Red yeast rice isn't actually a rice. It is an extract from a rice. It has been in use by the Chinese for centuries, often as a way to lower cholesterol. In fact, while you can use the red yeast rice extract in cooking, it is also available as a supplement, should you find you dislike the taste. Red yeast rice extract is derived from regular rice. However, the rice has been fermented with yeast common to China and other parts of Asia. Over the course of the fermentation process, it turns red, which is why it takes on the name red yeast rice extract.

There is some confusion about consuming red yeast rice extract in the United States. In fact, some drug companies have tried to classify it as a drug and not a supplement. There is an important difference between the two. When a substance is considered a drug, it opens the possibility of copyrights and protected recipes, which prevents the sale by other companies (and often results in the drug becoming more expensive).

So why is this the case? Red yeast rice contains the ingredient monacolin K. This is also known as lovastatin. Lovastain is the active ingredient found in the Mevacor cholesterol medication. Because it is found in the medication, the prescription company has tried and often succeeded in the removal of red yeast rice extract supplements from stores in the United States.

Due to all the legal red tape, the best way to purchase the supplement is to go to Asian markets or to order the product online. It is not a banned supplement, and it is perfectly legal to consume it inside the United States. However, it is difficult to sell because of the Mevacor copyright.  


Red yeast rice

There are three main preparations for the red yeast rice extract. These are Zhitai, Cholestin (also known as Hypocol) and Xuezhikang. The red yeast rice extract Zhitai is created when mixing different strains of Monascus purpureus with whole grain rice. Cholestin is created when specific strains of Monascus purpureus are used during the fermentation process. This helps create a higher level of monacolin K, which is what is used to help lower cholesterol. The third form of red yeast rice extract is Zuezhikang. This is produced when mixing both the rice and the red yeast with alcohol. Following fermentation the rice gluten is then removed. This red yeast rice extract contains the highest level of cholesterol-fighting ingredients (in fact, it has about 40 percent more than the other two options). So when looking for the most potent extract, this is the kind to look for.


The Xuezhikang option is not sold within the United States and this product is illegal to sell (although it is not illegal to own, so you can purchase it from outside the country with no problems). If you are looking for a reputable location to buy this production, consider anything coming from Singapore (sold under brands such as NatureWise and Wearnes). The other two variations of red yeast rice extract are available from other countries as well.



How to Take Red Yeast Rice

The best way to consume red yeast rice extract is to properly measure it out and take it in supplement form. This way, you can actively monitor exactly how much you're taking every single day. Different studies suggest taking anywhere from 1.2 to 2.4 grams of the supplement per day. There are other countries where red yeast rice extract is widely available. In these locations, the recommended dosage is often higher. However, it's always best to start out small and work your way up. This way, you can see how your body reacts to the smaller amount and slowly work your way up. If you experience negative side effects, you can lower the amount you take per day.


Whenever you add anything new into your diet, it is important to monitor your body and watch to see how your body reacts. Some common side effects of red yeast rice extract include heartburn, upset stomachs, and headaches. By starting off with a smaller daily dosage you will reduce the chance of an upset stomach and heartburn issues.


Other problems you need to watch out for include muscle problems and a reduction in the liver and muscle enzymes your body has. If you have any muscular or liver issues currently, it is important to closely monitor how you react to the new extract.


If you have kidney or liver disease, are pregnant, are trying to get pregnant or are breastfeeding you need to avoid taking the red yeast rice extract. You also need to talk to your doctor if you are on any other medications.


It is important to understand not all supplements are the same. Different manufacturers often use different strains of yeast in the fermentation process which has a big impact on the finished product. Due to this, it is important for you to monitor not only your dosage but the brand you take. If you're taking one particular brand and follow a set dosage and then switch to a different brand, the exact dosage and ingredients found within the supplement will be different. Should you decide to switch brands at any point in time it is best to again start off at the lower dosage end before slowly increasing the amount back up.

Reduces High Cholesterol

Red yeast rice extract has been used for thousands of years to help reduce cholesterol. The ancient Chinese used this long before Europeans had even landed in North America, so while the FDA may not have as much research on the supplement as is desired, thousands of years of consumption does back up the notion of red yeast rice extract being able to help lower cholesterol levels.


The extract doesn't just help with high cholesterol though. There are other ingredients within the supplement that help in improving heart health. After the fermentation process, it contains sterols, monounsaturated fatty acids, and isoflavone, which help improve heart health. All of these points to the health benefits of the supplement and why those who are interested in lowering the cholesterol levels should consider taking the product.


There are several studies showing just how well red yeast rice can lower both bad cholesterol and total cholesterol. During one study, individuals who took 2.4 grams of red yeast rice extract a day saw their bad cholesterol drop by 22 percent after 12 weeks and their total cholesterol drop by 16 percent. Other studies have shown similar numbers, with one giving individuals 1.2 grams of the red yeast rice extract per day for eight weeks, resulting in a drop of bad cholesterol by 26 percent.

Drug Interaction Information

The best way to consume red yeast rice extract is to properly measure it out and take it in supplement form. This way, you can actively monitor exactly how much you're taking every single day. Different studies suggest taking anywhere from 1.2 to 2.4 grams of the supplement per day. There are other countries where red yeast rice extract is widely available. In these locations, the recommended dosage is often higher. However, it's always best to start out small and work your way up. This way, you can see how your body reacts to the smaller amount and slowly work your way up. If you experience negative side effects, you can lower the amount you take per day.


Whenever you add anything new into your diet, it is important to monitor your body and watch to see how your body reacts. Some common side effects of red yeast rice extract include heartburn, upset stomachs, and headaches. By starting off with a smaller daily dosage you will reduce the chance of an upset stomach and heartburn issues.


Other problems you need to watch out for include muscle problems and a reduction in the liver and muscle enzymes your body has. If you have any muscular or liver issues currently, it is important to closely monitor how you react to the new extract.

If you have kidney or liver disease, are pregnant, are trying to get pregnant or are breastfeeding you need to avoid taking the red yeast rice extract. You also need to talk to your doctor if you are on any other medications.


It is important to understand not all supplements are the same. Different manufacturers often use different strains of yeast in the fermentation process which has a big impact on the finished product. Due to this, it is important for you to monitor not only your dosage but the brand you take. If you're taking one particular brand and follow a set dosage and then switch to a different brand, the exact dosage and ingredients found within the supplement will be different. Should you decide to switch brands at any point in time it is best to again start off at the lower dosage end before slowly increasing the amount back up.


Final Thoughts


If you are looking for a way to naturally reduce your cholesterol levels, you may want to consider taking a red yeast rice extract supplement. This kind of product has been in use in ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years. 

There is also scientific proof behind the ingredients found in the supplement, showing it helps lower both total cholesterol and bad cholesterol. With that said before you order the supplement (you'll likely need to order it online due to the copyright issues supplement manufacturers have run into in the United States).

It is important to consult with your doctor and make sure you not only are healthy enough to take the supplement but it will not interact or interfere with current medications you take. 

Should you move forward with the purchase and supplementation of red yeast rice extract, you are likely to find just how powerful and helpful it can be in fighting high cholesterol, without the bloated cost of more expensive cholesterol medication that is on the market.