The yeast mold 'monascus purpureus', when cultivated on the normal white rice, gives the product named red yeast rice. Its rich, purple-red color, makes it a popular ingredient of the traditional East Asian wines, cookies, and pastries. It was traditionally used as a herbal medicine in China. Traces of its utilization have been found from the period of the Tang Dynasty, which ruled around 800 AD. It was mainly used as a remedy to remove blood blockages and to strengthen the digestive system. Its strain, named 'Went', contains an ample amount of HMG-CoA reductase. It is the substance of lovastatin (mevinolin), which naturally turns into 'statin'. This rice is popularly used to reduce the levels of total body cholesterol and bad cholesterol (low density lipoprotein/LDL). It barricades the production of the cholesterol-producing liver enzymes. Research studies also claim that it helps in reducing the levels of triglyceride. However, there is insufficient evidence to substantiate these claims and extensive research would be required. Moreover, the appropriate dosing and its long-term safety is unclear.
Brands like Solaray, doctor's Best, Nature's Plus, etc. are some of the brands that produce red yeast rice supplements in various forms like tablets, pastes, tinctures, teas, capsules, and other topical forms. Generally, the suggested dose of supplement is 15 to 50 grams per day. It is believed that this rice works in miraculous ways when taken in the prescribed amounts. However, combining it with other medicines or drugs containing statin and mevinolin, may result into minor to severe side effects.
Minor Side Effects
- Dizziness and weakness
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Bloating and gas trouble
- Muscle and joint pain
- Liver inflammation
- Stomach pain
The side effects that are observed immediately after consuming these supplements, should never be ignored. Remember that the contents of the rice and that of its supplements differ a lot. Along with the defining chemicals, red yeast rice contains protein, starch, fibers, fatty acids, and sterols, which their supplements may lack. Hence, it becomes extremely important to consult one's family doctor before their consumption.
Major Side Effects
- Myopathy - one would experience muscle pain, increase in the levels of creatine kinase, weakness, and dizziness, etc.
- Rhabdomyolysis - a severe breakdown of a muscle tissue that could lead to kidney failure. Symptoms like muscle pain, joint pain, tenderness, etc. occur rarely, but should not be ignored.
- There could be some side effects of the statin drug that this rice contains. Research suggests that the statin affects the production of a mitochondria substance - CoQ10. Elders, people affected by diabetes, or those with heart problems are more likely to get affected by these side effects.
- Allergies like difficulty in breathing or swallowing, hives, swelling of hands, tongue, throat, lips, and even face, wheezing, itching, etc. may also be observed.
- Liver damage symptoms include jaundice, dark urine, increased amount of liver enzymes, etc.
- Combined with anticoagulants (heparin, warfarin), antiplatelet drugs (clopidogrel), and anti-inflammatory drugs (naproxen, ibuprofen), it increases the risk of bleeding.
- Combined with antibiotics like ranitidine and cyclosporine, it increases the chances of muscle breakdown.
- Furthermore, this rice can produce GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and leave addictive effects, when combined with drugs like neurontin.
- It also has adverse effects when combined with thyroid and high blood pressure medications, niacin, and digoxin.
- Grape juice, milk thistle, and vitamin A may react with these supplements.
- When combined with ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto, garlic, etc. it may raise the chances of bleeding.
In order to avoid the aforementioned side effects, it is necessary to consult the physician before opting for this rice as a remedy. Also, to rule out the possibilities of severe complications that could occur.