Other Proposed Natural Treatments
- Achillea wilhelmsii
- Berberine (Goldenseal)
- Black Cohosh
- Black Tea
- Broccoli and Cabbage
- Eclipta alba
- Flaxseed Oil
- Gamma Oryzanol
- Green Tea
- He Shou Wu
- Lifestyle Changes
- Olive Oil
- Red Yeast Rice
- Royal Jelly
One of the most significant discoveries in preventive medicine is that elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood accelerate atherosclerosis , a condition commonly known as hardening of the arteries. Along with high blood pressure , inactivity, smoking , and diabetes , high cholesterol has proven to be one of the most important promoters of heart disease , strokes , and peripheral vascular disease (blockage of circulation to the extremities, usually the legs).
Cholesterol does not directly clog arteries like grease clogs pipes. The current theory is that elevated levels of cholesterol irritate the walls of blood vessels and cause them to undergo harmful changes. Because most cholesterol is manufactured by the body itself, dietary sources of cholesterol (such as eggs) are not usually the most important problem. The relative proportion of unsaturated fats (from plants) and saturated fats (mainly from animal products) in the diet is more significant.
When the consequences of elevated cholesterol were first being researched, total cholesterol was the only measurement considered. Today, the overall lipid profile is taken into account. LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and triglycerides are the most common measurements related to cholesterol. Lipoprotein A and oxidized LDL cholesterol are drawing increasing attention as well.
Increasing exercise and losing weight may produce adequate improvements in the lipid profile. If such lifestyle changes are not effective, however, there are many highly effective drugs to choose from. Medications in the statin family are most effective, and they have been shown to prevent heart attacks and reduce mortality. Other useful conventional options include ezetimibe (Zetia), fibrate drugs , and various forms of the vitamin niacin (discussed below).
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
There are several herbs and supplements that appear to help lower cholesterol levels. For some (such as stanols/sterols, vitamin B 3 , fiber, and soy), the evidence is sufficiently strong to have produced mainstream acceptance.
Note: If your primary problem is elevated triglycerides, see the High Triglycerides article.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Stanols article.
Niacin (Vitamin B 3 )
Nonetheless, it is not safe to try this combination except under close physician supervision. Rhabdomyolysis can be fatal.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Vitamin B 3 article.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Soy article.
Although primarily used to stimulate gallbladder function, artichoke leaf may be helpful for high cholesterol as well.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Numerous studies enrolling a total of many thousands of individuals purported to show that the substance policosanol , made from sugarcane, can markedly improve cholesterol profile. However, the single Cuban research group behind these studies has a financial connection to the product. It was not until 2006 that independent research groups began to report their results on the use of policosanol for hyperlipidemia. Currently, 9 such independent studies have been reported, enrolling more than 500 people, and in not one of these studies has policosanol proved to be more effective than placebo. See the full Policosanol article for detailed information.
Herbs and Supplements to Use Only With Caution
In addition, various herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to treat high cholesterol. For more information on this potential risk, see the individual drug article in the Drug Interactions section of this database.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 08/03/2012 -