-loss agent. There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of 5-HTP for any other medical condition. 5-HTP may cause gastrointestinal disturbances, mood disturbances, seizure, or abnormal blood counts. Some reported side effects might result from contaminants in 5-HTP products.
The main function of L-carnitine is to transfer long-chain fatty acids in the form of their acyl-carnitine esters across the inner mitochondrial membrane before beta-oxidation. In humans, it is synthesized in the liver, kidney, and brain and actively transported to other areas of the body. For example, 98% of the total body L-carnitine is confined to the skeletal and cardiac muscle at concentrations approximately 70 times higher than in the blood serum. Supplementation may be necessary in rare cases of primary carnitine deficiency, which may be caused by a defect in carnitine biosynthesis, a defect in carnitine active transport into tissue, or a defect in renal (kidney) conservation of carnitine. Known conditions of secondary deficiency of carnitine (insufficiency), in which L-carnitine is effective, include chronic stable angina and intermittent claudication characterized by distinct tissue hypoxia (low oxygen levels). Another condition that may benefit from carnitine supplementation is decreased sperm motility. Although use in preterm infants suggests carnitine supplementation may aid in maintaining or increasing plasma carnitine levels and possibly weight gain, carnitine is not routinely added to preterm total parenteral nutrition (TPN). However, soy-based infant formulas are fortified with carnitine to levels found in breast milk. In 1986, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved L-carnitine for use in primary carnitine deficiency. D-carnitine or DL-carnitine may cause secondary L-carnitine deficiency and should not be used.