Red Yeast Rice
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Botanical:  Monascus purpureus - (also known as Monascus rubus)
Family:   Monascaceae - Mucorales  (mostly saprophytic fungi)
Other common names:   Chinese Red Yeast Rice, Red Rice, Fermented Rice, Red Yeast, Anka, Ankak, Hung-Chu, Hongu, Red Koji, Red Leaven

The use of Red Yeast Rice as a treatment for colic, diarrhea, digestive disorders and poor circulation may be traced back to the Tang Dynasty in China; and throughout Asia, it is an important traditional food.  More importantly, however, is its recent introduction in Western society as a supplement that may significantly reduce serum cholesterol and lower triglycerides in the blood.

The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Red Yeast Rice is the product of fermentation of rice with various strains of the yeast (Monascus purpureus), and it has been utilized for centuries in China and throughout Asia as both a food and herbal medicine.  The traditional method of making Red Yeast Rice is to ferment the yeast naturally on a bed of cooked, non-glutinous, whole rice kernels.  The brick-red yeast that grows on rice yields a family of ten different statin compounds, lovastatin among them.  It was apparently first noted as a medicine during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-917) and employed for treating indigestion, diarrhea, congestion of the spleen and for improving blood circulation, among other applications.  Red Yeast Rice was introduced to Taiwan by winemakers in Fukien, China, about a century ago and became popular in the preparation of foods, including fish, meat, rice wine (fu chiu), red soybean curd and pickled vegetables.  It was (and still is) employed as a coloring agent and is also said to add flavor to foods and wines.  The fungus, Monascus, which has been isolated from Red Yeast Rice, was introduced into Western society by Dutch scientists who noted its beneficial effects on the people of Java in 1884.  It was introduced into the United States during the latter half of the 1990s as a cholesterol lowering herb and dietary supplement for the promotion of healthy serum lipid levels.  The botanical specifics, purpureus and rubus, are a recognition of the herb's purple or moderate rose/red coloration.  Some of the consitituents in Red Yeast Rice include starch, protein, fiber, fatty acids (oleic, linoleic, linolenic, palmitic, stearic), phytosterols (beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol), isoflavones, polyketides (monacolins), calcium, aluminium, iron, manganese, magnesium, copper, silver and natural pigments. The major active constituent, monacolin K, which is said to be the same as lovastatin.

Beneficial Uses:
Red Yeast Rice may significantly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.  The major active constituent, monacolin K, is said toact in the same manner as lovastatin, an active ingredient in prescription cholesterol-lowering drug, and a number of clinical trials have demonstrated effectiveness in using Red Yeast Rice preparations for helping to reduce cholesterol levels in hyperlipidemic patients.  In one clinical trial, including 502 patients with hyperlipidemia, there was a 17% reduction of total cholesterol in the treated group.  Low-density lipoproteins (LDL or "bad cholesterol") were reduced an average of 24.6%, and serum triglyceride levels fell an average of 19.8%.  High-density lipoproteins (HDL or "good cholesterol") rose by 12.8% in the treatment group.  In another, well-designed controlled human study at UCLA, Red Yeast Rice was very effective for lowering cholesterol and with a low incidence of the side effects that are sometimes associated with prescription statin drugs (that can disturb liver and muscle function).  The monacolin content in Red Yeast Rice is believed to account for the majority of the cholesterol-lowering activity of the yeast.  Monacolins include the hydroxymethyglutaryl coenzyme-A, the enzyme involved in cholesterol biosynthesis. The mechanism of hypolipidemic activity is not entirely clear, but the presence of monacolin I (lovastatin mevinolin) and its corresponding beta-hydroxy acid appear to be responsible for the lipid lowering activity.  There are claims that the hypolipidemic effects of Red Yeast Rice have been found to be greater than those obtained from equivalent doses of the pharmaceutical form of lovastatin. 

Pregnant and nursing women should avoid Red Yeast Rice Herbal Supplement, and those with active liver disease or who take prescription bloodthinners, hyperlipidemia drugs, prescription statins, antifungals, antibiotics and/or protease inhibitors, should consult with a health care provider before using Red Yeast Rice as an herb to lower cholesterol.  Side effects of Red Yeast Rice are rare but can include: headache, stomachache or bloating, gas, dizziness, heartburn; and taking Red Yeast Rice and Cyclosporine may result in muscle aches and weakness.  People taking prescription statins should not take Red Yeast Rice at the same time.  Since statins inhibit synthesis of CoQ10, consult your doctor about increasing levels of this vital compound to enhance muscle metabolism, including that of the heart muscle.

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