13 Amazing Chinese Herbs to Lower Cholesterol

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Chinese Herbs to Lower Cholesterol
Credit:iStock.com/marilyna

In the world of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are many Chinese herbs to lower cholesterol.

High cholesterol is among the major risk factors of heart disease. However, the standard treatment of statin drugs often comes with various side effects that include liver damage and type 2 diabetes.

Chinese herbs, on the other hand, are considered to be far less toxic than statin drug therapy, and therefore potentially a better option in the treatment of high cholesterol. Professionals also often prescribe one or more Chinese herbs to reduce the negative effects of some of the more popular high cholesterol drugs.

This article will examine how Chinese medicine views high cholesterol, as well as how to combat the problem with a number of Chinese herbs that have been used for centuries to treat high cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors.

In This Article:

13 Chinese Herbs to Lower Cholesterol

In traditional Chinese medicine, high cholesterol and arterial plaque build-up are due to imbalances in the energetic organ systems of the liver and spleen. Both energetic organ systems are very different from the Western or conventional concepts.

When the spleen becomes imbalanced, internal dampness will accumulate, which is especially noted during the early-to-late stages of high cholesterol. As a result, symptoms include a feeling of heaviness, fatigue, and loose bowel movements.

Liver “qi” stagnation, or liver blood deficiency, is also quite prominent in someone with high cholesterol. When there is liver dysfunction, heat will then contribute to the inflammation associated with high cholesterol.

For the liver to function efficiently and properly, TCM philosophy dictates that qi energy must be able to move freely.

Want to know how to lower cholesterol with Chinese herbs?

Let’s take a look at 13 Chinese herbs to lower cholesterol naturally:

1. He Shou Wu or Fo-Ti Root (Fleeceflower Root – Polygonum Multiflorum)

He shou wu is also called fo-ti root. In the Western world, you may know it as Polygonum multiflorum. It is also referred to as fleeceflower root. The Chinese preparation is made from the root of the Polygonum plant, which grows in the mountains of southern and central China.

He shou wu is one of the primary essence (jing) tonic herbs used in Chinese herbal medicine. Research suggests that he shou wu has a lipid-lowering effect that may be involved in the synthesis of cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism.

A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2014 found that he shou wu had a beneficial effect for reducing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels in patients with dyslipidemia—a condition characterized by abnormal lipids like cholesterol, triglycerides, and fat phospholipids.

Other experiments suggest that he shou wu can regulate high cholesterol levels in the blood to normal in acute hyperlipidemic rabbits.

2. Jiao Gu Lan (Gynostemma Pentaphyllum – Rhizoma Seu Herba Gynostemmatis)

Jiao gu lan is also called Rhizome seu Herba Gynostemmatis, or Gynostemma pentaphyllum. Some also call it southern ginseng since it works in similar ways as ginseng.

It is a climbing vine from the cucumber, or gourd, family that is native to the southern parts of China, as well as Japan, South Korea, and northern Vietnam.

Jiao gu lan is highly regarded as a tonic herb that works on the spleen, liver, lung, kidney, and heart meridians. With the effect jiao gu lu has shown on spleen and liver meridians, it is not a surprise that this Chinese herb could help lower high cholesterol.

A study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2005 would demonstrate the efficacy of jiao gu lan for reducing cholesterol, triglyceride, and nitrite levels in acute hyperlipidemia cases.

3. Dan Shen (Salvia Root – Salviae Miltiorrhizae Radix)

Dan shen is the dried root of the plant salvia root—also called Salvia miltiorrhizae radix. Another name for dan shen is Chinese sage.

Dan shen is native to Japan and China, and it is best known to improve circulation and promote blood flow. As a result, dan shen may be one of the better herbs used to reduce high cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors.

A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2008 found that triterpenoids-enriched extract of dan shen reduces levels of total cholesterol and triglyceride levels in low-density lipoprotein receptors of mice.

4. Da Huang (Rhubarb – Rheum Palmatum)

Chinese rhubarb (Rheum palmatum), or da huang, is one of the oldest and most common healing herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. There are also around 800 Chinese herbal formulas that contain rhubarb.

One of rhubarb’s great benefits is how it could potentially treat high cholesterol.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 1997 found that 27 grams (g) daily of rhubarb stalk fiber for four weeks lowered cholesterol in 10 men with high cholesterol levels.

Total cholesterol levels would lower by nine percent and LDL cholesterol would reduce by eight percent; however, when the rhubarb supplement was taken away for one month, the cholesterol returned to its original high level.

Another study published in the journal Fitoterapia in 2010 found that a major bioactive component in da huang called emodin would significantly reduce blood sugar, triglyceride, and total cholesterol in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice.

