The 9 Best Herbs for Lowering Cholesterol

Heart health is key for long-term health. Research shows that many other diseases may arise from cardiovascular issues. It’s thought that elevated cholesterol numbers are one of the main causes …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Heart health is key for long-term health.

Research shows that many other diseases may arise from cardiovascular issues. It’s thought that elevated cholesterol numbers are one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease.

Using natural herbs for heart health and healthy cholesterol levels may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

This article summarizes some of the most significant scientific research behind the best herbs for heart health and lowering cholesterol. 

the best 6 herbs for cholesterol and heart health

Overview:

Since 1975, cardiovascular disease has consistently been the second leading cause of death in the US while contributing to 30% of annual deaths worldwide.  

Cardiovascular disease describes a range of conditions that affect the heart, including:

  • Blood vessel-related diseases, such as coronary artery disease
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle)
  • Heart valve disease
  • And elevated cholesterol levels

High levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream, known as hyperlipidemia, are thought to be one of the primary contributing factors to heart disease. Cholesterol buildup in the arteries results in atherosclerotic plaques and clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.

There are various types of cholesterol found in the blood, including:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): LDL cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol,” is a fat that transports cholesterol to the artery walls. It circulates in the bloodstream depositing cholesterol where there is a need for cellular repair. Excess LDL can stick to artery walls and harden causing plaque build-up and blockages. 
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL): HDL is characterized as the “healthy” cholesterol as it is responsible for transporting cholesterol away from arteries and peripheral tissues and to the liver. It plays a role in the distribution of lipids and the prevention of plaque build-up. 
  • Triglycerides: A type of fat that is stored for later energy use in adipose tissue. Triglycerides are created from food that we consume and used by the body for energy in between meals. High levels of triglycerides can lead to obesity, inflammation, and the hardening of arteries.

Cardiovascular disease can be divided into a range of different categories while cholesterol health is dependent on a few different factors. 

The 6 Best Herbs for Heart Health & Cholesterol:

Below are the best research-backed herbs for lowering cholesterol. These heart-supporting herbs have been known to be therapeutic for the cardiovascular system in a number of different ways. 

1. Citrus Bergamot

Research has discovered that citrus bergamot may be one of the best herbs to lower cholesterol quickly.

In a clinical trial involving 237 subjects, researchers found that 500mg or 1,000mg of citrus bergamot per day had a significant impact on total cholesterol biomarkers. Over 3 months, total cholesterol was reduced by 20% (500mg of bergamot) and 30.9% (1,000mg of bergamot). LDL was reduced by 23% (500mg bergamot) and by 38.6% (1,000mg of bergamot), while HDL was increased by 25.9% (500mg of bergamot) and by 39% (1,000mg of bergamot). 

A comparison trial observing 77 participants with elevated LDL and triglycerides found that 500mg of bergamot extract was able to reduce total LDL cholesterol over the course of a month. The results were comparable to the effect that rosuvastatin (a statin drug) had on subjects. Researchers noted that it was safe for both bergamot extract and rosuvastatin to be taken together over the course of 30 days. 

In a small clinical trial,11 subjects were observed while taking a blend of bergamot along with 8 other fruits. Participants took 2 capsules daily (500mg of bergamot fruit extract and 220mg phytochemical complex blend) for 3 months. This protocol resulted in a 7.3% total cholesterol reduction and a 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol. 

Another clinical trial found that bergamot was effective for decreasing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in participants with moderate hypercholesterolemia. Subjects received a 150mg citrus bergamot supplement daily for 6 months containing the flavonoids neoeriocitrin, neohesperidin, and naringin.

In another study that lasted for 30 days, bergamot polyphenol extract and bergamot polyphenol extract phytosomal formulation were both observed to decrease total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. It increased HDL cholesterol as well. There were no changes in the placebo group.

Summary:

Research shows that citrus bergmot is beneficial in improving heart health due to its cholesterol-lowering abilities.

2. Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is a known as a natural statin that helps to reduce cholesterol levels.

Red yeast rice is a product of Monascus purpureus (a yeast) grown on white rice. This powdered yeast-rice mixture is a food staple throughout Asia and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for heart health.

Research indicates that red yeast rice contains monacolin K, a compound that can lower LDL cholesterol levels as well as triglycerides.

A clinical trial found that consuming monacolin K on a regular basis redced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol plasma levels by 15-25% within a 6-8 week period.

A meta-analysis review of 13 placebo-controlled clinical trials (involving 800+ individuals) found that red yeast rice may be an effective and safe approach for dyslipidemia.

Summary:

Clinical research indicates that red yeast rice may help to support healthy cholesterol levels.

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is proven to be one of the top herbs for high cholesterol levels.

