Red yeast rice is the product of yeast (Monascuspurpureus) grown on rice, and is served as a dietary staple in some Asian countries. It contains several compounds collectively known as Monacolins, substances known to inhibit cholesterol synthesis. One of these, "Monacolin K" is a potent inhibitor of HMG-CoA reductase, and is also known as Mevinolin or Lovastatin (Mevacor®, a drug produced by Merck & Co., Inc).
Red yeast rice extract has been sold as a natural cholesterol-lowering agent in over the counter supplements, such as CholestinTM (Pharmanex, Inc). However, there has been legal and industrial dispute as to whether red yeast rice is a drug or dietary supplement, involving this manufacturer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the pharmaceutical industry (particularly producers of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor prescription drugs or "statins").
The use of red yeast rice in China was first documented in the Tang Dynasty in 800 A.D. A detailed description of its manufacture is found in the ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia, Ben Cao Gang Mu-Dan Shi Bu Yi, published during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In this text, red yeast rice is proposed to be a mild aid for gastric problems (indigestion, diarrhea), blood circulation and spleen and stomach health. Red yeast rice in a dried, powdered form is called Zhi Tai. When extracted with alcohol it is called Xue Zhi Kang.
Angkak, beni-koju, CholestinTM, hong qu, hung-chu, Monascus, red koji, red leaven, red rice, red rice yeast, red yeast rice, Xue Zhi Kang, Zhi Tai.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Since the 1970s, human studies have reported that red yeast lowers blood levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein/LDL ("bad cholesterol"), and triglyceride levels.
Coronary heart disease
Preliminary evidence shows that taking
Early human evidence suggests the potential for benefits in diabetics. Additional study is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.