Cardiovascular Health

Cholesterol and TCM

By NATURA Magazine.

According to the 2010 National Health Survey published in 2011, more than one in six Singaporeans aged 18–69 suffer from high total blood cholesterol. Can TCM keep cholesterol levels down?

What is Cholesterol?

While there is no clear term or definition for cholesterol in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is usually associated with the dysfunction of the Spleen and Liver. Disruptions to the functions of these organs due to poor lifestyle and diets will affect the accumulation of cholesterol in the body.

Risk Factors

Li Guang Jun, a registered TCM physician with the Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic at Seragoon Nex and Eastpoint Mall, comments, “In TCM, high cholesterol is thought to result from chronic mental stress or excessive emotional upheavals, which cause the liver qi to stagnate, producing “fire” that depletes yin in the liver. Consuming too much alcohol and a high-calorie diet can also damage the spleen and stomach, resulting in the build-up of toxins, phlegm and “dampness. Risk factors include a family history of high cholesterol, menopause, heavy smoking and drinking, obesity, and/or chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and a fatty liver. Chronic mental stress is also a risk factor.”

According to Physician Li, symptoms of high cholesterol include:

•  phlegm
•  moisture stagnation
•  stagnation
•  blood stasis
•  deficient yin in Liver and Kidney

In TCM, a person's inability to digest efficiently may affect how cholesterol is processed and stored in the body. Similarly with blood and fluid circulation: slower fluid circulation will encourage more or larger deposits of cholesterol, while poor blood circulation is seen in many types of arthritic disorders as well as some types of cardiovascular diseases. Excretory system dysfunction is also a huge indicator, as the relationship between the Liver and bile production is critical to ensure cholesterol is eliminated efficiently when bile is released.

Managing Cholesterol Levels with TCM

TCM calls for a comprehensive regime with herbs and acupuncture to treat the spleen and liver once a diagnosis has established the body constitution and the root of the problem. Alongside acupuncture, Physician Chew recommends the use of these herbs to manage your cholesterol levels:

• Hawthorn fruit lowers blood lipids and treats certain cardiovascular diseases
• Red yeast rice contains natural statins to invigorate the body, aids digestion and revitalises the Blood, lowering LDL cholesterol
• Cassia seeds promote bowel movement, inhibit hyperlipidemic formation and reduce weight gain from nutritive obesity
• Coix seeds improve digestion and treat hypolipidemia
• Finger citron fruit treats poor digestion, improves appetite and lowers blood cholesterol
• Pu-erh tea contains natural statins
• Oyster mushroom contains natural statins

Besides these TCM solutions, Physician Li advises those with cholesterol problems to:

Do more of these Do less of these

• Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good quality fats

• Sleep and exercise

• Consume alcohol, meat and dairy products that contain high amounts of saturated fats

• Late nights

• Smoking


Photo courtesy of Thinkstock. This article first appeared in NATURA magazine issue No.4.