In a meta-analysis that looked at 16 studies, researchers discovered that cinnamon is helpful for reducing LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. Researchers noted in a variety of studies that on average LDL cholesterol was reduced by 6mg/dl, total cholesterol was reduced by 13mg/dl, and triglycerides were reduced by 26mg/dl. 

Another meta-analysis found that cinnamon had a significant positive effect on LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. It was also found to impact serum glucose levels, serum insulin, and waist circumference. 

A clinical trial involving healthy adults noted that Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) had a significant impact on cardiovascular biomarkers. Over a 3 month period, participants were administered cinnamon doses that increased at monthly intervals (85mg, 250mg, and 500mg). Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels both decreased while HDL cholesterol levels increased. 

In a placebo-controlled study, cinnamon supplementation was able to improve various heart health biomarkers in those that suffered from diabetes. The cinnamon group saw a significant improvement in fasting serum glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol after 40 days.

Summary:

Several studies demonstrate cinnamon’s ability to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol levels.

4. Sea Moss

Sea moss is one of the best herbs for heart health. It is known to, directly and indirectly, affect the cardiovascular system. 

In a study using an Irish sea moss extract, it was able to provide a significant anticoagulant (blood-thinning) effect. Compared to other algae studied, the sea moss was the most effective. Blood clots are one of the factors that increase the risk of heart disease, specifically heart attacks and strokes.  

A study observing Chondrus crispus extract discovered that the extract inhibited the pro-inflammatory response that may play a role in cardiovascular disease. There was no direct link to cardiovascular health but the relationship between inflammation and heart disease makes these results relevant. 

Research has found that sea moss contains high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids which are known to reduce inflammation and protect the body against cardiovascular disease. 

Another study involving 40 people with heart disease found that carrageenan, the main constituent in sea moss, was able to reduce LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and the atherosclerotic index. Carrageenan also significantly lowered levels of inflammatory markers, specifically C-reactive protein compared to the control group. 

Summary:

Studies show that sea moss may have anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce the possibility of heart disease.

5. Green Tea

Clinical research indicates that green tea may support heart health by effectively reducing various cardiovascular risk factors.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 58 obese participants with hypertension, it was found that 379mg supplementation of green tea extract for a 3 month period was connected with reductions in blood pressure and improvements in cholesterol, triglyceride, inflammation, and antioxidant profiles.

A 12-week double-blind trial involving 240 obese adults were given a treatment of green tea with 583 mg of catechins. The group treated with green tea experienced reductions in cardiovascular risk factors such as systolic blood pressure, body fat, and LDL cholesterol when compared to the placebo group.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 111 healthy adult participants found that green tea capsule supplementation helped reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation when compared to the placebo group.

In a 12-week randomized controlled clinical trial investigating the effect of green tea on obese individuals, it was found that treatment with green tea was able to reduce cholesterol while still supporting weight loss and body fat reduction.

A randomized clinical trial involving 70 female participants with metabolic syndrome found that the group given green tea daily for an 8-week period experienced significant improvements in cardiovascular risk factors including LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, and blood sugar. Study participants also lowered waist circumference, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio when compared to the group treated with a placebo.

In a randomized controlled trial involving 51 healthy subjects given a treatment of green tea catechins, researchers didn’t find a significant difference in cholesterol, blood pressure, or other cardiovascular risk factors. This inconsistency could have been the result of the participants’ being from Japan and already having regularly consumed green tea, making the treatment less effective.

Summary:

Clinical research indicates that green tea may benefit heart health due to its ability to lower cardiovascular risk factors.

6. Garlic

Clinical research and traditional evidence demonstrate that garlic is one of the best herbs for cholesterol.

A study involving patients with mild hypertension discovered that garlic was able to reduce blood pressure levels after 8 weeks of administration. Researchers also found that garlic reduced LDL cholesterol levels. 

Another trial observing participants with hypertension found that garlic powder was effective in reducing blood pressure levels (- 10-12mmHg). Although there was a reduction, researchers mentioned that these levels are not significant as they fall within the known variability for blood pressure measurements. 

In a study involving subjects with elevated cholesterol levels, aged black garlic showed promise for reducing specific biomarkers that may lead to plaque build-up in the arteries. Due to these results, aged black garlic may be helpful for protecting and preventing cardiovascular disease. 

A trial with type 2 diabetic subjects found that 12 weeks of garlic supplementation significantly reduced LDL cholesterol levels. Researchers noted that the garlic supplement was also able to increase levels of HDL cholesterol further reducing the risk of diabetes-related cardiovascular problems.  

Summary:

Garlic may be useful in reducing blood pressure and decreasing elevated cholesterol levels, making it ideal for improving cardiovascular health.

7. Dulse

Dulse is a type of red seaweed that is known to benefit blood pressure and therefore may improve overall cardiovascular health.

