Cholesterol comes in two forms, good (HDL) cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol. When you have a high bad cholesterol count and a low good cholesterol count, it can put you at risk of developing heart disease. Bad cholesterol flows through the blood stream and can attach to the inside of arteries and cause plaque build-up. This can eventually lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and blocked arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Plaque can also break off and block an artery, resulting in a stroke.
High bad cholesterol can usually be controlled through a healthy diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Medication is sometimes used for those who cannot lower their cholesterol through other means. Herbal supplements can also be effective in lowering cholesterol. Here is a list of herbal supplements that can be used to lower cholesterol.
Alfalfa – Studies have shown that alfalfa supplements block the absorption of bad cholesterol and prevent the build-up of plaque. The chemicals and fiber in alfalfa stick to bad cholesterol in the bloodstream and stop it from attaching to artery walls. The recommended dose of alfalfa is 40 milligrams a day of alfalfa seeds or 1 gram, 3 times a day of alfalfa capsules. Alfalfa should not be taken in amounts over 80 grams per day as it can damage red blood cells. People with lupus are advised not to take alfalfa supplements.
Garlic – Garlic has been used for centuries to treat various ailments and is recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment to lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. It keeps cholesterol in balance by lowering bad cholesterol while elevating good cholesterol which is important for flushing away the bad cholesterol. Garlic also prevents clotting and reduces plaque in the arteries. To lower cholesterol, the recommended dose is 600 to 900 milligrams of garlic supplements each day. You can also benefit from eating fresh garlic by ingesting 4 grams per day. However, don’t overdo the garlic. Chronic overuse of garlic supplements can damage red blood cells and also cause hyperthyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Hawthorn – The leaf and flower of the hawthorn plant have long been used to prevent heart failure, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, inflammation of the blood vessels and to dilate blood vessels to allow the flow of blood to the heart. It can also prevent irregular heartbeat. Cholesterol is lowered due to the treatment of the inflammation in the blood vessels. Hawthorn berry is widely used to treat these ailments also, although it has not been proven to work as effectively as the flower and leaf of the plant has. Dosage of hawthorn should be discussed with you doctor or a registered herbalist. Overdose of this supplement can cause extremely low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and sedation.
Evening Primrose Oil – Evening primrose oil is used for many illnesses and is effective in lowering bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. The active ingredient in evening primrose oil is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an important fatty acid which helps to produce prostaglandins (PFE1). PFE1 fights against inflammation and helps in preventing blood clots and high cholesterol. This herbal supplement should not be taken by people who are prone to seizers or who are taking a medication for depression or schizophrenia. The recommended dose for adults is 6 to 8 grams per day.
Green Tea – Green tea has been used for centuries to prevent and treat many illnesses including heart disease. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, clinical studies have shown that the antioxidant properties in green tea can help prevent atherosclerosis and can lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. Because green tea works as a diuretic, it is also beneficial for lowering blood pressure. The recommended dose is 1-2 tablets a day or 1-3 cups of green tea a day. Drinking milk can lower the antioxidant effectiveness of green tea. The caffeine in green tea can cause high blood pressure, anxiety and heart palpitations if used in excess. There are decaffeinated green tea supplements and tea for people who should not have caffeine.
Glucomannan – In clinical trials, glucomannan has shown it is effective in lowering bad cholesterol as well as lowering triglyceride levels and helping people lose weight. The recommended dose to lower cholesterol is 3.9 grams a day for 4 weeks, then stop for two weeks and resume for another four weeks. Side-effects include diarrhea, intestinal gas, loose stools, blockage of the esophagus and lower digestive tract and low blood sugar. People who are already taking a medication for cholesterol should not take glucomannan.
You should have your cholesterol levels checked once every 2 years and more often if you are at risk of developing heart disease. Talk to your doctor about ways to lower cholesterol if your levels are high and discuss the use of herbal supplements before using them. Herbal supplements can be a safe, effective way to lower cholesterol if used responsibly.
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