Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Nowadays, science has taken a keen interest in herbs because of their immune-stimulating, anti-tumor capabilities. Moreover, herbs are hypolipidemic – meaning they can reduce fat in the bloodstream – and their elements can minimize the risk of cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, and other severe ailments
Our focus is lowering cholesterol levels and, thus, the risk of cardiovascular disease. Anyone facing such potential conditions would be prescribed a plant-based diet, rich in legumes, fruits, and veggies, low in saturated fat, and highly-processed products – all accompanied by physical activity. Now, such common recommendations have an addition: the inclusion of herbs.
Cholesterol and Herbs – Studies and Research
A study on 25 people involving 11 herbal medicinal products was conducted. Among the herbs used were guggul, fenugreek, red yeast rice, and others. The results? In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, many of these herbs provide other benefits (regarding cardiovascular health) by increasing high-density lipoprotein levels and reducing lipid oxidations. The study concludes that, although the efficacy of the herbs is not 100% established, the profiles seem encouraging.
For instance, the reductions in total serum cholesterol ranged from 10 to 33% for all herbs. Subjects who ingested Guggul saw a reduction in their cholesterol levels from 10 to 27% compared to their baseline measures. Red yeast rice ingestion also proved statistically-significant reductions in cholesterol levels ranging from 16 to 31% compared to control or baseline numbers.
Other herbs (such as arjun, Asian ginseng, holy basil, yarrow, among others) showed reductions in cholesterol as well; some results significant than others.
They Work but Which Ones?
Not all herbs work the same. A particular research focused on the effects of Allium sp. and the Labiatae, Umbelliferae, and Zingiberaceae families, as well as flaxseed, licorice root, and green tea. Many of these herbs contain potent antioxidant compounds that significantly protect against chronic diseases. These compounds may protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation. Other herbs used for cooking are excellent for suppressing cholesterol synthesis.
Psyllium (Plantago psyllium) is a rich source of fiber. Studies show that when patients suffering from high cholesterol levels ingest this herb, their LDL cholesterol concentration drops. These benefits were observed to be more prominent in subjects who follow high-fat diets.
Garlic (Allium sativum). The compound that triggers garlic’s known benefits is allicin. Allicin is released when cells of clove are crushed. This element inhibits many harmful bacteria such as candida, molds, and other types of yeast. That’s why garlic is called a natural antibiotic. Garlic and its extracts effectively reduce LDL -cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations without affecting HDL levels.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), this herb’s fruit, flowers, and leaves, are known to improve blood flow. Ingesting this herb increases the heart’s pumping capacity by dilating the muscles of the coronary vessels. Patients experiencing chronic heart disease managed to lower their blood pressure with the help of this herb.
OTHER HERBS ARE LISTED BELOW.
- Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) -regularly used in baking, has a powerful effect on reducing LDL – cholesterol concentrations.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), rich in citral and geraniol, can reduce cholesterol concentrations and thus reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). During the study, patients with elevated blood cholesterol who consumed fenugreek (in powder) managed to significantly lower their LDL cholesterol, not affecting their HDL cholesterol concentrations.
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is another herb with a long history of medical applications. An element in the ginseng root inhibits platelet aggregation (this is the key process for clots and thrombosis).
Red yeast rice. This herb directly impacts the process of atherosclerosis. Like other herbs, red yeast rice has an antioxidant capability that inhibits cholesterol absorption in the body. The evidence points to red yeast rice effectively achieving and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Herb’s and their Flavonoids?
These universal plant pigments – thanks to which flowers, fruits, and leaves acquire their color – are present in many herbs such as chamomiles, ginkgo, hawthorn, licorice, passionflower, and milk thistle, onions, rosemary, sage, thyme, and yarrow. Flavonoids are the element that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, inhibits platelet aggregation, and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Cholesterol and herbs – conclusion
Cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis are highly-complex processes that include the oxidation of cholesterol and the accumulation of such oxidized cholesterol in our bodies. This triggers an inflammatory process that can end in myocardial infarction – heart attacks. Thanks to novel studies, we understand how botanical supplements – herbs – can diminish such harmful processes and prevent many heart-related diseases. Herbs’ antioxidant capabilities continue to be studied as a natural, encouraging way to treat cardiovascular and other types of diseases related to high cholesterol levels.