Herbs & Natural Remedies:
Garlic, psyllium (Plantago spp.), soy, oat bran, niacin and pantothenic acid.
Garlic: capsules or in food. Psyllium: powdered seed (Metamucil, Fiberall). Soy: tofu and other soy foods. Oat bran: as a cereal or in food. Niacin: tablets. Pantothenic acid: tablets.
How it Works:
Garlic, niacin and panthothenic acid reduce cholesterol biochemically. Recent studies show that a few garlic cloves a day cut cholesterol by about 10 percent. Psyllium, soy and oat bran all contain soluble plant fiber, which speeds elimination of cholesterol. In a University of Kentucky study, a lowfat diet plus psyllium reduced cholesterol significantly more than the diet alone. Another report showed that 2 ounces of soy protein daily significantly reduces cholesterol. A University of Minnesota study shows that in people with high cholesterol, a big bowl of oatmeal a day can reduce it significantly. In a twenty-six-week University of Oregon test of niacin versus a highly touted drug (lovastatin), both treatments produced very similar results. In an Italian study, pantothenic acid significantly improved cholesterol profiles in eight weeks.
Garlic: 1 to 3 raw cloves a day, chewed. Psyllium: 5 g (about a tablespoon of Metamucil) twice daily. Soy: a few servings of tofu or soy protein a week. Oat bran: one bowl a day. Niacin: 250 to 1,500 mg per day. Pantothenic acid: 300 mg three times daily.
Garlic has anticoagulant action. Use it cautiously if taking other anticoagulants including ginkgo, willow bark, aspirin and vitamin E. Take psyllium with lots of water to prevent intestinal obstruction. At cholesterol-lowering doses, niacin can cause flushing similar to the hot flashes of menopause. Only take niacin under a doctor’s supervision.
Cholesterol can also be reduced by regular exercise, eating less saturated (animal) fat, eating more plant foods, salmon, and other cold-water fish, and drinking one alcoholic drink per day (but no more).
San Francisco health writer Michael Castleman is the author of 11 consumer health books. Visit www.mcastleman.com .