Other studies with Chinese herbal formulas featuring rhubarb indicate that it can reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

5. Shan Zha (Hawthorn – Crataegi Fructus)

Hawthorn is one of the more common herbs used in Chinese medicine, and it is often promoted for its ability to strengthen the spleen and improve heart function, including lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The flavonoids in hawthorn are known to interrupt angiotensin-converting enzymes to help improve circulation.

Research published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine in 2016 suggests that hawthorn can counteract high-fat diet-induced hyperlipidemic and hypercholesteolemic effects in mice.

The results of the study showed that hawthorn reduced high cholesterol and high lipid levels.

6. San Qi (Panax Notoginseng – Notoginseng Radix)

San qi is the Chinese herb that is also known as the root of Panax notoginseng (Notoginseng radix). San qi is also sometimes called Chinese ginseng, pseudoginseng, tienchi ginseng, three-seven root, and the mountain plant. San qi also grows in Japan and China.

Research indicates that the saponins in san qi play a key role in lowering cholesterol levels through the modulation of adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette transporter A1.

Studies also suggest that the saponins in san qi can lower blood lipids while inhibiting atherosclerosis.

7. Chuan Xiong (Szechuan Lovage Root – Ligusticum Chuanxiong Rhizoma)

Chuan xiong (Chuanxiong rhizome) is the Chinese herb also known as Szechuan lovage root. It is made from the dried root of the Ligusticum chuanxiong rhizome.

Chuan xiong is one of the Chinese herbs used to invigorate blood, and it is often a key prescription for heart diseases in China.

Chuan xiong is thought to reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while also increasing HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. In turn, chuang xiong could help prevent atherosclerosis.

Chuan xiong has also been featured in high cholesterol-lowering Chinese herbal decoctions like xuefu zhuyu and xuefu zhuyu tang.

8. Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome – Coptidis Rhizoma)

Coptis root (Coptidis rhizoma) is also called huang lian. It is one of the most widely used TCM herbs with a deep history greater than 2,000 years.

Among the benefits of huang lian is its reported ability to reduce high cholesterol. An alkaloid isolated from huang lian called berberine has been found to lower cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic patients.

Other research suggests that Coptis rhizome can prevent high cholesterol through reducing oxidative stress.

Research published in the journal Lipids in 2014 also found that coptisine, an isoquinoline alkaloid isolated from huang lian, had significantly reduced blood lipid levels in high-fat and high-cholesterol diets in mice.

The researchers demonstrated that high dosages of huang lian can inhibit cholesterol synthesis.

Huang lian is also featured in the Chinese herbal decoction named huang lian jie du tang, which has been found to reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

9. Yin Chen Hao (Artemisia Capillaris – Artemisiae Scopariae Herba)

Yin chen hao is a Chinese herb also called Artemisia capillaris (Artemisiae scopariae herba). It belongs to the asteraceae family that is related to the Artemisia. In China, yin chen hao grows in the Anhui and Shanxi provinces.

Yin chen hao is believed to reduce cholesterol. Similar to Artemisia capillaris, an extract from the herb called scoparone, has been found to reduce blood lipids and lipoprotein cholesterol levels in hyperlipidemic diabetic rabbits.

The protective effect of scoparone may be partly linked to reducing oxidative stress.

10. Ze Xie (Water Plantain Rhizome – Alismatis Rhizoma)

Water plantain rhizome, or ze xie, is a Chinese herb also called Alismatis rhizoma. It is found throughout the marshlands of Asia.

Research shows that an Alismatis rhizoma decoction is effective at reducing cholesterol and vertigo—a symptom of hyperlipidemia.

A study also showed that the Alismatis rhizoma decoction combined with erchen tang would help regulate total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels in obese rats.

11. He Ye (Lotus Leaf – Nelumbinis Folium)

Lotus leaf, or he ye, is also known as nelumbinis folium or folium nelumbinis. Although lotus leaf is praised as a key herb for weight loss, it is also used for lowering high cholesterol.

A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2012 examined how the Chinese herbal formula jiang-zhi-ning (JZN) regulates cholesterol metabolism.

Jian-zhi-ning features hyperin from hawthorn, stilbene glycoside from fleeceflower root, chrysophanol from cassia seed, and nuciferine from lotus leaf.

JZN has been shown to lower cholesterol levels, while its four components also have a close relationship with cholesterol metabolism. As a result, JZN has been deemed promising in the treatment of hyperlipidemia and high cholesterol.

