High Cholesterol Alternative Treatments

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 30, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on October 30, 2014

High Cholesterol Alternative Treatments

Some people choose to treat their high cholesterol with supplements and herbs instead of more traditional medications. Opinions are mixed as to the effectiveness of such treatments. While some evidence exists to support the effectiveness of these treatments, scientific research is minimal.

You should always consult with your doctor before trying any alternative treatments or supplements. Some herbs can interact with other medications and cause potentially dangerous side effects.

Plant Sterols and Stanols (Phytosterols)

Some foods, such as margarine and orange juice, are fortified with plant sterols. Plant sterols are a group of substances called phytochemicals that occur naturally within plants and some foods including:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • legumes
  • fruits
  • vegetables

The substances are believed to reduce cholesterol. A study in The American Journal of Cardiology showed that getting 2 to 2.5 grams of sterols a day could lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by 10 to 14 percent in some people.

Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is known to lower LDL and triglycerides (blood lipids or fatty acids) in the blood. The beneficial components of red yeast rice are monacolins. These chemicals interfere with cholesterol formation. In fact, a type of monacolin called lovastatin is the active ingredient in some cholesterol drugs. This has caused some debate about whether red yeast rice should be classified as a drug and banned from over-the-counter sales.


According to the Mayo Clinic, niacin may increase levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL). One of the B vitamins, niacin is available in multivitamins, meats, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Niacin must be taken at high doses to benefit cholesterol levels. However, taking niacin in high doses increases the risk for harmful side effects, including liver problems and ulcers. Because of potential side effects, you should discuss the use of niacin with your doctor.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as fish oil, may slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries. When taken at high doses, fish oil can also lower elevated triglycerides. However, large doses of fish oil can increase bleeding risks for some people and should not be taken with any blood-thinning medications. Talk with your doctor before taking fish oil supplements, especially if you are taking any other medications. Your doctor can help you with supplement dosage or a prescription-strength fish oil.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Show Sources

Trending Now

Famous Athletes with Asthma
Famous Athletes with Asthma
Asthma shouldn’t be a barrier to staying active and fit. Learn about famous athletes who didn’t let asthma stop them from achieving their goals.
Beyond Back Pain: 5 Warning Signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Beyond Back Pain: 5 Warning Signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis
There are a number of potential causes of back pain, but one you might not know about is ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Find out five warning signs of AS in this slideshow.
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
The symptoms of RA are more than just joint pain and stiffness. Common symptoms include loss of feeling, muscle pain, and more. Learn more in this slideshow.