High cholesterol is one of the leading risk factors for atherosclerosis, the hardening of your coronary arteries caused by plaque buildup. This condition may lead to restricted blood flow, heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke (1).

Over 95 million Americans have elevated cholesterol — or levels over 200 mg/dL. Many factors, including genetics, diet, smoking, and body weight, affect these levels (2).

Although many people rely on cholesterol medications like statins, you may also be interested in alternative treatments, such as Ayurvedic medicine.

Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems. It uses diet, behavioral modifications, supplements, and detoxification remedies to promote optimal health and prevent disease. Yet, scientific studies often question its safety and effectiveness (1).

This article explains whether Ayurvedic medicine helps lower cholesterol levels.

Modern treatments for high cholesterol include lifestyle modifications and cholesterol-lowering medications like statins.

In comparison, Ayurvedic treatments for high cholesterol consist of dietary restriction, massage, yoga, breathing techniques, behavioral modifications, exercise, cleansing, heat therapy, enemas, and herbal supplements (1, 3).

Ayurvedic practitioners usually create a treatment plan based on your individual needs.

Studies show that certain Ayurvedic practices like dietary modifications, supplements, and stress reduction reduce cholesterol levels and boost other aspects of health.

Ayurvedic supplements used to treat high cholesterol

Ayurvedic medicine uses medicinal herbs to treat high cholesterol. The herbs most commonly used are garlic, guggul (Commiphora mukul), and arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) (1).

These herbs can be used alone but are commonly added to concoctions that contain turmeric, ginger, shilajit, licorice, Pushkarmool (Inula racemosa), Cyperus rotundus, Tribulus terrestris, punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Nigella sativa, garcinia, triphala, and other ingredients (1).

These ingredients are often combined to create Ayurvedic medications like Mustadi Ghanavti, a mixture that contains Cyperus rotundus, turmeric, Tribulus terrestris, and other Ayurvedic substances (4).

Ayurvedic medicines come in different forms, such as juices, powders, tablets, extracts, and concentrated herbal preparations called decoctions (1).

Summary

Ayurvedic treatments for high cholesterol include dietary restriction, fasting, massage, heat therapy, and herbal medicine.

Research suggests that certain Ayurvedic medicine approaches may be useful for reducing cholesterol levels.

Diet and lifestyle

Ayurvedic practices for reducing cholesterol include certain dietary modifications, such as a lower fat and calorie intake (5).

What’s more, Ayurvedic dietary patterns promote whole, unprocessed foods — with a particular focus on plant foods — and restrict your intake of processed foods (6, 7).

Cutting excess calories and swapping processed foods for nourishing foods like those promoted on Ayurvedic diets are effective ways to lower cholesterol levels (5, 8, 9).

Research has also shown that stress reduction, exercise, mindfulness techniques, and other Ayurvedic treatments like yoga, breathing exercises, and heat therapy may help reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (10, 11, 12).

Ayurvedic herbal remedies for cholesterol

Research suggests that common herbs and herbal mixtures used in Ayurvedic medicine may help reduce cholesterol levels.

In a study in 87 people with high cholesterol, taking 5 grams of arjuna powder twice daily for 3 weeks, followed by 500 mg of arogyavardhini vati twice daily for 4 weeks, significantly reduced total and LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol (13).

Arjuna powder is made from the bark of the Terminalia arjuna tree native to India, while arogyavardhini vati is a combination of herbs and other substances, including (13):

  • Terminalia chebula (haritaki)
  • Commiphora wightii (guggul)
  • Emblica officinalis (amalaki)
  • shilajit (silajatu-suddha)
  • Terminalia bellerica (Bibhitaki)

Triphala is another popular Ayurvedic multi-herb formulation containing Indian gooseberry, Terminalia bellerica (Bibhitaka), and Terminalia chebula (haritaki). While animal studies indicate that it may treat high cholesterol, human studies are needed (14).