An animal study observing rats with hypertension concluded that both the protein hydrolysate and specific tridecapeptide from dulse were able to significantly reduce blood pressure. In both cases, the drop was very large, being over 30mmHg.

In an in vitro study, protein hydrolysate found in dulse was effective in inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme activity. These results show that this protein may be helpful in preventing and controlling hypertension. 

Another in vitro study discovered that certain peptides from dulse extract had the ability to inhibit renin enzyme activity. Inhibiting renin activity results in the relaxation and widening of blood vessels, therefore lowering blood pressure. 

Also, one in vitro study found that certain peptides from dulse extract were able to effectively inhibit renin enzyme activity. Renin inhibition ultimately leads to relaxed and widened blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. 

Summary:

Many studies indicate that dulse can help lower blood pressure and treat hypertension.

8. Bladderwrack  

Bladderwrack is another seaweed superfood that may affect heart health through weight reduction and improved insulin sensitivity. Along with these benefits, researchers have found other effects that may have an impact on heart health. 

An in vitro study found that a compound present in bladderwrack, fucoidan, had powerful anticoagulant and fibrinolytic properties. These results show that bladderwrack may be supportive for preventing blood clots as well as protecting the heart. 

Another in vitro and in vivo study, the first of its kind, found similar anticoagulant effects of fucoidan. Although the above in vitro results were more significant, this analysis shows promise for bladderwrack’s heart-supporting actions. 

In a study evaluating six different types of seaweeds, bladderwrack was named the most effective anticoagulant. 

A trial involving patients with high triglycerides discovered that the administration of bladderwrack led to significant reductions in blood triglycerides. Every patient’s triglyceride levels were reduced to normal after 4 months, while 2 patients experienced normalized LDL and cholesterol levels as well. 

Lastly, a large study (505 subjects) using the combination of bladderwrack and rockweed, Gdue, observed that this supplement was able to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol was increased and researchers noted that there was an estimated 27% risk reduction for cardiovascular events. 

Summary:

Research demonstrates that bladderwrack may work to protect the heart by preventing blood clots and improving cholesterol levels.

9. Milky Oats

Milky oats may benefit heart health by its ability to lower cholesterol and improve blood flow.

One study discovered that the beta-glucans found in oats were responsible for reducing elevated levels of LDL cholesterol. Milky oats contain high levels of beta-glucans, which means that this herb may work to lower high levels of cholesterol.

A clinical trial found that oats with a high beta-glucan content reduced total and LDL cholesterol. The amount of beta-glucans in milky oats is considered to have a similar effect on cholesterol.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 37 overweight adults, it was noted that supplementation with 1,500mg of green oat extract improved blood flow in the heart and brain.

Rosemary Gladstar states that milky oats are a “superior cardiac tonic”. Gladstar also says that milky oats are useful for preventing plaque buildup in the arteries and for regulating cholesterol levels.

Eclectic physicians suggest using milky oats for “cardiac weakness”.

The European Medicines Agency says that milky oats are known to support elevated cholesterol levels and cardiac complications, but additional research is needed in order to verify these effects.

Summary:

Clinical trials show that the beta glucan content in milky oats may improve cardiovascular and cholesterol health. Further research is required to confirm these findings.

Common Symptoms of Heart & Cholesterol Issues:

Heart issues, including cholesterol health, are common diseases that arise frequently globally and can have dire consequences. Around 50% of the general US population over the age of 45 are likely to report symptoms of this disease.   

Some common symptoms of heart and cholesterol issues include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cramping limbs
  • Headaches
  • Blood clots
  • Arterial plaque 

The Development and Effects of Heart & Cholesterol Issues:  

There are various factors that may cause negative effects on heart health, cholesterol health being one of them. Some of these factors include: 

  • Smoking
  • Obesity 
  • Diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Pollution
  • Diabetes
  • Genetics
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol 
  • Low HDL cholesterol 

Unaddressed factors and symptoms that indicate heart issues and high cholesterol can lead to a number of very serious health problems. The following lifestyle choices may support the cardiovascular system and prevent disease:  

  • Physical activity
  • Healthy diet
  • Weight control 
  • Avoid smoking

Due to the ripple-effect nature, there is a high mortality rate related to cardiovascular and cholesterol diseases. 

Modern medical aid and lifestyle changes are influential options that may support the management and therapy of heart and cholesterol issues. Including natural remedies and herbs for daily heart and cholesterol health may help alleviate symptoms. 

Conclusion:

Heart and cholesterol health is both highly important for maintaining a healthy, high-energy lifestyle. 

A variety of natural herbs have been traditionally and clinically proven to reduce the risk of heart and cholesterol disease by relieving symptoms and improving overall cardiovascular health. 

With the introduction of new supplements, it is highly important to consult a medical practitioner before changing your daily routine. 

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.

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