Red yeast rice has served as both a source of nutrition and medicine in China for thousands of years. It contains chemical components similar to statins – a commonly prescribed class of medications used to treat elevated cholesterol levels. Because of this similarity, it has demonstrated essentially equal effectiveness in lowering cholesterol levels. Some dosage guidelines have been established based on clinical trials, but you should not use this supplement without the supervision of your physician. Just as with drugs, herbal remedies can carry the risk of negative effects, particularly a supplement like this one, with similar ingredients and potency as a prescription treatment.
Clinical studies looking at the effects of red yeast rice on cholesterol have typically used a dosage of 600 mg two to four times daily, for a maximum dosage of 2.4 g. However, the supplement used in most clinical trials was taken off the market due to its similarity to prescription statins. Natural supplements do not need to comply with the same strict regulations as prescription drugs. This means that a supplement might not contain the stated amount of the active components. In some cases, it might have less, making it less effective, or it might have more, making it potentially dangerous. The actual amount of the cholesterol-lowering agent in red yeast rice products could vary considerably. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist for guidance on finding a quality product.
Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation
Statin drugs can lower your body’s levels of coenzymeQ10, a nutrient vital to heart and muscle health. This potential deficiency could increase certain side effects of statin drugs, like muscle pain, and put heart health at risk. Because of the similarity between the drugs and the herb, red yeast rice might pose the same problem. Many products contain coenzymeQ10 to compensate for this negative effect.
According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, clinical trials have not found any significant side effects associated with red yeast rice. Since it contains similar agents as prescription statins, you could potentially suffer similar adverse effects, with some being quite significant. They include muscle pain and weakness, stomachache, heartburn, joint pain, liver inflammation, dizziness, peripheral nerve damage and breakdown of muscle tissue that triggers the release of muscle fibers into the bloodstream, leading to kidney failure .
Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have any sort of condition that affects your liver or kidneys, always clear the use of any supplement with your doctor, as these organs, especially when operating in an impaired state, have a particular sensitivity to the drugs and herbs you consume. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center notes a case report of a woman suffering severe hepatitis after supplementing with the herb for four months. It also reports an analysis of several red yeast rice products found that contained high amounts of the toxin citrinin.