Still, human studies have examined Mustadi Ghanavti, an herbal mixture containing Ayurvedic ingredients like turmeric and Indian barberry.

Notably, in a 30-day study in 50 people with high cholesterol, taking 3 grams daily of Mustadi Ghanavti not only decreased total cholesterol by 22.4% and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 18.2% but also increased HDL (good) cholesterol by 5.6%, compared with a placebo group (4).

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is another Ayurvedic herb that may have cholesterol-reducing properties. A 30-day study in 18 people found that taking varying doses of up to 1 gram per day led to significant reductions in total cholesterol, compared with their baseline (15).

While the exact mechanisms aren’t clear, Ayurvedic herbs may provide plant compounds that have cholesterol-lowering properties, such as promoting cholesterol breakdown in the body (1).

Although these results are promising, larger high quality studies are needed.

Summary

Ayurvedic treatments like dietary modification and certain herbal supplements may reduce cholesterol levels. All the same, further research is necessary.

Although some methods used in Ayurvedic medicine aren’t associated with adverse effects, herbal supplements come with risks.

For example, some of the studies investigating Ayurvedic herbs for cholesterol noted side effects like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, hallucinations, weakness, skin rashes, and headaches (1, 4, 15).

Plus, many herbs may interfere with commonly prescribed medications, such as blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and antibiotics (16, 17, 18, 19, 20).

To ensure safety, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider before taking any Ayurvedic herbal remedies, especially if you’re on medications.

Furthermore, keep in mind that Ayurveda’s dietary suggestions may be confusing and overly restrictive, particularly if you’re only trying to lower your cholesterol levels.

Summary

Although many Ayurvedic practices are safe, herbal supplements may lead to adverse side effects. Plus, some of the dietary modifications may be unnecessary for those trying to reduce their cholesterol levels.

Although some Ayurvedic treatments may help lower cholesterol, other evidence-based ways to reduce this blood marker may be more effective.

Here are a few effective methods for reducing cholesterol:

  • Increase your fiber intake. Studies show that boosting fiber intake is one of the best ways to reduce cholesterol. Soluble fibers, such as those found in beans, fruit, flax, and oats, may be the most effective (21).
  • Lose excess body fat. Shedding excess body fat may lower your cholesterol. Weight loss of just 5–10% may result in significant reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol (22).
  • Eat more plant foods. Upping your vegetable and fruit intake may help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease (23, 24).
  • Increase your activity levels. Exercise may reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as increase HDL (good) cholesterol (25, 26).
  • Try the Mediterranean diet. This eating pattern is strongly associated with improved heart health, reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, and higher HDL (good) cholesterol. The diet is rich in olive oil, seafood, vegetables, nuts, and beans (27, 28).
  • Cut out processed foods and added sugar. Frequent intake of processed foods and added sugar is linked to a greater risk of heart disease and related risk factors like high LDL (bad) cholesterol (29).

Quitting smoking and taking certain supplements, such as curcumin and omega-3 fats, may also help reduce your cholesterol levels (30, 31, 32).

It’s important to note that cholesterol levels depend on factors other than diet, activity levels, and body weight. For example, inherited genetic variations may make it more difficult for you to keep your cholesterol at target levels, even if you lead a healthy lifestyle (33).

Talk to your healthcare provider if you need advice on how to safely lower your cholesterol levels.

Summary

Improving your diet quality, getting more exercise, losing excess body weight, and quitting smoking are just some ways to reduce your cholesterol levels if you’re unwilling or unable to take Ayurvedic herbs.

Research suggests that certain Ayurvedic treatments, including dietary modifications and herbal supplements, may reduce cholesterol levels.

However, Ayurvedic herbs aren’t safe for everyone and may carry side effects.

If you want to try Ayurvedic medicine, be sure to work with a reputable Ayurvedic specialist. What’s more, consult your healthcare provider before adding any herbal formulas to your routine.

Remember that other evidence-based strategies may reduce your cholesterol levels. These include physical activity and increasing your fiber intake.