22 Effective Kitchen Herbs to Manage Cholesterol
High cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia, is among the major risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases. However, right in your kitchen spice rack, there could be many spices and herbs to lower cholesterol.
The most common high cholesterol treatment is statins—a drug therapy linked to all sorts of serious adverse effects that include type 2 diabetes, liver damage, insomnia, cancer, and even an increased incidence of death.
On the other hand, cholesterol-lowering herbs and spices are generally safer and far less toxic than statin drugs. Some of the most popular herbs to lower cholesterol have been used for centuries in many cultures.
In this article, I will take you on a tour of my herb and spice rack, and detail how to lower cholesterol with a variety of my kitchen herbs, including powerhouse ingredients like garlic, ginger, turmeric, and more.
22 Cholesterol Lowering Herbs You Can Find in Your Kitchen
The famous Greek physician Hippocrates once said: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Basically, food is medicine.
From the ancient Romans and Greeks to the Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians, each culture has long touted the healing power of cooking with herbs and spices.
Today, science backs up what these civilizations have been saying for thousands of years. Many herbs and spices can help reduce the risk of a number of heart disease risk factors, especially high cholesterol.
An imbalance of high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and low amounts of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is thought to increase the risk of stroke or heart attack.
If you want to manage high cholesterol, what you eat is very important. This is where a plant-based diet with lots of omega-3 fats is a good idea. The addition of a variety of spices and herbs to your food also contain cardio-protective antioxidants that are vital for lowering cholesterol naturally.
Want to know how to lower cholesterol with herbs and spices in your kitchen?
Read on to learn about 22 fantastic spices and herbs to lower cholesterol below.
1. Garlic (Allium Sativum)
Garlic (Allium sativum) is among the great herbs to lower cholesterol and improve circulation naturally due to one of its sulfur-containing compounds—allicin.
The herb has been recognized as a treatment and preventative for many metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, which include atherosclerosis and hyperlipidemia.
Research also suggests that cholesterol levels drop when garlic is consumed on a regular basis. So, the more garlic you use, the lower your cholesterol drops.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 found that raw garlic had a significant effect in reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and the researchers concluded that garlic may play an important role in atherosclerosis prevention.
Other studies have shown that garlic powder can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in patients with high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. At the same time, HDL cholesterol had been increased.
Garlic is also able to prevent blood clots. This is important for people with high cholesterol since blood clots develop around the heart, and the consequences can be fatal.
However, since garlic does thin the blood, consult your doctor before using it.
2. Ginger (Zingiber Officinale)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the most widely used dietary condiment in the world, and has been used by the Chinese and Indians to treat health problems for more than 4,700 years.
It was also actually a priceless commodity during the Roman Empire trade due to its medicinal properties. The therapeutic benefits are known to derive from ginger’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich gingerols.
When it comes to lowering cholesterol, ginger may be one of the best kitchen remedies. One of the latest studies published in the journal Pharmacognosy Research in 2013 found that ginger extract reduced levels of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in rats.
Other research published in the Saudi Medical Journal in 2008 found that three grams of ginger powder in three divided doses significantly reduced LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in 85 people with high cholesterol.
Both raw ginger and ginger powder are excellent for cooking, while ginger can also be used to make an excellent tea.
3. Fenugreek Seeds (Trigonella Foenum-Graecum)
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an annual herb from the pea family that is also called Greek hay. The seeds have a somewhat bitter taste that is similar to celery.
It is a popular spice used to stabilize and thicken food, while it has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines.
As a medicine, fenugreek seeds could benefit people with heart conditions, including those with high levels of cholesterol and trigylcerides. Compounds in fenugreek seeds called steroidal saponins can inhibit both cholesterol production of the liver and cholesterol absorption in the intestines.
One study published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids in 1997 found that eating 2.5 grams (g) of fenugreek twice daily for three months significantly lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels without affecting HDL cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
Another study published in the journal Food Chemistry in 2013 showed that the ethyl acetate extract of the fenugreek seeds had significant antioxidant activity and a cholesterol-lowering effect in cholesterol-fed rats.
4. Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)
You cannot mention cholesterol-lowering herbs without talking about turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its active compound curcumin, which is known to protect the body from atherosclerosis and suppress cholesterol accumulation in the blood.
