Monday, January 14, 2008

Hong Qu - Red Yeast Rice

The L.A. Times has a pretty good piece on the use of red yeast rice (Hong Qu 红曲) as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical statins for lowering cholesterol. Take a look at this link, keeping in mind this was apparently written without any consultation of Chinese medicine experts:

Statin-free supplement? Not quite

In terms of Chinese medicine, Hong Qu 红曲 is sweet, acrid and warm, and primarily affects the Spleen, Liver, and Large Intestine meridians. It strengthens the Spleen and invigorates the Blood and is often used for indigestion. For more information, I'd like to quote one of our textbooks, Chinese Medicinal Herbology and Pharmacology by John and Tina Chen.

Hong Qu is rice that has been fermented with yeast Monascus purpureus. The fermentation process changes the color of rice from white to red, thereby giving it the name "red yeast rice." For centuries, Hong Qu has been used in China as both food and herbal medicine. It has also been used as a coloring agent to prepare fish, fish sauce, fish paste, rice wine, and red soybean curd. In the late 1990s, it was introduced and used in the US as a a dietary supplement to promote healthy cholesterol levels.

Most medical journals attribute the hypolipidemic effect of Hong Qu to a single component, lovastatin. This explanation, however, is not sufficient nor entirely accurate. The therapeutic dose of Hong Qu delivers approximately 7.2mg of lovastatin, while the synthetic drug lovastatin (Mevacor) contains from 10 to 40 mg of lovastatin. Yet, despite the lower dose of the supposed active component, the hypolipidemic effects of Hong Qu are much greater than the synthetic drug lovastatin. Thus, it is clear that lovastatin is not the only active component, and more research needs to be done on Hong Qu as an herbal medicine, not just on lovastatin as a single compound.

We don't carry Hong Qu at the Yosan herbal pharmacy, but if you're interested, let me know and I can get some for you.