An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Yeast, Red - Monascus purpureus - family: Saccharomycetaceae. Class: Ascomycetes. Division: Ascomycota.

Yeasts are very tiny one-celled fungi. These yeasts gather in colonies of many thousands and are reddish-purple in color. They typically reproduce by budding and less often through spores. In the natural world, yeasts are plants without chlorophyll that depend on other plants for their energy. Technically, yeasts are considered as saprophytic parasites. This yeast is grown on Rice by inoculating the Rice with spores of Monascus purpureus. The fermentation process takes about three weeks. The resulting Red Rice or Ang-kak has been traditionally used in Asia as a food coloring and as a food flavoring. An extract of this Yeast is now being marketed in North America as a dietary supplement to lower high levels of cholesterol. Several different clinical trials have indicated that Red Yeast is useful in lowering overall blood cholesterol levels. After the passage of the Dietary Health and Supplement Act of 1994, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to ban the importing of Red Yeast by Pharmanex Inc., Simi, CA. for their use of it in their product, CholestinTM, on the basis of it being a drug. In 1998, a Federal Court in Colorado ruled against the FDA and said that Red Yeast could continue to be imported and used as a dietary supplement. Note: do not use if you are pregnant or nursing. Note: do not use if you are taking prescription cholesterol-lowering drugs. Note: do not use if you suffer from liver problems. Note: do not use alcohol while taking this supplement. Note: possible side effects include dizziness, heartburn, intestinal gas, general weakness, joint pain and flu-like symptoms. Yeast plants are present in the soil and in the air around the world.



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Web page last updated on 26 May 2003.