If you are watching your diet and want better health, consider using cholesterol lowering herbs. Though many herbs are widely used in cooking and vitamin supplements, not all aid in reducing cholesterol levels. Maintaining good levels has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and the USDA recommends following a low cholesterol diet to promote heart health.
Cholesterol Lowering Herbs
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is an herb grown primarily as a feed crop for cattle. Cultivated for well over 2000 years, alfalfa is also eaten by humans due to its high protein, calcium, and vitamin E levels. Alfalfa seeds lower cholesterol by blocking cholesterol absorption by the body through the chemical saponin which is present in the seeds. Alfalfa has also been shown to reduce the amount of plaque build up in the arteries. Side effects are mainly from over consumption of alfalfa which has been shown to cause red blood cell damage.
Artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus) is the outer portion of the artichoke plant and has been cultivated for nearly 1000 years. The outer leaves are pulled from the artichoke body and used to manufacture diet supplements. Compounds in artichoke leaf called cynarin and chlorogenic acid work to produce bile production and stimulate kidney function. Artichoke leaf has also been shown to reduce cholesterol. Side effects are rare and typically only affect people with bile duct obstruction. Some people have experienced contact dermatitis when handling the artichoke leaf plant, but allergic reactions have not been reported with the pill or powder form.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an herb native to Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia. Though the entire plant is edible, the most common parts of the plant used for cooking are the leaves and seeds. This herb has been grown for at least 4000 years and is one of the oldest known herbs. The leaves are also known as cilantro and are a popular ingredient in Latin American cooking. Seeds are used for medicinal purposes in many countries and have been shown to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Coriander works by improving the bile production in the liver and breaking down cholesterol so that it can be flushed out of the system. Side effects from ingesting coriander are rare, but a small percentage of people reported experiencing contact dermatitis when handling the leaves.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the most common cholesterol lowering herbs and may be eaten either raw or cooked. Garlic grows as a bulb and may be stored for months. To use, simply peel away the papery outer skin to reveal the inner bulb sections known as cloves. Chop or mince the cloves and use. Side effects of garlic consumption include bad breath and body odor due to the strong smell of garlic. Eating raw garlic also causes stomach upset or heartburn in some people. In addition to lowering cholesterol, garlic is thought help lower blood pressure in people that suffer from high blood pressure.
Psyllium (Plantago psyllium) is part of a large family of plants native to Europe and India. Produced mainly for their seeds, psyllium is primarily used as a dietary fiber and is found in many breakfast cereals. Psyllium works by aiding the body with excess water secretion which helps the bowels stay healthy and the digestive system regulated. Diets high in dietary fiber have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels along with blood glucose levels.
These herbs may help reduce your cholesterol levels, but regardless of which herbs for cholesterol you choose, remember that following a diet low in saturated fats is also important. Since consumption of too much food containing saturated fats is the biggest causal of high cholesterol levels, monitoring what you eat along with adding cholesterol lowering herbs to your diet goes a long way in keep your levels under control.