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Cardiovascular Health

Controlling Cholesterol

Besides drugs such as statins, are there more natural and holistic ways to control cholesterol. In fact, you’d be surprised how similar traditional Chinese medicine is to conventional Western medicine when it comes to cholesterol management

We all know the standard methods to combat high blood cholesterol (or, simply, ‘high cholesterol’): exercise, diet, and — sometimes — drug treatment [see sidebar].


Statins are a class of drugs most often prescribed by doctors to lower cholesterol levels. In fact, it is the most prescribed class of drugs in the world[1]. These drugs work by inhibiting an enzyme that promotes the production of cholesterol in the liver. However, statins can cause a host of side-effects[2], ranging from muscle pains and weakness to gastrointestinal maladies to even diabetes.

One way to reduce reliance on statins is to consume products containing plant sterols and stanols. Because they have a similar molecular structure[3] as cholesterol, they block cholesterol from being absorbed by the bloodstream.

Another way is to consume herbs that contain natural statins. One such product is red yeast rice, which naturally contains monacolin K. Pt 2 of this article offers a list of herbs that can address high cholesterol levels.

But lowering cholesterol in the blood is so much more than just cutting out bad foods from your diet. Understanding total wellness and strengthening various parts of the body to counteract the damaging effects of high cholesterol, and targeting its causes, are much more holistic ways to manage the condition.

Maybe conventional treatments to lower your cholesterol levels have yielded poorer results than anticipated; perhaps you’re looking for a drug-free, all-natural alternative therapy; or you’re seeking a relatively safe modality to complement whatever treatment you’re on — traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is something to consider.

This ancient practice sees all bodily ailments as fundamentally connected, and proposes natural and holistic remedies for them. As such, it’s a good place to start looking for additional solutions to your cholesterol problems.


We get TCM Physician Zhang Rui Fen to weigh in on the topic. She is from Eu Yan Sang, a well-regarded brand that has been providing TCM products and treatments in Asia for more than a century.

Physician Zhang is quick to admit that TCM traditionally doesn’t have terms for “cholesterol” or “high blood cholesterol”. Because healthy bodies produce cholesterol, she says that TCM views cholesterol as part of ying qi, or the flow of nutrients and energy required for the body to function naturally.

So high cholesterol, according to TCM, is a disruptive imbalance in the body caused by various factors, usually diet and lifestyle. The negative effects of high cholesterol occur as imbalances in three main TCM hot-spots: the liver, spleen, and kidney systems.


  • High cholesterol usually occurs when there is imbalance in these three organs:
  • liver
  • spleen
  • kidney

Symptoms of high cholesterol include excessive phlegm, the stagnation of moisture and blood, and deficiency of yin in the liver, all of which lead to problems commonly associated with high cholesterol, such as chest pains and complications with the heart and blood vessels.


  • Excessive phlegm
  • Stagnation of moisture
  • Stagnation of blood
  • Deficiency of yin in the liver


Because high cholesterol is so strongly tied to modern lifestyles, TCM shares many perspectives with Western medicine on those at risk. Physician Zhang encourages regular screening of blood cholesterol levels to keep them in check. Generally, people between 20 and 79 should get it checked every four to six years. Men above 35, and anyone above 20 years with risk factors for heart disease (family history, obesity, smoking), should have their cholesterol level tested more frequently.


  • Age & Sex: The older you get, the higher your cholesterol levels tend to be, particularly post-menopausal women
  • Family History: High cholesterol runs in families, as genetics partly determines how much cholesterol your body makes
  • Diet: This is the biggest factor; a diet rich in saturated fats naturally leads to increased cholesterol levels
  • Weight: Being overweight tends to increase cholesterol levels, on top of putting you at a higher risk of heart attacks


In the next article, we look at specific TCM methods, such as acupuncture, that addresses high cholesterol levels.







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