Herbs for Health: Reducing Cholesterol, Improving Circulation and Preventing Skin Damage

Try these herbs as a natural remedy for your health ailments.

| April/May 1995

  • Garlic
  • Psyllium
  • Fenugreek
  • Garlic
  • Ginkgo, a popular ornamental tree
  • Aloe vera

People who are actively concerned about their health have been making lifestyle changes, including decreasing or eliminating their consumption of cholesterol-rich foods, but information about nutritional factors that affect cholesterol levels is obscure to many. Understanding the role of cholesterol in fat assimilation is the key to understanding recent research.

Physiological roles of ­cholesterol

Cholesterol, a steroid alcohol, is synthesized in most body tissues and is an important structural element of all cell membranes. It emulsifies fats, thereby enabling their digestion and assimilation.

Cholesterol is a major component of bile, a fluid secreted by the liver that emulsifies crude fats in the small intestine so that they can be broken down into fatty acids, glycerol, and triglycerides (all known as lipids) to be absorbed into the bloodstream. The blood that drains the small intestine passes through the liver, where cholesterol forms water-soluble complexes called lipoproteins, with the lipids and proteins in the blood.

Tests of total serum cholesterol (TSC) are conducted after a fast of at least twelve hours. As the fast progresses, lipids are absorbed from the blood, and the proportion of cholesterol and protein in the lipoproteins being formed in the liver becomes increasingly great. What begins as predominantly very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) gives way first to low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and eventually to high-density lipoproteins (HDL). In a TSC test, a predominance of HDL in the blood indicates relatively efficient fat metabolism whereas a large proportion of LDL, VLDL, or free triglycerides indicates inefficient fat metabolism.

Herbs that improve lipid profiles

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Five studies of patients with high TSC levels (more than 200 mg/dL) showed that eating about half a clove of garlic per day can decrease TSC levels by about 9% (1).

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