With high cholesterol in the forefront of medical communication recently, many studies have been completed on herbal therapies to reduce cholesterol
levels. Herbal remedies have shown promise to be effective without the major side effects that prescription medications pose. Herbal remedies range from garlic to artichoke leaves.
Research suggests that artichoke leaf may help in lowering cholesterol. The extract of artichoke leaf called Cynara scolymnus may work by limiting the absorption of cholesterol in the body. A compound call cynarin in artichokes is believed to increase bile production in the liver and increase the flow of bile from the gallbladder. This may increase cholesterol excretion out of the bloodstream. Studies show that 1,800 mg of artichoke extract per day for six weeks lowered LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by 18.5%. Adverse effects were shown to be mild and temporary.
Vitamin B3, also called niacin, has been studied and has shown good results with the ability to lower LDL by 10-20%. Niacin has many possible side effects so must be used under a doctor’s supervision. An Indian herbal extract call guggul has been shown in several clinical studies to decrease cholesterol levels, including LDL levels. One important reason to use guggul is there were no side effects when the standard extract was used. Garlic in high quantities can be an easy and tasty way to incorporate a cholesterol lowering compound into your healthy diet. While there are social down sides such as bad breath it is worthwhile to eat garlic based on the benefits.
Plant sterols, which have been recently introduced into products like margarine and orange juice, are known to significantly reduce cholesterol levels. Plant sterols are believed to compete with dietary cholesterol for absorption. Arjuna, a coronary vasodilator, strengthens circulation and protects the heart. The bark of the arjuna tree has been found to promote healing of the heart muscle after a heart attack. It is rich in co-enzyme Q-10, which is often prescribed by cardiologists to treat and prevent heart problems.
Increasing soluble fiber in your diet can help reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed from the intestines. Cholesterol binds soluble fiber, allowing cholesterol to be excreted. While there are many food items recommended for a low fat, low cholesterol diet, such as garlic and soluble fiber, over the counter supplements and herbs should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
The great news is that lifestyle changes can greatly reduce most people’s risk factors for heart disease. For the minority where lifestyle changes are not enough, herbal supplements and medication can greatly reduce the chances of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol can be both good and bad. The most important point to remember is always know your cholesterol levels and ask your healthcare provider to formulate a plan with you to prevent heart disease. Educate yourself on your options, because being armed with the information on dietary and other options can prevent the need for medication later in life.