For centuries, Chinese physicians have used herbal medicines. One particular herb that has been used for ailments, including stomach complaints, poor blood flow, diarrhea and other acute and chronic conditions, is red yeast rice.

I am sure that Chinese herbalists did not have the instruments to determine the level of cholesterol in the blood stream. They also were not aware of certain compounds known as monacolins, which have the capacity to inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver. Today, after many scientific investigations, pharmaceutical companies are producing drugs known as statins, which have been found to substantially reduce cholesterol levels and thus reduce coronary artery disease.

These drugs, however, do have some side effects, such as muscular spasms in the lower back as well as a loss of a very important nutrient, co-enzyme Q10, which is necessary for the heart muscle to be efficient. This nutrient must be taken along with statin drugs such as Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor, Pravachol and others.

Drug companies are competing with each other to produce new statin drugs daily as if to say, “Can you top this?” Each of these drugs have the above side effects. Drugs are not the only answer in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. Reducing stress and adequate exercise (30 minutes daily) play a major role in preventing coronary heart disease. Please do not neglect omega-3 fish oils found in oily fish such as cod, salmon, tuna, bluefish and mackerel.

Recent studies have now shown that red yeast rice can reduce certain lipids (fats) in the blood. For example, low density lipoproteins, high density lipoproteins, triglycerides and total cholesterol are lowered when this herb is taken daily.

There are thousands of herbs that are being used today for medicinal purposes that can also have adverse side effects and should be taken only under medical supervision from a physician trained in herbal medicines. This field is called complementary medicine and is finally being taught to medical students during their training.

Red yeast rice is nice to your blood vessels and to your circulation by preventing the buildup of cholesterol or fats in the blood vessels, therefore preventing early coronary artery disease. Please don’t forget to avoid foods high in cholesterol.