Q: My last blood test revealed elevated cholesterol levels. I eat well, but high cholesterol runs in my family. Will any herbs help me lower it?
A: Numerous herbs can reduce cholesterol, but I feel it’s important to consider the larger health picture first. A holistic perspective, including that of Chinese medicine, doesn’t treat cholesterol issues as separate from the rest of the individual. Many imbalances may, in combination, produce elevated cholesterol. Treating these with acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet, exercise, and stress reduction can often help your lower cholesterol by improving overall health. High cholesterol does often run in families, but so do bad eating habits and other emotional and behavioral patterns. Luckily, you can always do something to improve your health–and reduce your cholesterol levels–before you run into your genetic limits.
In my experience, people are often misinformed about what it means to eat well. In addition, they’re sometimes driven by a concept of moderation that prevents them from making meaningful changes for the long run. Dairy foods and alcohol are two common examples of this. Forget about low-fat dairy products-avoid dairy completely until your cholesterol is under control. You can get your calcium from other sources, such as tofu and green leafy vegetables. Moderate alcohol consumption can benefit the circulation, but its tendency to create heat and dampness in the liver make it exactly the wrong substance for people who have high cholesterol and who, therefore, suffer from these imbalances already.
Instead, focus on eating foods that have a positive effect on cholesterol. These include large, flat green leafy vegetables, beans, and whole grains (I mean actual whole grains, such as brown rice, barley, and millet as opposed to processed flour products like bread and pasta). These foods are glaringly absent from most people’s diet, despite the fact that they will have the greatest impact on cholesterol levels.
Keeping your cholesterol levels low is important, but how you get them there is just as important. Artificially manipulated numbers do not constitute health. And that brings us back to herbs that lower cholesterol. It’s important to use them as part of a comprehensive treatment program. My favorite is hawthorn berries. A tablespoon steeped in hot water or green tea tastes delicious, improves digestion, promotes circulation, and, yes, lowers cholesterol.
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By Robert Keller, Natural Solutions magazine