Cholesterol is a vital ingredient of the body and performs many important functions. It keeps cell membranes intact, aids in metabolism of vitamins A, D, E and K and is required for the production of hormones such as cortisol, estrogen and testosterone. Three forms of cholesterol are well-recognized: High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol that is good for the body and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol that are harmful to the body. Blood cholesterol levels above 200 milligrams per 100 ml of blood are a major risk factor for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases. Traditionally, a few herbs have been known to reduce the production or absorption of cholesterol and consuming these can help you attain a better control over your blood cholesterol levels.
Artichoke flower buds are commonly used as a vegetable. However, the leaves of this plant can help with cholesterol control. According to NYU Langone, artichoke leaves act as a cholerectic – an agent that stimulates the liver and gall bladder to produce more bile. Since bile plays a vital role in excreting cholesterol, consuming artichokes can help to prevent a buildup of cholesterol in the body.
Beans and oats
Beans are a rich source of fiber that binds with circulating cholesterol and promotes its excretion. Oats are not only a rich source of fiber, they also contain a compound called beta glucan that tends to bring about a reduction of LDL cholesterol in the body. 1 Making beans and oats a regular part of your daily diet is therefore one of the most natural ways to beat cholesterol.
Research shows that flaxseed – or linseed as it is commonly called – is a rich source of fiber that can bind with cholesterol and prevent it from being absorbed by the body. As a result, dietary cholesterol gets excreted and does not deposit on the arterial walls. Besides, linseed also helps to reduce LDL cholesterol and this has a protective effect on heart health. 2
The sulfurous compounds in garlic have an antioxidant effect. They reduce the body levels of LDL cholesterol while simultaneously increasing HDL cholesterol levels. They also help to prevent deposition of cholesterol on the arterial walls, keeping these vessels more elastic to maintain blood pressure within the normal range. 3
Fenugreek seeds contain a lot of fiber and this helps with metabolizing cholesterol. 4 The steroidal saponins present in fenugreek have two major actions that make it good for dealing with high cholesterol. First, they suppress the mechanism involved with cholesterol production in the body; second, they reduce the body’s ability to absorb cholesterol present in the food we eat.
Green tea is rich in antioxidants – especially epigallocatechin gallate – that works well against LDL cholesterol. Consuming about two to three cups of green tea every day can help with cholesterol control.
Belonging to the same family as garlic, onions have a similar cardio-protective and anti-cholesterol effect. Onion contains a flavonoid called quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps to reduce LDL levels while simultaneously increasing HDL levels. 5 Some studies have also found that quercetin has the effect of reducing LDL cholesterol levels in overweight persons who are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
Traditionally, people in South East Asia have been using turmeric to spice up and lend an attractive color to their vegetables and curries. Researchers are now waking up to the fact that the curcumin in this herb plays a major role in lowering the concentrations of LDL cholesterol. 6 In fact, very small concentrations of turmeric powder are quite powerful in their anti-hypercholesteremic effect. Turmeric also helps to reduce the plaque buildup on the arterial walls and this has a protective effect against atherosclerosis.
Consuming these herbs is one of the easy ways in which you can try to beat high cholesterol. However, for best results, it is equally important to pay attention to your daily diet and cut out all the foods that are rich in fat and cholesterol. Losing weight, cutting down on alcohol consumption and quitting smoking also play a major role in reducing cholesterol levels. In other words, if you want to keep your cholesterol levels low, mere use of herbal remedies is not sufficient; you also need to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
1 Othman RA, Moghadasian MH, Jones PJ. Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan. Nutr Rev. 2011 Jun;69(6):299-309. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00401.x. Review. PubMed PMID: 21631511.
2 Kristensen M, Jensen MG, Aarestrup J, Petersen KE, Søndergaard L, Mikkelsen MS, Astrup A. Flaxseed dietary fibers lower cholesterol and increase fecal fat excretion, but magnitude of effect depend on food type. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Feb 3;9:8. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-8. PubMed PMID: 22305169; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3307491.
3 Rahman K, Lowe GM. Garlic and Cardiovascular Disease: A Critical Review. J. Nutrition. March 2006, 136: 3.
4 Sowmya P, Rajyalakshmi P. Hypocholesterolemic effect of germinated fenugreek seeds in human subjects. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1999;53(4):359-65. PubMed PMID: 10540988.
5 Lee KH, Park E, Shin MJ. Effects of daily quercetin-rich supplementation on cardiometabolic risks in male smokers. Nutr Res Pract. Feb 2011; 5(1): 28–33. Doi: 10.4162/nrp.2011.5.1.28. PMCID: PMC3061266
6 Alwi I, Santoso T, Suyono S, Sutrisna B, Suyatna FD, Kresno SB, Ernie S. The effect of curcumin on lipid level in patients with acute coronary syndrome. Acta Med Indones. 2008 Oct;40(4):201-10. PubMed PMID: 19151449.