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Home / Health Insurance / Articles / Ayurvedic Medicine / Red Yeast Rice (Ayurvedic Medicine): Uses, side effects, and more

Red Yeast Rice (Ayurvedic Medicine): Uses, side effects, and more

Team AckoMay 13, 2024

Red Yeast Rice (RYR), also known as Went Yeast, has enjoyed a multifaceted role in Chinese culture, serving as both a therapeutic agent and a culinary staple for generations. Its production involves the fermentation of red rice with Monascus purpureus, a mould rich in bioactive compounds. 

Traditionally, RYR has been revered for its medicinal properties, particularly in managing cholesterol levels, improving blood circulation, and aiding digestion. Its efficacy in these areas has made it a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, passed down through generations.

Beyond its medicinal applications, RYR adds depth and flavour to various dishes, enriching the culinary landscape of China. Its vibrant red hue and unique taste make it a prized ingredient in traditional recipes, ranging from savoury dishes to fermented beverages. As such, RYR embodies the harmonious integration of health and gastronomy, reflecting the holistic approach to wellness deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. In this article, we will learn more about RYR, its potential benefits, and adverse effects.




What is Red Yeast Rice?

Red Yeast Rice is a form of fermented rice. It has been used for ages in traditional Chinese medicine for its significant health-promoting properties, such as lowering cholesterol, supporting heart health, inhibiting cancer cell development, and improving blood sugar and insulin levels.

Red Yeast Rice is considered a powerhouse of nutrients as it is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals such as zinc and iron, and polyphenols, including vanillic acid and ferulic acid. It also contains antioxidants like anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, and lipids such as gamma-oryzanol.

Properties of Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice consumption has various scientifically verified effects, some of which are listed below.

  • It might have antioxidant properties

  • It may be able to reduce blood glucose levels

  • It may have the ability to lower cholesterol

  • It has the potential to protect the liver

  • It could have the ability to boost bone health

  • It has the potential to cause airway dilation

  • It might have anti-tumor properties

  • It has the potential to heal wounds

  • It may have anti-inflammatory properties

Red Yeast Rice in Ayurveda

Ayurveda reveres Red Yeast Rice for its numerous health advantages. It is referred to as Rakthashali in ancient literature and is highly valued for its unique capacity to balance the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It is high in antioxidants, calcium, iron, and zinc, all of which contribute to strengthening the body.


Red yeast rice is commonly taken orally in doses of 600 mg twice daily for cholesterol management over a period of up to 4.5 years. However, it's crucial to consult a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate dosage for specific conditions, as individual needs may vary.

It's important to note that the content of monacolin K, an active compound similar to lovastatin, can vary significantly among red yeast rice products. Some may contain negligible amounts, while others may have high concentrations, posing a risk of serious side effects. 

Products with substantial levels of statin-like ingredients are considered illegal and unapproved drugs, emphasising the importance of sourcing regulated formulations.

Consulting with a healthcare professional can help ensure the safe and effective use of red yeast rice, minimising the risk of adverse effects associated with inconsistent dosing and product quality.

Health benefits of Red Yeast Rice

There are numerous red yeast benefits. Some of the potential benefits include the following.

1. It may promote heart health

Excessive cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. It can cause arteries to constrict and thicken, raising your risk of a heart attack or stroke. RYR is a widely used natural therapy for lowering cholesterol and promoting heart health with little or no side effects.

Research indicates that when combined with statin medicines, RYR helps lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, along with triglycerides and blood pressure. Also, monacolin K may significantly improve endothelial function or the agility of your blood vessels, which is necessary to maintain your vascular and heart health.

2. May help treat metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome includes a number of illnesses that may increase your chance of developing chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke. Metabolic syndrome includes a variety of factors, such as high blood pressure, extra body fat, elevated blood sugar, and changes in cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

Many studies have revealed that RYR can help alleviate these risk factors and can be used as a natural remedy to help avoid them. According to research, it can significantly lessen the total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, blood sugar, insulin levels, excess body weight, and systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) in persons with metabolic syndrome.

3. It may help reduce inflammation

Inflammation is a common defensive mechanism that your body uses to protect itself from acute illnesses and external invaders. However, prolonged inflammation may lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

According to research, supplementing with RYR may help lessen inflammation by reducing oxidative stress levels and achieve long-term health benefits. The antioxidant properties of the phytochemicals, such as gamma-oryzanol, flavonoids, and phenols, present in RYR protect the cells from damage and thereby reduce inflammation.

