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Alternative Treatments for High Cholesterol

Alternative Treatments for High Cholesterol

Dietary supplements are the mainstays of alternative treatment for high cholesterol. The following table shows alternative medicine therapies aimed at lowering cholesterol.

Alternative treatments for high cholesterol

Alternative treatment

What it is

Side effects


  • Fiber found in outer coverings of fleawort and plantago seeds
  • Ingredient in some dietary supplements (for example, Metamucil)

Increased bowel movements

FDA-approved and regulated as associated with decreased risk of coronary artery disease (CAD)

Red yeast rice supplements

  • A supplement with fermented rice and yeast
  • Contains a natural form of lovastatin, a statin medicine

Serious side effects including rhabdomyolysis and hepatitis

May lower LDL levels

Not FDA-approved or regulated

Sterol or stanol esters

  • Naturally occurring compound, found in plant extract
  • Therapeutic ingredient in cholesterol-lowering margarine spreads
None, when taken as prescribedFDA-approved

Psyllium: Doctors are not entirely sure how psyllium works to improve cholesterol levels. It is believed that psyllium reduces the ability of the small intestine to absorb cholesterol, and therefore the amount of cholesterol that enters your blood is reduced.

Red yeast rice supplements: The natural equivalent of lovastatin in red yeast, called monacolin K (mevinolin), decreases cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol production in the body. Serious side effects can happen. These include rhabdomyolysis, hepatitis, and kidney problems. Despite the therapeutic effects of red yeast, there is currently no way to guarantee its safety by ensuring a safe dose.

Talk with your doctor before taking such supplements, because they could potentially cause dangerous side effects. Do not take these supplements if you are taking statins. Dangerous side effects may result from the combination.

Sterol esters: Sterol esters may lower LDL cholesterol levels by blocking receptors in the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing dietary cholesterol. Sterol and stanol esters are the active ingredient in cholesterol-lowering margarine spreads, such as Take Control and Benecol.

Regardless of whether you start a new alternative treatment, you must continue your diet, exercise, and prescription medicines. As with any new form of treatment, you should consult your doctor first.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerCarl Orringer, MD - Cardiology, Clinical Lipidology
Last RevisedSeptember 11, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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