Red Yeast Rice
What is Red Yeast Rice?
Red Yeast Rice refers to rice that has been fermented with the yeast monascus purpureus. This fermentation process changes the colour of the rice from white to reddish purple, hence the name ‘Red Yeast Rice’. Also known as a “koji” in Japanese culture, which means grain or bean overgrown with a mold culture, this food preparation method is a tradition that can be traced back to 300 BC.
For centuries, Red Yeast Rice has been used in China as both food and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). On one hand, it has been used as a colouring agent to prepare fish, fish sauce, fish paste, rice wine and red soybean curd. It is the ingredient that gives Peking duck its characteristic red colour. It can also be used as a preservative and spice.
On the other hand, Red Yeast Rice has been used to help reduce blood lipids and lower cholesterol. Taken together with other natural herbs, it can improve digestion and blood circulation. In the late 1990s, Red Yeast Rice was introduced into the West as a dietary supplement to promote healthy cholesterol levels.
The use of Red Yeast Rice in China was first documented in the Tang Dynasty in 800 AD, with a detailed description of its production process recorded in the ancient Chinese pharmacopeia Ben Cao Gang Mu (本草纲目).
In TCM, Red Yeast Rice falls under the category of ‘Herbs that invigorate Blood’. It exhibits acrid, sweet and warm properties, and it is thought to target the Large Intestine, Liver and Spleen.
Functions and Benefits of Red Yeast Rice
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Red Yeast Rice has the following functions.
Red Yeast Rice can tonify the Spleen and Stomach to relieve a range of digestive issues. For example, this herb can be used to promote digestion to treat indigestion in which there is undigested food in the stool, as well as to treat food stagnation.
Red Yeast Rice can also invigorate blood circulation to eliminate Blood Stasis. It can also be used to relieve pain caused by trauma and injuries.
In Ben Cao Gang Mu, an ancient TCM book that was published during the Ming Dynasty, Red Yeast Rice was proposed to be a mild aid for gastric problems, blood circulation, and Spleen and stomach health.
Other than the above Red Yeast Rice benefits, modern studies have also suggested that Red Yeast Rice can help to lower cholesterol levels, which in turn help to lower the risk of heart diseases. Red Yeast Rice has been found to contain the compound monacolin K — the same active ingredient found in prescription cholesterol-lowering medications like lovastatin. Hence, this herb is often used as a natural and cost-effective alternative to expensive medications to help reduce cholesterol levels and support heart health.
Other than promoting Heart health, Red Yeast Rice can also help to treat metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase your risk for chronic conditions, such as Heart disease, myocardial infarction, diabetes, and stroke. Studies have found that Red Yeast Rice can help to reduce blood sugar levels, insulin levels and systolic blood pressure among people who are suffering from metabolic syndromes.
Benefits of Red Yeast Rice also include reducing inflammation, preventing chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer, and aiding bone formation.
How to Use Red Yeast Rice
Red Yeast Rice supplements are available in many different formulations, such as Red Yeast Rice extracts, Red Yeast Rice capsules and Red Yeast Rice concoctions. Individuals can follow the instructions on the packaging as a guideline for dosage, but the usual recommended daily dosage of Red Yeast Rice is 6-12g.
Some sources suggest that people can take 200-1000mg of Red Yeast Rice two to three times daily. However, it is more important for us to be conscious of the monacolin K content. However, as the amount of monacolin K in Red Yeast Rice products may vary significantly, it is important for consumers to check with the store or product providers on that before deciding to incorporate it into their diet.
Other than the above medicinal usage, Red Yeast Rice is also used to colour a wide variety of food products such as Red Rice Vinegar, Char Siew, and pickled tofu. Also, it is used in the production of several types of Chinese huang jiu (黄酒) and Japanese sake. In the Philippines, Red Yeast Rice is also used to colour and preserve dishes such as bagoong alamang (fermented shrimp) and burong isda (fermented rice and fish).
Cautions and Side Effects of Red Yeast Rice
Red Yeast Rice should be used with caution if the individual is experiencing Stomach or Spleen Deficiency. Also, individuals who are experiencing pregnancy, breastfeeding or active Liver diseases should refrain from consuming Red Yeast Rice too.
If you are consuming Red Yeast Rice, it is best to avoid other statin medicines in the meantime as well.
Due to the wide variability of active ingredients in the available Red Yeast Rice formulations in the market, the herb could cause harmful effects on our health if used inappropriately. Some possible Red Yeast Rice side effects include muscle problems leading to Kidney impairment, abdominal discomfort, headache, and dizziness.
Red Yeast Rice may also interact with medications such as the antidepressant nefazodone, certain antibiotics, drugs that people use to treat fungal and HIV infections, as well as other cholesterol-lowering medications.
Hence, it is advised that you should consult your healthcare provider first before adding Red Yeast Rice to your diet.
Here is a summary for Red Yeast Rice:
- Herb name (Chinese): 红曲
- Herb name (Pin Yin): hóng qǔ
- Herb name (English): Red Yeast Rice
- Herb name (Botanical): –
- Origin of species: Monascus purpureus Went.
- Part(s) of herb used: Rice
- Geo-specific habitat(s): Hebei, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Taiwan, Fujian, Guangdong
- Taste(s) & Properties: Sweet; Warm; Administrates the Spleen, Stomach and Large Intestine meridians
- Actions: Relieve digestive discomforts with symptoms of bloating, lack of appetite and indigestion; Helps to improve blood circulation in the body
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