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The Practical Herbalist

Herbs and Cholesterol

Quite often I get questions from people about various herbal products that are supposed to control cholesterol in the body. We have been conditioned by the drug companies into believing that controlling cholesterol is a simple matter of popping a pill. There are herbs that have been shown to control cholesterol, in fact some of the cholesterol drugs on the market came from herb and food sources. So do these herbal products work? The answer I give is; it is just not that simple.

First it is important to understand that high cholesterol is not a disease, it is a risk factor. If you have high cholesterol you are more likely to have coronary artery blockage. All of us make and use cholesterol, and some of us have a family history that predisposes us to heart disease. There are many risk factors, high cholesterol is only one. There is some debate as to whether simply lowering cholesterol without addressing the other risk factors, (like diet, exercise, obesity etc.) will really make enough of a difference in the overall risk of heart disease.

In Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine (TCM) there is no specific concept of high cholesterol. TCM does however recognize various dynamics related to general health and lifestyle that would lead to trouble in the functioning of the body, not just the cardiovascular system. The goal in TCM is always to address the overall functioning of the body rather than address one particular chemical marker of a risk factor. TCM identifies many symptoms related to coronary artery disease as being related to long term deficiencies in the functioning of the digestive system.

There has been research on various herbs throughout the world as to their effect on cholesterol. There are actually several herbs that have been shown to clinically reduce cholesterol. All of the herbs that test well at lowering cholesterol are classified as having some function in increasing digestive system efficiency. They also tend to be high in antioxidants and vitamins as well as various phyto-chemicals.

The lesson that can be learned from the research is not that one specific herb is the answer to your high cholesterol, but rather the answer lies in improving the digestion. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and a lifestyle that promotes healthy weight and cardiovascular health is going to do far more that an over-hyped herbal pill in regards to improving your health. The other part of this is to talk to a Certified herbalist or read up on Chinese Food therapy to learn how to understand your particular digestion and what foods would work best to quickly improve digestive function. A proper diet and/or medicinal herbs specific to your needs, along with a healthy lifestyle will help reduce all of the risk factors with a minimum of medication.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066