Herbs and Supplements That Lower Cholesterol
For some people, blood cholesterol levels can become too high. This is called hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia. High levels of LDL (” bad “) cholesterol are considered a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
LDL cholesterol is thought to irritate the lining of blood vessels and cause atherosclerosis; Lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol (” good “) have historically been the goals of treatment and lifestyle changes.
So far, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that any supplement or alternative drug can safely treat high cholesterol, but some supplements or alternative drugs may be helpful in combination with other treatments. Here are some supplements that may help.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is used to lower cholesterol. Niacin also appears to significantly lower levels of lipoprotein, another risk factor for atherosclerosis.
Niacin is available in both prescription and supplement forms. The American Heart Association recommends that patients use only the prescription form of niacin to lower their cholesterol. Because of the side effects of niacin, it should not be used to lower cholesterol except under the supervision of a qualified physician.
Niacin may increase the effectiveness of blood pressure medications and may cause nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, and gout. It can aggravate peptic ulcers and cause liver inflammation and hyperglycemia.
The most common side effect of high doses of niacin is redness or flushing of the skin caused by enlarged blood vessels. Most people do not notice this until they start taking niacin. Taking niacin with food can help reduce redness.
High doses of niacin show promise when combined with cholesterol-lowering drugs (called statins), but studies have shown no clinical benefit in doing so and indicate that some damage may occur. They should not be combined unless under close supervision of a physician.
Soluble fiber appears to lower LDL cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol so that it can be excreted from the body. Soluble fiber can be found in supplements, such as psyllium powder, and in foods such as.
- Oats, barley, rye
- Legumes (peas and beans)
- Certain fruits such as apples, plums, berries, etc.
- Some vegetables, such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatoes, etc., can be used as a source of energy
Studies have found that 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 5%.4 The FDA allows soluble fiber products to state on the label that they are “heart-healthy. Other supplements and foods that contain high levels of soluble fiber include acacia fiber, glucomannan, Shirataki noodles, nopal and flaxseed.
Plant sterols and stanols
Sterols and plant sterols (such as beta-sitosterol and sitostanol) are substances that occur naturally in certain plants. Sterols can be used as dietary supplements or added to margarine, orange juice and condiments.
Studies have shown that sterols and plant sterols may help lower cholesterol. They are structurally similar to cholesterol and may help block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends a daily intake of 2 grams of plant sterols and sterols.
The FDA states, “As part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, foods containing at least 0.65 grams of plant oil phytosterol esters per serving, consumed twice daily with a meal, for a total daily intake of at least 1.3 grams, may reduce the risk of heart disease. This gives credence to the health claims of phytosterols.
Sterols and stanols appear to enhance the effects of other cholesterol-lowering methods. Several studies have shown that people who took statins to lower their cholesterol further improved their cholesterol levels by taking sterols and sterols.
Some studies have shown that artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymnus) can help lower cholesterol6.
Artichokes also contain a compound called cynarin, which is thought to increase the secretion of bile in the liver and speed up the flow of bile in the gallbladder, both of which can increase cholesterol excretion.
A meta-analysis reviewed randomized controlled trials of artichoke extract for the treatment of high cholesterol6.
Adverse effects were mild, transient, and rare. Based on this study, larger clinical studies of longer duration are needed. It was concluded that the evidence was not convincing and the Cochrane Review stopped updating the analysis of this study from 2016.
There is less evidence for the usefulness of other supplements that have been suggested for cholesterol treatment. In the case of red yeast rice, it is potentially dangerous because it contains a natural form of lovastatin, a prescription drug.
Garlic has been shown to have no cholesterol-lowering effect. Other supplements and foods you may see advertised include policosanol, coenzyme Q10, green tea, and soy.
High cholesterol is usually treated based on the levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol, plus the presence of additional risk factors for heart disease. Some people cannot change, while others can.
- Previous heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Low HDL cholesterol levels
- Family history of early heart disease
- 45 years of age or older for men and 55 years of age or older for women
- Risk of heart attack of 20% or more within 10 years
Of these things, not smoking (or quitting if you do) is the one to address. You can also treat high blood pressure and diabetes to help you manage them.
Use alternative medicines
Follow these tips before you decide to use alternative medicine to treat high cholesterol.
- Talk to your doctor before you start using natural methods to lower your cholesterol.
- Make sure your doctor knows what supplements you are taking.
- Do not stop taking cholesterol-lowering medications. If you have questions about your medication, talk to your doctor.
Remember that the safety of alternative medicines has not been tested and the safety of supplements for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children, people with medical conditions, or people who are taking medications has not been determined. However, if you are concerned about familial hypercholesterolemia, be sure to consult your doctor, as only a qualified health care provider can make an accurate diagnosis.