High Cholesterol – Herbal Medicine Phytotherapy

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High Cholesterol - Herbal Medicine Phytotherapy

Patient QI found published studies that show the following have a positive effect in lowering cholesterol.


There are various studies on supplements that combine artichoke with other cholesterol lowering supplements and that show beneficial effects.  Patient QI found the most recent study on the cholesterol lowering effects of artichoke as a single supplement was published in Feb 2013.  In the study 92 patients with high cholesterol were split into two group. Group 1 received artichoke supplements and group 2 received placebo for 8 weeks.  The artichoke supplemented group showed an increase of good cholesterol (HDL) and a decrease in both bad cholesterol (LDL) and total cholesterol.


Chitosan is a high fiber supplement that is made from shellfish and has been used to help people lose weight.  Chitosan affects uptake of fats from the gut. The most recent study found by Patient QI was carried out by an Italian group and was published in June 2013. The group investigated the effect of chitosan on plasma lipids and lipoproteins in 28 patients with high triglyceride levels.  The patients were given a 125mg/day dose in addition to their medications and after treatment, total cholesterol was reduced by 8%, LDL cholesterol by 2%, and triglycerides by 19%.  They also had 14% increase in good HDL cholesterol.


Gynostemma pentaphyllum is a traditional Chinese medicine where it is used as an antioxidant and is believed to help reduce anxiety and protect adrenal function during stress.  It is also used in China as a treatment for high cholesterol. The most recent study that investigated its effects on cholesterol levels that Patient QI could find was published in 2009.  The study showed that supplements of Gynostemma pantaphyllum reduced the triglyceride and total cholesterol in the serum and liver and also raised serum antioxidant activity.

Pinus koraiensis

Korean pine oil from the leaves is a traditional remedy for heart disease.  Patient QI found a study by a Korean group that showed the mechanism by which the Korean pine leaf oil lowers cholesterol levels.  The essential oil of Pinus koraiensis inhibited cholesterol acyltransferase and reduced low density lipoprotein oxidation activity.


Probiotics is the name for the micro-organisms that are believed to have health benefits.  These are mainly the good bacteria that exist naturally in the gut and that are often taken as supplements or through eating cultures such as yoghurts that contain the bacteria.  Patient QI found many recent papers on the theoretical potential of probiotics to help improve lipid profiles but few actual studies.  The most recently published was in November 2012. 127 patients with high cholesterol were included in the study and half were given the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri and the other half received placebo. After 9 weeks the group that received the probiotic had reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol by 11.64% and total cholesterol by 9.14%.

Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice is a supplement that was traditionally added to food in China to colour it.  It is made by culturing the yeast, Monascusupurpureaus, on rice. Patient QI found a recent study (2013) that showed that LDL cholesterol was lowered by 22% and total cholesterol by 15% in a group taking red yeast rice as compared to no change in the control group.

Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum).

A 2012 controlled study indicated that Reishi has a mild anti-diabetic effect and potentially improves the lipid profile in diabetes.

Royal Jelly

Royal Jelly is the food that bees feed to bee larva. It is particularly important as the food for the developing Queen bees. Royal jelly became a popular food supplement in the late 1990s but research into its uses and effects has diminished recently.  The most recent study that Patient QI found on the effects of royal jelly on cholesterol levels was published in 2007. In the study, a Japanese group investigated the effects of 6g of Royal Jelly supplements on the serum lipid profile in adults compared to a control group.   The Royal Jelly group showed a decrease in serum total cholesterol and serum low-density lipoprotein compared to the control group

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Curcuma is one of the most studied spices of the year, due to it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer, anti-thrombotic properties.  Very few studies look at the effects of curcuma on only cholesterol levels however there are studies that incorporate the cholesterol levels with other factors such as blood pressure. The best study Patient QI found showed that curcuma oil significantly reduced plasma total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and TAG, and increased HDL-cholesterol when compared with a control group.  It also reduced cholesterol in the liver and improved liver function.


A study carried out in China looked at the effects of polysaccharides from Shiitake mushrooms on lipid profiles. Results showed that the polysaccharide extract decreased total serum cholesterol, triglyceride and low density lipoprotein levels and increased the levels of the good high density lipoproteins.

Patient QI recommends that you always discuss any treatments that you intend to use with your coordinating therapist or a qualified medical herbalist / phytotherapist.  

The High Cholesterol - Herbal Medicine Phytotherapy page will be regularly updated as new evidence is published in the medical journals.


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