Since the first approach to reducing cholesterol levels is a change in diet and lifestyle, it makes sense to look around your own kitchen for herbal remedies or basic food and drink that can help in an overall program of lowering cholesterol. Let’s start with the simplest possible thing you can do at the lowest imaginable cost: drink more water. Our bodies are comprised of roughly 78% water, so we need to keep replenishing that as we use it up. We express water when we sweat or urinate, or just by existing!
Water is good for you. It’s also essential to life. To your life. In regards to cholesterol, sufficient intake of water eliminates the risk of dehydration, which is one trigger for excessive cholesterol in your blood. In most western nations, water from the tap is virtually free and plentiful, and clinical dehydration is non-existent, but many people simply do not drink enough of it. Do you know that for every cup of coffee or tea that you drink, you should also consume one 8-ounce glass of water? Why? Because caffeinated beverages (and that includes cola-based soda pop and hot chocolate) are diuretics, passing water through and out of your body quickly. You need to replace that fluid loss as soon as possible. So drink lots of water, stay thoroughly hydrated, and ensure your cholesterol levels are protected.
Plant-based Herbal Remedies to Benefit Cholesterol Levels
There are dozens of nature’s plants that have properties to assist in reducing cholesterol levels. Some are regarded as herbs, others are vegetables or even spices! Here is a selection of cholesterol-lowering plant-based helpers:
- Onion Juice. This pungent liquid reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also works to clear the digestive tract, reduces the risk of certain cancers, and may even help you sleep better. Because of the slightly acrid taste, you might wish to add a teaspoon of honey to make it palatable. Onions grow wild and cultivated, and are available in many varieties at the supermarket and farm markets, pretty much year round. The medicinal part is the bulb. How do you get the juice out of an onion? Remove the outer layer of skin and cut the onion into small pieces, then place them in a sturdy metal sieve or colander, set over a bowl to catch the juice, and press with your fist or the outer side of a soup ladle. Use the juice promptly or fermentation may set in.
Here’s a tip: Do you ever suffer from stomach gas? Half a small onion, diced into small pieces and eaten with a piece of plain bread relieves gas pains and heartburn. Onions are very versatile!
- Garlic. Like onion, garlic is part of the allium family of vegetables, and its bulb offers medicinal properties. It helps by lowering LDL cholesterol and also increasing HDL cholesterol; it even assists with lowering blood pressure, another plus! Garlic’s beneficial properties act to prevent arterial plaque accumulation by stopping the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. One clove of garlic may be able to lower cholesterol levels by as much as 15%; if you don’t like the taste, you can buy garlic in pill form. A tincture of garlic helps to reduce blood pressure, and counter the effects of arteriosclerosis. And it stimulates proper blood circulation. How do you make a tincture of garlic? It’s probably just as easy to eat fresh garlic, lightly sautéed, in your favorite dish, or even raw, but if you decide on a tincture, here’s how to make it, according to The Herb Book by John B. Lust (doctor of naturopathy): “Let 1/2 pound peeled cloves soak in 1 quart brandy for 14 days at a temperature of 85°F in a bottle with an airtight seal. Shake several times a day. Strain when the time is up to get a tincture which will keep for about a year. Take 5 to 25 drops several times a day, as needed.”
Here’s a tip: garlic oil is like concentrated form of the garlic itself and if you chop garlic, the beneficial oil remains in the flesh of the bulb, but if you use a garlic press, the oil oozes out ready to use.
- Green Tea. This hugely popular beverage in the Far East is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, but it does (contrary to popular belief) contain caffeine, and people are often surprised by its stimulant and diuretic effects. Green tea has shown to have general benefits for heart health rather than specific attributes that prove the lowering of cholesterol levels. As long as you consume green tea in moderation, it may well contribute to better total cholesterol levels.
- Cayenne Pepper. Cayenne is a red-toned pepper used widely in cooking to add zing and color to dishes, but it is also useful in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. The medicinal part of the plant is the fruit, or the peppercorns. Use it liberally (to taste, of course!) in soups, stews, and as a condiment. If you opt to use it in a more pure or concentrated form, then make an infusion by adding 3/4 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to one cup of boiling water. Take it one tablespoon at a time, sipping it while it’s warm. The taste may be unpleasant to most palates.
- Artichokes. Long used to prevent arteriosclerosis, it’s the delicious flower top of the plant, the part we eat as a vegetable, that boasts the cholesterol-lowering elements. Artichokes are a bit of a nuisance to prepare from fresh, but they are delicious, healthy and worth it! If you prefer, they are available packed in oil as part of a classic antipasto.
- Chervil. Popular in Europe as a means of lowering blood pressure, this common herb is also known to reduce cholesterol levels. Buy fresh or dry chervil at the supermarket or health food store, and make an infusion by steeping one teaspoon of leaves per 1/2 cup of water. Drink 1/2 to 1 cup per day with no added sweeteners.
Other herbs that have been used over the centuries to improve cholesterol levels include: arnica, watercress, olives, nutmeg, hawthorn and black currant. All of these are fairly easy to incorporate into your daily diet. Important to remember is that none of these herbal remedies offers a miraculous drop in cholesterol levels and they really only work as part of a combined effort to reduce cholesterol. A low-fat, high-soluble-fiber diet is essential, together with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle that does not include smoking.