12. Jue Ming Zi (Cassia Seed – Cassiae Semen)

Cassia seed, or jue ming zi, is also called cassiae semen (Cassia obtusifolia). Cassia seed is considered effective in the prevention and treatment of various diseases, which include high cholesterol.

Research shows that cassia seed extracts significantly reduce levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol while also increasing HDL cholesterol levels.

Other research shows that a water extract form of cassia seed reduces blood lipid levels through the inhibition of cholesterol synthesis.

Also, as described in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine study above, chrysophanol from cassia seed is featured in the herbal formula JZN, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.

13. Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia Root – Rehmanniae Radix Preparata)


Rehmannia root, di huang, is also called rehmanniae radix preparata. Shu di huang is known as steam-processed rehmannia. Compared to fresh or raw rehmannia root, the tonic properties of the herb are considered enhanced when processed.

Research shows that when used to treat hypertension, a rehmannia root decoction will not only reduce high blood pressure, but also cholesterol and triglycerides at the same time.

Final Thoughts on Chinese Herbs and Cholesterol

Having high cholesterol levels in the blood is one of the many risk factors associated with heart disease. When cholesterol oxidizes, it attaches to the artery walls, and this sets the stage for atrial inflammation that leads to high cholesterol levels.

Chinese herbs are considered far less toxic and safer than statin drug therapy; therefore, many of these herbs may serve as a great alternative in the treatment of high cholesterol. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before discontinuing any prescription drug regimen.

The Chinese herbs to lower cholesterol detailed within this article include he shou wu (fleeceflower root), jiao gu lan (gynostemma), dan shen (salvia root), da huang (rhubarb), shan zha (hawthorn), san qi (Panax notoginseng), chuan xiong (Szechuan lovage root), huang lian (Coptis rhizome), yin chen hao (Artemisia capillaris), ze xie (water plantain rhizome), he ye (lotus leaf), jue ming zi (cassia seed), and shu di huang (rehmannia root).

It is a good idea to visit a qualified TCM practitioner. They will be able to recommend the right Chinese herb for your high cholesterol based on your particular symptom picture.

Also Read:


Article Sources (+)

