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Red Yeast Rice Powder

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 14, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Red Yeast Rice Powder


Red Yeast Rice (Monascus purpureus) can also be called red kojic rice, red koji rice or red fermented rice. It is colored red to reddish purple rice which is due to being grown and cultivated with a mold that is called Monascus purpureus. Red Yeast Rice Powder from this type of rice has been used as a food coloring agent; it has been widely used in China to color tofu, red rice vinegar, cooking Peking duck and in making several varieties of Chinese pastries.
Red Yeast Rice Powder has been commercially used as an ingredient in medications that lower the body’s natural cholesterol levels. The debate on whether Red Yeast Rice Powder is a drug or a food supplement is still being studied by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

History and Origin

Red Yeast Rice Powder has originated from the Red Yeast Rice in China and several parts of Asia. It was ground into fine powder for use in cooking, baking and also wine making in China and in Japan.
The name Red Yeast Rice comes from the color of the rice which is the result of the mold Monascus purpureus grown directly on the rice. This way of coloring rice has been used since ancient Chinese times.

Ancient Uses

The Red Yeast Rice Powder is widely used in ancient times as a coloring agent for red foods. Since red is a lucky color throughout both ancient and modern China it is typically used to color rice cakes, Peking duck, rice wine, pastries and pickled tofu during traditional Chinese festivals and holidays.

The use of the Red Yeast Rice Powder has been documented as a traditional Chinese herbal medication that dates back as far as the Tang Dynasty in 800 AD in China. It was originally meant to increase the body’s resistance to disease, increase vitality and as a cure for indigestion.

Modern Uses

A complete description of the Red Yeast Rice Powder as a part of traditional Chinese medicine was first mentioned in a medicinal pharmacopoeia in the Ming Dynasty (1378-1644). Studies regarding the healing properties of Red Yeast Rice Powder have found that it contains monacolins, or compounds that were noticed to inhibit cholesterol synthesis. It also paved the way for Red Yeast Rice Powder to be used as a main ingredient in a drug for lowering blood cholesterol called Mevacor produced by the drug company Merck & Co., Inc. The cholesterol lowering properties of Red Yeast Rice Powder has been used by many over the counter medications.

Side Effects

There are no known side effects of Red Yeast Rice Powder, however many supplements derived from Red Yeast Rice Powder have been found to contain significant amount of toxins called citrinin. It is therefore best to have a trusted supplier of Red Yeast Rice Powder supplements so that you can safely reap the healing benefits of this herbal remedy. Using Red Yeast Rice Powder for its benefits should first be discussed with your naturopathic doctor or herbalist since it may cause adverse drug interactions with your current medication.

Read also: Jojoba Oil

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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