4. It may reduce the risk of cancer

According to one study, RYR may decrease the growth of cancer cells by blocking IL-6, a protein that encourages the growth of cancer cells. It also prevents cancer cells from spreading to other regions of the body (metastasis) because of the presence of polyphenols like proanthocyanidins. Research suggests that RYR may aid in the prevention of breast cancer, gastric cancer, colon cancer, and acute myeloid leukaemia.

5. It may help treat type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is defined as increased blood glucose levels caused by either a low insulin level or the body's resistance to insulin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels). According to research, the anti-diabetic benefit of RYR is due to its low glycemic index and enhanced insulin sensitivity. Hence it may have a beneficial effect on type 2 diabetes.

6. It may aid proper digestion

According to research, RYR was used to improve digestion in traditional Chinese medicine. It being a good source of dietary fibre, may support the improvement of bowel movements and alleviate constipation. Moreover, RYR is low in fat and high in protein and fibre; it controls appetite, lowers overeating, and may aid in metabolism. This implies that consuming RYR may promote digestion, ease constipation, and aid in losing weight.

7. Dietary Sources

In Asia and Chinese communities in North America, red yeast rice is used as a food colouring agent. It is commonly added to fish, alcoholic beverages, and cheese to impart a distinct reddish colour. This traditional use not only enhances the visual appeal of food products but also adds a subtle flavour profile, contributing to the culinary traditions of these regions.

Side effects of Red Yeast Rice

Despite the advantages of RYR, excess supplementation with it may have some side effects; therefore it is advisable to consult with your healthcare practitioner before using this supplement. Some side effects of RYR may include the following.

  • Gastrointestinal issues like gas, bloating, and stomach pain

  • Fermented RYR may cause liver damage due to raised liver enzymes

  • Because of the high protein content in Red Yeast Rice, it may cause an allergic reaction, including itching, rashes, hives, and swelling

Interaction to medication

Red Yeast Rice has monacolin K, the active compound used to prepare statin medications, which are used to decrease cholesterol. Hence, you should avoid eating Red Yeast Rice if you are already taking a statin.

RYR could also react with the medications that interact with statins, such as cholesterol-lowering medications, antifungals, antiretrovirals, antibiotics, and some antidepressants. If you are taking any of these medications, consult with your doctor before having Red Yeast Rice.

Also read: Ayushman Bharat Health Account

Special Precautions and Warnings

Red yeast rice, a traditional Chinese supplement, has gained popularity for its potential cholesterol-lowering effects due to the presence of lovastatin, a compound with statin-like properties. 

  • While generally considered safe for short-term use, caution should be exercised, particularly regarding long-term consumption and specific populations such as pregnant or breastfeeding women and individuals with liver problems.

  • For most individuals, red yeast rice appears to be safe when taken orally for up to 4.5 years. However, its similarity to prescription lovastatin raises concerns about potential side effects. These include liver damage, severe muscle pain, and muscle damage, all of which are associated with statin use. 

  • Although the risk of these adverse effects may be lower with red yeast rice compared to prescription lovastatin, monitoring for signs of liver or muscle problems is advisable, especially during long-term use.

Pregnant women should avoid red yeast rice due to potential risks to the developing foetus. Animal studies have shown that certain chemicals in red yeast rice can cause birth defects, indicating a potential teratogenic effect. As such, it is prudent for pregnant individuals to refrain from using red yeast rice to mitigate any potential harm to the unborn child.

Similarly, there is insufficient evidence to determine the safety of red yeast rice during breastfeeding. Given the lack of reliable information, it is advisable for breastfeeding women to be cautious and refrain from using red yeast rice to prevent any potential adverse effects on the nursing infant.

Individuals with liver problems should exercise caution when considering red yeast rice due to its lovastatin content. Since lovastatin is known to cause liver damage, those with existing liver conditions should use red yeast rice products cautiously or avoid them altogether to prevent exacerbation of their condition.

While red yeast rice may offer benefits in managing cholesterol levels, it is essential to weigh the potential risks, especially in vulnerable populations. Short-term use under medical supervision may be acceptable for most individuals. Still, for long-term use, consumption during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and other liver conditions, careful consideration and consultation with a healthcare professional should be followed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Red Yeast Rice Ayurvedic Medicine.


What are the adverse effects of Red Yeast Rice?

RYR may have the same negative effects as statin medicines, including muscle, kidney, and liver damage. They might also induce gastrointestinal issues like gas, bloating, and stomach pain, as well as allergic reactions like itching, rashes, hives, and swelling.

Is Red Yeast Rice safe for the liver?

Red Yeast Rice may have negative effects on the liver and cause liver damage.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions. Red Yeast Rice is also written as RYR in this article.


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