One of the greatest contributions natural medicine could make to health care would be to lessen the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Without a doubt CVD is our largest taker of lives. It is estimated that CVD shaves an average of 10 to 15 years off the average lifespan. A very large price to pay for something that is largely preventable.
An elevated cholesterol level is one of the most significant risk factors, as it can lead to atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries.” Partially blocked arteries result in less blood and therefore less oxygen and nutrient reaching the tissues. If atherosclerosis occurs near the heart it can greatly increase the risk of heart attack, and if the arteries of the head and neck are affected the person faces a potential stroke. Atherosclerosis in turn can lead to another risk factor–high blood pressure–as more force is required to pump blood through the partially blocked vessels.
The most popular group of cholesterol-lowering drugs is called the statins. This group includes Mevacor® (lovastatin), Pravachol® (pravastatin) and Zocor® (simvastatin) among others. The statins inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver. They block an enzyme called HMG CoA reductase that is required to manufacture cholesterol. Unfortunately, other valuable substances such as CoQ10 also need this enzyme to be synthesized. Potential liver damage is a very significant side effect of the statins.
An active lifestyle and good nutrition are obvious cornerstones of maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. When additional support is needed, various natural medicines have been tested and used successfully.
Fresh garlic or garlic supplements with documented high allicin levels have been shown to lower low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol while at the same time raising high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol.
The gum from the myrrh tree is an ancient Indian medicine that has been shown to lower both LDL and triglycerides. The purified standardized extract of the gum is called gugulipid. Gugulipid is preferred to the crude gum as it’s more effective and no side effects have been reported.
Niacin was first shown to lower cholesterol by Dr Abram Hoffer in 1954. He was testing niacin’s effectiveness in the treatment of schizophrenia and discovered its additional value as a lipid-lowering agent. Despite considerable evidence, few physicians prescribe niacin due to possible flushing and concerns of its long-term effect on the liver. A safer and slightly more effective form of niacin called inositol hexaniacinate has been used for decades in Europe. Patient compliance is much better as inositol hexaniacinate results in very little flushing; fewer long-term side effects are reported.
There is an exciting new option available to Canadians. Sugarcane wax extract is the most effective and by far the most extensively studied natural approach. Many years ago Cuban scientists believed that natural medicine would be a wave of the future. They have utilized the services of many of their top research scientists to investigate the effects of sugarcane wax extract on cholesterol metabolism. Outstanding results were demonstrated on over 30,000 patients in well-controlled clinical trials. In several head-to-head studies with cholesterol lowering drugs, sugarcane wax extract compared very favorably. Unlike many of the drugs, the extract has a remarkable safety profile. It is virtually free of negative side effects and it can even be used in diabetics and those with existing liver conditions.
The mechanism of action (how it works) is extraordinary. Unlike the statins, which interfere with cholesterol production by inhibiting an enzyme, sugarcane wax extract instead improves the binding of cholesterol to receptor or sensor sites on the liver cells. The liver receives the message that the body has enough cholesterol so it doesn’t overproduce.
Cuban athletes have used sugarcane wax extract for decades, hoping to enhance their performance. If Olympic medals are any indication, Cuban athletes are definitely doing something right. The extract has also been tested and is now used to treat impotence problems in men. Impaired circulation, it must be remembered, is the leading cause of impotence.
This may be the first time you’ve heard of this medicine, but it will certainly not be the last. I believe this extract will be to cholesterol what St John’s wort is to depression or echinacea is to the common cold.
The centre for medical research in Havana employs over 1,000 people. They have compiled an overwhelming body of evidence supporting the usefulness of sugar can wax extract in cholesterol management. Thanks to their foresight and several years of dedication an outstanding contribution to preventive medicine has been made.