Laufer, C., “The Use of Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbs and Formulas in the Treatment of Hyperlipidemia, and their effect on Blood Glucose Levels and Liver Function: A Qualitative Research Synthesis,” Yo San University, April 2016; https://www.yosan.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/The-Use-of-TCM-Treatment-of-Hyperlipidemia-by-Claudia-Laufer.pdf, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
“Cholesterol,” Ageless Herbs; https://agelessherbs.com/cholesterol/natural-alternative-herbs/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
“He Shou Wu (Polygonum Multiflorum, Fo-Ti Root),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/he-shou-wu/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Bounda, G-A., et al., “Review of clinical studies of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb. And its isolated bioactive compounds,” Pharmacognosy Research, July to Sept. 2015; 7(3): 225-236, doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.157957.
Hu, M., et al., “Evaulation of a crataegus-based multiherb formula for dyslipidemia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014; 2014: 365742, doi: 10.1155/2014/365742.
Megalli, S., et al., “Phytopreventative anti-hyperlipidemic effects of gynostemma pentaphyllum in rats,” Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sept. 2005; 8(3): 507-515, PMID: 16401396.
“Gynostemma (jiao gu lan),” Acupuncture Today; http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/gynostemma.php, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Zhang, Q., et al., “Antiatherogenic property of triterpenoids-enriched extract from the aerial parts of Salvia miltiorrhiza,” Phytotherapy Research, Aug. 2008; 22(8): 1040-1045, doi: 10.1002/ptr.2426.
“Salvia Miltiorrhiza (Dan Shen),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/salvia-miltiorrhiza-dan-shen/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
“Rheum Palmatum (Da Huang),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/rheum-palmatum-da-huang/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
“Rhubarb: Health Benefits and Medicinal Uses,” Heal with Food; https://www.healwithfood.org/health-benefits/rhubarb-stalks.php, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Huang, Y.M., et al., “[Experimental and clinical studies of the effect of dahuang zhechong wan on hyperlipemia],” Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, Oct. 1989; 9(10): 589-592, 580, PMID: 2605735.
Xue, J., et al., “Anti-diabetic effects of emodin involved in the activation of PPARgamma on high-fat diet-fed and low dose of streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice,” Fitoterapia, April 2010; 81(3): 173-177, doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2009.08.020.
“Hawthorn Berry (Shan Zha),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/hawthorn-berry/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
“Hawthorn,” UC Denver; http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/pharmacy/currentstudents/OnCampusPharmDStudents/ExperientialProgram/Documents/nutr_monographs/Monograph-hawthorn.pdf, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Hu, H.J., et al., “Ethanol extract of Zhongtian hawthorn lower serum cholesterol in mice by inhibiting transcription of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase via nuclear factor-kappa B signal pathway,” Experimental Biology and Medicine, March 2016; 241(6): 667-674, doi: 10.1177/153537021567032.
“Tienchi Ginseng (Panax Notoginseng, San Qi),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/tienchi-ginseng/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Ho Lee, C., et al., “A review on the medicinal potentials of ginseng and ginsenosides on cardiovascular diseases,” Journal of Ginseng Research, July 2014; 38(3): 161-166, doi: 10.1016/j.jgr.2014.03.001.
“Lovage (Chuan Xiong),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/lovage-chuan-xiong/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Li, C.M., et al., “Ethanolic extract of rhizome of Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort. (chuanxiong) enhances endothelium-dependent vascular reactivity in overiectomized rats fed with high-fat diet,” Food & Function, Oct. 2014; 5(1): 2475-2485, doi: 10.1039/c4fo00211c.
Wang, P., et al., “Efficacy and Safety of a Traditional Chinese Herbal Formula Xuefu Zhuyu Decoction for Hypertension,” Medicine, Oct. 2015; 94(42): e1850, doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000001850.
“Coptis Root (Rhizoma Coptidis, Huang Lian),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/coptis-root/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Wang, H., et al., “The Antihyperglycemic Effects of Rhizoma Coptidis and Mechanism of Actions: A Review of Systematic Reviews and Pharmacological Research,” BioMed Research International, 2014, ID 798093, doi: 10.1155/2014/798093.
Yokozawa, T., et al., “The effects of Coptidis Rhizoma extract on a hypercholesterolemic animal model,” Phytomedicine, Jan. 2003; 10(1): 17-22, doi: 10.1078/094471103321648610.
O’Brien, K.A., “Alternative Perspectives: How Chinese Medicine Understands Hypercholesterolemia,” Cite See Rx, June 9, 2010; http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.349.9047&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Quan, Y., et al., “Protection of Long-Term Treatment with Huang-Lian-Jie-Du-Tang on Vascular Endothelium in Rats with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus,” Current Therapeutic Research in Clinical Experiments, Dec. 2012; 73(6): 174-185, doi: 10.1016/j.curtheres.2012.09.002.
He, K., et al., “The Safety and Anti-Hypercholesterolemic Effect of Coptisine in Syrian Golden Hamsters,” Lipids, Dec. 2014; 50 (2): 185–194; doi: 10.1007/s11745-014-3983-7.
“Capillaris (yi chen hao),” Acupuncture Today; http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/capillaris.php, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Hung, H-Y., et al., “Recent Studies and Progression of Yin Chen Hao, a Long-term Used Traditional Chinese Medicine,” Journal of Traditional of Complementary Medicine, Jan. to March 2013; 3(1): 2-6, doi: 10.4103/2225-4110.106533.
“Alisma (ze xie),” Acupuncture Today; http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/alisma.php, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Song, C., et al., “The Rationality of the Hypolidemic Effect of Alismatis Rhizoma Decoction, a Classical Chinese Medicine Formula in High-Fat Diet-Induced Hyperlipidemic Mice,” Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, Spring 2014; 13(2): 641-649, PMCID: PMC4157040.
“Lotus Leaves (Folium Nelumbinis, He Ye),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/lotus-leaves/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Chen, J., et al., “The Effects of Jian-Zhi-Ning and Its Main Components on Cholesterol Metabolism,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012; 2012: 928234, doi: 10.1155/2012/928234.
“Cassia Seed (Semen Cassiae, Jue Ming Zi),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/cassia-seed/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Dong, X., et al., “Cassiae semen: A review of its phytochemistry and pharmacology,” Molecular Medicine Reports, Sept. 2017; 16(3): 2331-2346, doi: 10.3892/mmr.2017.6880.
“Rehmannia Root (Shu Di Huang),” Chinese Herbs Healing; http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/rehmannia-root/, last accessed Jan. 30, 2018.
Xie, P., et al., “Searching Clue of the Relationship between the Alteration of Bioactive Ingredients and the Herbal “Property” Transformation from Raw Rehmanniae Radix (Sheng-Di-Huang) to Steam-Heating-Processed Rehmanniae Radix (Shu-Di-Huang) by Chromatigraphic Fingerprint Analysis,” Scientific Research, 2014; 5(2), doi: 10.4236/cm.2014.52006.
The Doctors Health Press e-Bulletin

Sign Up for the Latest Health News and Tips

Need more information, click here

Yes, I’m opting in for the FREE Doctors Health Press e-Bulletin: