What treatments for cholesterol problems are there in alternative medicine?

Red yeast rice
Red yeast rice is made by fermenting rice with red yeast (Monascus purpureus). It has been used in China for centuries as both a medicine and cooking ingredient. It can be bought in drugs stores in capsule form.

In medicine, red yeast rice is primarily used to lower cholesterol. The beneficial components of red yeast rice are monacolins. These chemicals interfere with cholesterol formation. One of these monacolins, monacolin K, has the same structure as the cholesterol medication lovastatin. Your doctor may prescribe you lovastatin or other statin drugs to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Because red yeast rice naturally contains the same components of some prescription medications, there has been debate about whether it should be classified as a drug and banned from over-the-counter sales. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that any red yeast rice products containing more than trace amounts of monacolin K cannot be legally sold as dietary supplements. Despite this FDA regulation, some red yeast rice products currently on the market in the United States may contain more than trace amounts of monacolin K. The labels on red yeast rice products usually do not state the amount of monacolin K present. Consumers thus have no way of knowing whether a particular product is safe, effective, or legal.

Niacin is a B vitamin that is also known as nicotinic acid. Your body uses niacin to turn food into energy. Your body also uses niacin to keep your nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair, and eyes healthy. Most people consume enough niacin in their daily diets, but it’s also included in many multivitamins.

Niacin has also been found to help raise your levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Niacin may increase HDL by more than 30 percent. HDL is considered good because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. Consistently removing cholesterol from your arteries helps keep them from becoming blocked. Keeping your arteries clear greatly reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Several good natural sources of niacin include tuna, chicken, cereals, legumes, and seeds. For niacin to benefit your cholesterol levels, you must take it in higher doses that can be prescribed by your doctor. You can also buy niacin as an over-the-counter supplement. Because over-the-counter supplements are not regulated like prescription medications, the ingredients and effects can vary widely. It is important to consider that taking niacin in high doses increases your risk for harmful side effects. Possible side effects include:

liver damage