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Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Red yeast is the product of rice fermented with Monascus purpureus yeast. People use red yeast as medicine.

Red yeast is taken by mouth to maintain desirable cholesterol levels in healthy people, reduce cholesterol in people with high cholesterol, for indigestion, diarrhea, to improve blood circulation, and for spleen and stomach health. It is also taken by mouth for heart disease, abnormal levels of cholesterol or blood fats in patients with HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and liver disease not associated with alcohol use.

In foods, red yeast is used as a food coloring for Peking duck.

The active ingredient in red yeast is the same as the active ingredient in prescription drugs called statins. Statins are used for high cholesterol. That's why red yeast has all the possible side effects, drug interactions, and precautions associated with this type of drug. The American Heart Association warns against using red yeast until the results of long-term studies are in. You should talk with your healthcare provider if you plan to take red yeast.

You may have come across a red yeast product called Cholestin, manufactured by Pharmanex. It was one of the most widely studied red yeast products. Originally, Cholestin contained the same active ingredient found in statin drugs. This caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to call Cholestin an unapproved drug. Cholestin was reformulated so that its active ingredient is now something else.

How does it work?

Red yeast supplements are manufactured by culturing Monascus purpureus yeast on rice at carefully controlled temperature and growing conditions to increase the concentrations of chemicals that lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides. These chemicals are similar to the prescription drugs known as "statins," including lovastatin (Mevacor) and others.

Traditionally used for

High cholesterol.
Heart disease.
High cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with HIV/AIDS.
Liver disease not caused by alcohol use.
Improving blood circulation.
Spleen and stomach problems.


By Mouth:

High cholesterol: 1200 mg to 2400 mg of red yeast once or twice daily for up to 24 weeks. Only products containing chemicals similar to the prescription "statin" cholesterol drugs have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Many of these products provide approximately 5-10 mg of the statin drug called lovastatin. These products have included Cholestin (non-US, Pharmanex), Xuezhikang (Beijing WBL Peking University Biotech Co.), HypoCol (AsiaPharm Biotech), Zhibituo, and Red Yeast Rice (Sylvan Bioproducts).

High cholesterol related to HIV infection: 1200 mg of a specific red yeast formulation (Cholestin, Pharmanex LLC, Provo, Utah) twice daily for 8 weeks.

Heart disease: A specific product (Xuezhikang, Beijing Peking University WBL Biotech Co., Ltd.) containing 1200 mg of red yeast extract daily for about 4.5 years.

Possible Side Effects

Red yeast is SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for up to 4.5 years.

Red yeast contains chemicals similar to the prescription drugs called "statins." Therefore, red yeast might also cause side effects similar to statin drugs, such as liver damage and severe muscle pain and muscle damage.

There is also concern about product quality. Many red yeast rice products have been found to contain varying amounts of the statin-like chemicals. Some products may contain none and others may contain high amounts, which are more likely to cause serious side effects.

Serious allergic reactions can occur after breathing in red yeast.

Red yeast that is not fermented correctly may contain citrinin. Citrinin is a poison that may cause kidney damage.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Red yeast is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. It has caused birth defects in animals. Not enough is known about the safety of using red yeast during breast-feeding. Don't use during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

Liver problems: Red yeast contains chemicals that are the same as the statin drug lovastatin. Lovastatin can cause liver damage. Some research shows that red yeast might also cause liver damage. However, other research shows that red yeast might improve liver function in people with certain liver problems. Because of the mixed results, red yeast products should be used cautiously or avoided in people with liver problems.

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