Research on rabbits fed a high-fat diet suggests that turmeric can reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and also prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis.
An eight-week study published in the journal Drugs in R&D in 2008 found that curcumin was equal to, or more effective than, diabetes drugs at reducing inflammation and oxidative stress when treating high cholesterol in 72 patients.
Turmeric is a perfect spice in Indian dishes, tea, eggs, and some soups. You can also juice with turmeric, and it’s best when combined with carrots and sweet potatoes.
5. Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a great addition to pesto and pasta sauces in Italian cuisine. It is also common in Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisines.
Basil is also used in traditional Ayurvedic and Tamil medicine. It’s part of the mint family, which also includes oregano, rosemary, marjoram, and mint.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that when you are enjoying this delicious herb, you are also lowering your cholesterol levels.
Basil extract can reduce the inflammation that often causes cardiovascular disease. It does this by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This is important, since inflammation can build up fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque in the blood, and therefore increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
One study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2006 would evaluate the lipid-lowering effect of basil extract in rats, who developed hyperlipidemia from an injection of non-ionic detergent (Triton WR-1339).
The rats given the basil extract experienced a 56% reduction in total cholesterol, a 63% drop in triglycerides, and a 68% decrease in LDL cholesterol, in comparison to a group treated with Triton WR-1339.
6. Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a savory herb that is part of the mint family, and popular in Italian and Mediterranean cuisines. The aromatic and sweet flavor of rosemary is great in soups, meats like chicken, and roasted vegetables.
Rosemary is also one of the better cholesterol-lowering herbs. A study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism in 2013 suggested that the phenolic compounds in rosemary improved antioxidant activity and weakened oxidative stress in diet-induced hypercholesterolemic rats.
Another study published in the Jordan Journal of Biological Sciences in 2011 found that rosemary leaf extract reduced LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while also increasing HDL cholesterol in both normal and diabetic rats.
Other research reports that polyphenols rosmarinic acid or carnosic acid derived from rosemary can inhibit LDL oxidation.
7. Guggul (Commiphora Wightii)
Guggul (Commiphora wightii or Commiphora mukul) is a medicinal herb made from the gum resin of the mukul myrrh tree. In Sanskrit, guggul is called “guggulu,” which translates to “protects from disease.”
Some of the diseases guggul aims to protect you against include atherosclerosis and high cholesterol. The guggulsterone in guggul is responsible for the herb’s therapeutic effects.
A study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements in 2016 found that guggul had significantly reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) while increasing HDL cholesterol, in comparison to the rabbits taking just a statin.
Human studies have also examined the effects of 50 milligrams (mg) of guggul daily, in addition to a diet high in fruits and vegetables. The guggul was found to reduce atherosclerosis and triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol.
Although guggul is one of the few herbs on this list used as more of a supplement, it also makes a good tea for those with high cholesterol and other health ailments like diabetes or nervous disorders.
8. Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa)
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) sprouts come from germinated alfalfa seed. These sprouts make a great addition to salads, soups, sandwiches, tortillas, omelets, and a variety of Oriental dishes.
Sprouts are considered healthier because sprouting brings out many enzymes, while they also carry more protein, minerals, and vitamins than un-sprouted seeds. As a result, sprouts like alfalfa could combat diseases, including high cholesterol.
Alfalfa sprouts may reduce lipid levels and therefore decrease coronary heart disease symptoms due to high cholesterol. A 1978 study found that alfalfa meal could reduce the negative effects of cholesterol on monkeys.
Alfalfa seeds have also been found to normalize cholesterol levels while lowering LDL cholesterol by as much as 18%. It is thought that the saponins in alfalfa block cholesterol absorption, and also prevent cholesterol formation on the artery walls.
9. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus)
Among the many herbs to lower cholesterol is lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus). Lemongrass is a herb belonging to the Poaceae grass family, and it is native to tropical regions of Asia.
Due to its distinct lemon flavor and citrusy aroma, lemongrass is often used in Asian cuisines, as well as for adding flavor to soups, teas, curries, and baked goods.
A study published in the African Journal of Biotechnology in 2007 found that lemongrass oil extract had significantly reduced cholesterol in animals with high cholesterol.
Other research suggests that lemongrass oil can greatly inhibit hyperlipidemia through maintaining normal cholesterol and trigylceride levels.
10. Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is another of the herbs to lower cholesterol. As a member of the mint family, oregano is considered to be a staple herb in many cultures throughout the world to flavor food. It has been popular since the ancient Romans and Greeks used the herb as medicine.
Oregano can be used dried, fresh, or as an oil, and all variations have significant benefits, including lowering cholesterol. A three-month study published in the Journal of International Medical Research in 2008 found that oregano oil greater reduced LDL cholesterol levels and increased HDL cholesterol levels in patients with mild hyperlipidemia, when compared to those just given lifestyle and diet advice.
Scientists believe the cholesterol-lowering effect of oregano oil is due to its phenols thymol and carvacrol.
11. Coriander or Cilantro (Coriandrum Sativum)
When you use the fresh or dried leaves of Coriandrum sativum, the herb is often called cilantro. However, dried coriander seeds are also used. Both are common in all kinds of cooking, including Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Latin American.
Studies have found that both cilantro and coriander seeds have the power to reduce cholesterol levels. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Biology in 2008 found that coriander seeds had significantly reduced LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol.
How about the cholesterol-lowering effect of fresh cilantro? A study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2012 found that cilantro reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides while increasing HDL cholesterol. The antioxidants in cilantro also inhibited lipid oxidation and increase activity of antioxidant enzymes in the liver.
An animal study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2001 also found that fresh cilantro had reduced cholesterol levels after 45 days.
12. Tarragon (Artemisia Dracunculus)
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is also among the herbs to lower cholesterol. Tarragon is a great addition to sauces, stews, omelets, and fish and chicken dishes. It has a sweet and powerful flavor that is similar to anise.
As a medicine, tarragon is also a cholesterol-lowering herb. It can promote cholesterol metabolism through the secretion of essential digestion co-factors, and this is linked to tarragon’s manganese content.
As a result, tarragon could prevent arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. Also, since tarragon has been shown to inhibit blood platelet activation, it may also prevent aggregation of platelets on blood vessel walls, and therefore prevent stroke and heart attacks.
13. Sage (Salvia Officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis), or garden sage, is another member of the mint family, and it is native to the Mediterranean. Dried sage leaves are often used to season a variety of meats and dressing.
Although mostly considered a culinary herb, sage has also been used as medicine that can help reduce high cholesterol.
The flavonoids, phytosterols, and antioxidants in sage are all thought to contribute to its cholesterol-lowering effect. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2011 found that sage extract reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
The results suggested that sage may be effective for treating hyperlipidemia.
14. Dill (Anethum Graveolens)
Dill (Anethum graveolens) weed can be used dried or fresh, and both are excellent to flavor dips, soups, potatoes, salads, fish, and more. This annual herb is part of the celery family, and is native to Russia and the Mediterranean.
Dill also has incredible cholesterol-lowering abilities. In a study from 2015, researchers determined that dill extract and dill tablet had reduced liver enzymes, gene expression, lipid profile, and enzymatic activity in hamsters with high cholesterol, when compared to hamsters not given dill at all.
Other research shows that dill has significantly lowered LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides while raising HDL cholesterol levels.
15. Parsley (Petroselinum Crispum)
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is part of the celery family, which also includes dill, cumin, and anise. It is native to the central Mediterranean, and adds a fresh and somewhat peppery taste to many dishes, especially those popular in Middle Eastern and European cuisines.
Parsley has also been part of folk medicine for centuries, and has treated everything from constipation to indigestion to kidney stones. Today, parsley is also important for cardiovascular health, partly due to the presence of folate, which helps convert the amino acid homocysteine.
Homocysteine can potentially cause blood vessel damage when uncontrolled, and this may lead to stoke or a heart attack.
The antioxidants in parsley can also increase antioxidant capacity of blood vessels, and this reduces cholesterol by removing free radicals from the blood.
16. Marjoram (Origanum Majorana)
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is another of the herbs to lower cholesterol. Marjoram is an aromatic herb from the popular mint family, which also includes basil, mint, oregano, and rosemary. It’s available in various forms, including fresh, dried, powder, or as part of an essential oil.
Marjoram is typically used to flavor salads, soups, sauces, and meat dishes.
As a natural remedy, marjoram has many health benefits, including the potential to treat heart disease and high cholesterol Marjoram is thought to prevent cholesterol build-up by improving blood circulation and decreasing the risk of hardened arteries.
