Statin drugs, such as atorvastatin, cerivastatin, fluvastatin, and lovastatin, are commonly used to treat high blood lipid levels. Although many of the side effects of statins are well-tolerated, statins can cause inflammation of the muscles that can lead to muscle injury and rhabdomyolysis -- a serious condition that can cause renal failure.
Red yeast rice has been studied to determine if patients who are intolerant to statins can get the same lipid-lowering benefits from this herbal supplement as they would get from statin drugs. In a recent study by Becker, et al. the authors suggest that red yeast rice may significantly reduce LDL levels and may be a suitable alternative for statin-intolerant patients. In order to achieve these results it is important to take red yeast rice from reputable manufacturers.
St. John's Wort is used to control symptoms of depression with the same effectiveness as prescription antidepressants, but with far fewer side effects. Ginkgo Biloba is touted for its ability to increase memory, although it doesn't ward off dementia or Alzheimers Disease. Watch for bleeding, especially if your patient takes anticoagulants or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Acai berry has been touted as a dietary aid that does everything from increasing energy to weight loss to cholesterol control, however to date there are no randomized, controlled studies confirming any of these claims.
Please remember that research on the effectiveness of herbs used medical-grade herbal preparations. Most of our patients are not taking medical-grade preparations, but instead something that they got from the grocery store. Therefore, individual results will vary from one person to another based on the specific preparation of the herbal that the person used.
From: Becker, D.J., et al. (2009). Red yeast rice for dyslipidemia in statin-intolerant patients: A randomized trial. Ann Intern Med, 150: 830.