Millions of people are interested in herbal and natural products. The appeal is real. Many people simply feel more comfortable using natural sources of healing, and avoiding chemical treatments.
The results may be real, but they depend on several factors:
The disease or condition being treated
Rigorous scientific evidence
Targets that are set with your doctor
The quality and continuation of the product
A standardized extract
Ongoing use and new data.
Let’s take a closer look at a natural product for cholesterol called red rice yeast (Monascus purpureus).
If you’ve been diagnosed with abnormal cholesterol and your bad or LDL cholesterol is too high, starting with a natural product MAY make some sense IF you talk it over with your doctor.
The interesting part about cholesterol management is that success is measured by lowering of undesirable cholesterol, particle size and overall pattern. Since your doctor can order laboratory tests to take a look at this, you get the benefit of knowing if the natural product is working, how much it is working and if it is working well enough to avoid complications and clogging of your arteries.
Like prescription medicines, herbal or natural products generally stop working if you stop taking them. This is called continuation or adherence. Standardization of natural or herbal products is a relatively new phenomenon that helps ensure that you get the same amount of active ingredient product to product and bottle to bottle. Buyng a standardized product will cost more, but will let you and your doctor know that the same amount of active ingredient is being taken. This logically leads to a more probable beneficial effect and result for you!
Studies show that red rice yeast can give a good result, depending on how much your bad cholesterol needs to be lowered. This product actually has some active ingredients in it that are very similar to lovastatin (Mevacor). You may recognize this name as one of the older prescription statins. Since it has the same characteristics of a statin, it is important NOT to add it to a prescription statin. This may lead to increased risk of muscle toxicity, as the effect would be like adding together two statins—yielding potentially too large a blood level.
Bottom line: natural products may make sense for you. Remember to list them along with your other medicines when asked what you are taking. A standardized product may cost more, but helps make sure the same amount of active ingredient is present in every dose. Just like prescription drugs, natural medicines should be used to treat ongoing conditions (like abnormal cholesterol). Doses can be adjusted if targets aren’t met or if you need more help to reach that goal!