17. Cayenne Chili Pepper (Capsicum Annuum)
Many people use cayenne chili pepper (Capsicum annuum) to add a little spice to their food, yet they may be unaware that it has been used as both food and medicine for thousands of years.
The cayenne shrub first originated in Central and South America, and now thrives in tropical and subtropical climates.
Cayenne pepper may be used to treat conditions of the blood vessels and heart. It could potentially reverse excessive blood clotting, improve poor circulation, regulate blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and lower high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
The active ingredient in cayenne pepper called capsaicin has also been used to lower cholesterol.
Research published in the West Indian Medical Journal in 2014 included a study that found that both cayenne and capsaicin would prevent an increase in liver cholesterol while also increasing fecal excretions of free cholesterol.
For the study, rats were fed a high-cholesterol diet with or without capsaicin or ground cayenne for a seven-week period.
18. Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)
Another one of the better herbs to lower cholesterol is thyme (Thymus vulgaris)—also belonging to the mint family. Both dried and fresh thyme are available year-round, and they can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stocks, sauces, pasta dishes, marinades, and dressings.
As for its cholesterol-lowering effect, a study published in 2014 found that thyme extract reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while also increasing HDL cholesterol.
19. Anise (Pimpinella Anisum)
Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a plant in the celery family, and it is native to Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean. The seed is often added to cookies, cakes, and tea due to its potent aroma and taste.
Anise is also revered for its medicinal properties, including its reported abilities to treat depression, regulate blood sugar, and protect against stomach ulcers. At the same time, anise seed has anti-lipidemic effects that may help it lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
The fiber in anise will bind with bile salts, and this prevents the bile from being reabsorbed into the small intestine. As a result, this will reduce cholesterol levels.
20. Bay Leaf (Laurus Nobilis)
Bay leaves come from an evergreen tree that belongs to the Lauraceae family. The bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) has a distinctive and savory aroma that helps flavor soups, stews, and meats.
Among the health benefits of bay leaf is its cholesterol-lowering effect. Several studies have confirmed bay leaf’s ability to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.
A 30-day study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition in 2009 found that one to three grams of bay leaves daily could reduce total cholesterol by up to 24%, triglycerides up to 34%, and LDL cholesterol up to 40% while increasing HDL cholesterol by up to 29%.
21. Saffron (Crocus Sativus)
Other herbs to lower cholesterol include saffron (Crocus sativus). Native to Southwest Asia and Greece, this reddish-yellow spice is also thought to be the most expensive spice by weight in the world.
Recent studies also show that elements in saffron contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system. Research published in the Journal of Tehran University Heart Center in 2011 reported that saffron could lower cholesterol levels by as much as 50%.
Another study, from 2005, suggests that the active constituent crocin could lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL cholesterol in rats with high cholesterol.
The anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties of saffron make it one of the better herbs for cardiovascular health.
22. Artichoke Leaf Powder (Cynara Cardunculus)
Although artichoke hearts are the most widely consumed part of the artichoke plant, the artichoke leaf (Cynara cardunculus) actually contains many of its health benefits.
Artichoke leaf extract, or powder, can be used in teas, and to flavor stews, soups, and pastas.
How is artichoke leaf able to reduce cholesterol? The cynarin in artichokes is responsible for its cholesterol-lowering effects. Artichoke leaf also contains a unique fiber that blocks absorption of cholesterol, which reduces LDL cholesterol production.
An eight-week study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2013 found that artichoke leaf extract could help manage mild high cholesterol in obese people, as the artichoke leaf increased HDL cholesterol and reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Final Thoughts on Kitchen Herbs to Lower Cholesterol
The management of high cholesterol may be as easy as getting in the kitchen, and adding some spices and herbs to lower cholesterol to your meals. Use this article as a guide to which herbs and spices could lower your high cholesterol.
My favorites of the cholesterol-lowering herbs featured include garlic, ginger, thyme, dill, sage, oregano, cilantro, and turmeric.
In total, this article included 22 incredibly powerful and delicious spices and herbs that studies show have a direct effect on lowering your cholesterol levels. Furthermore, herbs and spices may be a far safer way to lower cholesterol than statin drug therapy, and they also come with fewer side effects.
Just be sure to check with your doctor before discontinuing any prescription drug regimen, and beware of any potential allergens or medication interactions.