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Mental Health Red Yeast Rice - Information and benefits

Mental Health > supplements-vitamins : Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice

Other Names
Cholestin®, red yeast rice extract


Red yeast rice extract is made by fermenting rice with a strain of yeast called Monascus purpureus. In China it has been used for centuries to make red rice wine and to preserve food. It was also been used medicinally for circulation problems. Red yeast rice was first imported to the United States in 1997 and is used to lower serum cholesterol. It contains nine chemical compounds called coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors.

One of compounds is lovastatin, the same chemical that is in the lipid lowering prescription drug, Mevacor. When HMG-CoA reductase is inhibited, the production of cholesterol by the liver is decreased. Serum cholesterol levels are lowered. In combination with a low fat diet and an exercise program, red yeast extract has reduced serum cholesterol levels by 25 - 40 points. Side effects and toxicity have not been reported to date with red yeast extract. However, the side effects of lovastatin which include muscle weakness, pain and tenderness, should be monitored for.

Red yeast extract should be avoided in those with liver disease. It should not be mixed with other lipid lowering agents. It should also be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. As with other HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors or "statins," the level of coenzyme Q10 may be decreased when taking red yeast rice. It is therefore important to supplement with coenzyme Q10 50 - 100 mg daily. The recommended dose of red yeast extract is 600 mg twice a day, taken with food. Antioxidants, including vitamin C 1000 mg per day and vitamin E 400-800 IU per day in the form of d-alpha tocopherol may be added for their antioxidant and heart protecting effects.


Red yeast rice extract is used to lower serum cholesterol levels. People with serum cholesterol of less than 240 milligrams per deciliter can use it. It lowers total cholesterol levels by about 40 points in 12 weeks when combines with a low-fat diet

Proposed Mechanism of Action

Red yeast rice contains at least nine cholesterol lowering compounds. These compounds are very similar to the drugs called statins. One is actually identical to the product, Lovastatin®. Red yeast rice works like the statins and inhibits an enzyme called 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase. The enzyme is needed to make cholesterol. There are also other still unidentified ways that red yeast rice works to lower cholesterol. It may also affect the biosynthesis, absorption and excretion of cholesterol.

Side Effects / Precautions

It is expected that the side effects of red yeast rice would be similar to that of the statin drugs. Clinical trials in China showed adverse effects including heartburn (1.8%), abdominal distension (0.9%), and dizziness (0.3%). No abnormal liver or kidney function tests have been reported. Although not reported yet, patients could experience side effects similar to the statin drugs including muscle pain, tenderness or weakness, flu symptoms and liver toxicity. Discontinue immediately if this happens. Like the statins, patients who are less than 20 years old, are pregnant or lactating, have liver disease, or experience muscle pain while taking red yeast rice should avoid the product.


Red yeast rice decreases the blood levels of coenzyme Q10 and supplements of coenzyme Q10 should be considered when taking it. Since it works like the statin drugs, avoid taking other statin drugs while taking red yeast extract.

Symptoms of Deficiency

No deficiency symptoms occur.

Symptoms of Toxicity

Animal studies show red yeast rice to be safe.

Dosage and Administration

The dose of red yeast rice is two capsules (600 mg each) twice daily with food. Cost may be a consideration compared to the stating drugs since a months supply or red yeast rice is $25-30 compared to over $100 for Lovastatin.

Dosage Forms


Food Sources

Red yeast rice

Other Supplements to Consider

Coenzyme Q10
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Milk thistle

Mental Health > supplements-vitamins: Red Yeast Rice