Herbs and Supplements for High Cholesterol
A few tips on using natural products to lower cholesterol:
- Talk with your doctor before starting any natural method to lower cholesterol.
- Make your doctor knows what supplements you are taking. Fill out the supplement diary to bring to your next appointment.
- Do not discontinue any medication to lower cholesterol. Speak with your doctor if you have questions about your medication.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, also called niacin, is used to lower cholesterol. Specifically it appears to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.
Well-designed studies have found that niacin lowers LDL cholesterol by 10% to 20%, lowers triglycerides by 20% to 50%, and raises “good” HDL cholesterol by 15% to 35%. Niacin also appears to significantly lower levels for another risk factor for arteriosclerosis, lipoprotein A.
Niacin is available in prescription form and as a dietary supplement. The American Heart Association cautions patients to only use the prescription form of niacin.
Because of side effects, niacin should not be used to lower cholesterol unless under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.
Niacin can increase the effect of high blood pressure medication or cause nausea, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, gout, and worsen peptic ulcers, or trigger gout, liver inflammation, and high blood sugar.
Side effect of high-dose niacin:
Skin flushing or hot a flash, which is caused by widening of blood vessels. Most people only notice this when they initially start taking niacin. The flushing may be lessened by taking niacin with meals.
Although high doses of niacin showed promise in combination with common drugs to lower cholesterol (called “statins”), there are concerns that combining the two could result in a serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. They should not be combined unless under the close supervision of a physician.
There is some research suggesting that artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymnus) may help to lower cholesterol.
Artichoke leaf extract may work by limiting the synthesis of cholesterol in the body.
Artichokes also contain a compound called cynarin, believed to increase bile production in the liver and speed the flow of bile from the gallbladder, both of which may increase cholesterol excretion.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled German study found that 1,800 mg of artichoke extract per day for six weeks significantly lowered total cholesterol by 18.5% compared to 8.6% in the placebo group and lowered LDL cholesterol by 22.9% compared with 6% in the placebo group. The ratio of LDL to HDL decreased by 20% in the artichoke group compared with 7% in the placebo group. There were no adverse effects associated with artichoke use.
A meta-analysis looked at randomized controlled trials for artichoke extract for high cholesterol. Two trials involving 167 people met the quality criteria. One trial found artichoke significantly reduced total cholesterol after 42 days of treatment. The other study found artichoke significantly reduced total cholesterol in a subgroup of patients with total cholesterol levels of more than 230 mg/dl.
Adverse events were mild, transient and infrequent. Larger clinical trials over longer periods are needed.