While cholesterol is a necessary component in the body, too much of a certain type can lead to potential health problems. However, certain herbs, such as turmeric and rosemary, could help lower cholesterol. That said, more research is necessary to determine their effect on cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a necessary building component for cells. The liver creates this waxy substance and spreads it throughout the body through blood.
Genetics and lifestyle can influence how much cholesterol the liver produces. When it produces too much, it can lead to blockage, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
However, not all cholesterol is bad. Health experts split it into two types:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Individuals often call this “bad” cholesterol. LDL can contribute to blocked arteries when levels are high.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: People often call this “good” cholesterol. HDL helps remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.
When testing cholesterol numbers, doctors often also look at levels of triglycerides. These fats store excess energy from a person’s diet and can contribute to excess LDL cholesterol levels.
Several treatments, including medication and lifestyle changes, can help lower LDL cholesterol.
In addition, a person may find that using herbal supplements may help lower cholesterol. This article reviews herbs that have some evidence suggesting they can help lower cholesterol. However, before taking supplements, a person needs to consult a doctor first.
Studies show that fenugreek supplements may help lower blood cholesterol levels.
According to a 2020 meta-analysis, researchers found that evidence supports the use of fenugreek supplements to help lower cholesterol levels in people with diabetes. However, the authors also noted a need for additional high quality studies.
People may consume artichoke as part of a nutritious diet, such as the Mediterranean diet. Several studies over the years have looked at how artichoke affects cholesterol levels.
A 2018 meta-analysis suggested using artichoke leaf extract had links to a reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The researchers stated that using artichoke leaf extract supplements may work in combination with lipid-lowering therapy, specifically in those with hyperlipidemia. This is when a person’s body has an excess of fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Yarrow is an above ground, flowering herb people have used in traditional medicine for years.
Some evidence suggests it may have cholesterol lowering effects.
In an older study from 2012, researchers found that it helped lower cholesterol levels in broiler chickens. However, these results may not be applicable to humans since the study’s purpose was to look at how to reduce the use of antibiotics in chickens.
A 2019 study found that yarrow extract showed signs of aging lipids in vitro, meaning outside living organisms. However, the authors did not mention its use for lowering overall cholesterol. Rather, they propose it may have uses to treat pancreatic cancer.
Taking a yarrow supplement may help with cholesterol. However, studies specifically looking at it in humans are currently lacking.
Holy basil (tulsi) is a slightly spicy, bitter herb that a person may eat raw or as part of a cooking dish.
A 2018 study looked at how holy basil affects adults 40 years and older with metabolic disorders. It found that a higher dose causes total and LDL cholesterol levels to drop. A person needs to consume at least 1 gram (g) per day to achieve this.
However, the study researchers also noted that the effects were short term. It is unclear if long term use will have a lasting effect.
Ginger is a popular herb that people use in various Asian-inspired dishes. It adds a sweet, slightly sour flavor to foods. Some individuals also use ginger as a supplement to help with various health conditions.
In a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis, researchers looked at 12 trials. The studies suggested that low doses of ginger, less than 2 g per day, had a good effect on lowering both triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels.
However, they also noted that additional, higher quality studies are necessary to fully prove its effectiveness in lowering high cholesterol.
A person may add ginger to their diet or consider taking supplements.
Turmeric is a common spice in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. People know it for its distinctive yellow color and earthy flavor profile. Some also use it in traditional medicine for a variety of potential health benefits.
A 2017 study examined the effects of turmeric’s active component, curcumin, on cardiovascular disease risk. The researchers found that turmeric and curcumin may protect patients at risk of cardiovascular disease by improving serum lipid levels.
However, they noted that additional, high quality studies are necessary to help prove its effectiveness as well as provide proper dosage and safety profiles.
Rosemary may also have some positive effects on a person’s cholesterol levels.
According to an older study from 2014, people who took 2, 5, or 10 g of rosemary powder daily saw a decrease in total cholesterol levels. They suggested this herb may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. However, the study only used a small sample size, so further research is necessary to draw firmer conclusions.
High cholesterol levels can increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol can build up in the arteries, blocking blood flow to the heart, potentially causing a heart attack, or the brain, causing a stroke.
A person should follow a doctor’s recommendations regarding their treatment. They should not stop taking cholesterol medication without speaking with a doctor first.
They should also use caution when taking supplements and consult a doctor about the supplements they are interested in trying. Some supplements may interfere or negatively interact with their current medications.
To help with cholesterol, a person may find that making lifestyle changes, such as regular physical activity or exercise, may help. Additionally, making changes to a person’s diet, such as adopting the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommended diet, the Mediterranean diet, may help.
By taking steps to manage cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors, a person can live a typical, healthy life.
Some herbs may have medicinal properties that can help with conditions such as cholesterol. Supplements and dietary changes and how they affect cholesterol sometimes do not have robust studies examining them.
A person needs to consult a doctor before making any changes to supplements or medications to prevent potential interactions.
That said, adding herbs, such as turmeric and rosemary, to a diet may help lower cholesterol. They may also provide additional flavor to foods, making nutritious foods more enticing.