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Ashwagandha Lowers Cholesterol and Infectious Disease Risk.

We all know that it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Even healthy habits like exercise and eating right can be unhealthy in excess. Now research is showing that you can have too much HDL cholesterol.

You probably know that there's more than one kind of cholesterol. We typically consider low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to be "bad" cholesterol. You can definitely have too much of this. It will leave you vulnerable to heart disease.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is "good" cholesterol. HDL does benefit the body in some ways. But it turns out that having too much HDL may also be dangerous.

Researchers have been studying people who are susceptible to infectious diseases. And they've noticed an interesting pattern. It's true that people with very low HDL are vulnerable.

But, what's surprising is that people on the opposite end of the spectrum, people with very high HDL, seem to be vulnerable as well.

European researchers have been studying people who contract diseases such as gastroenteritis or pneumonia. They were surprised to find the connection to high HDL. Both people with low HDL and people with high HDL have a high risk of both contracting and of dying from an infectious disease.

More specifically, researchers have found that people in the lowest 21% of the population and the highest 8% of the population when it comes to HDL have the highest disease risk.

Compared to a reference group, those with low HDL had a much higher risk of infectious disease: 75%. But the high HDL group was also at a 43% higher risk than the reference group. That's a big jump in risk for something that's supposed to be good for you.

HDL plays an important role in the immune system. So it's not surprising that low HDL leaves you vulnerable. But researchers aren't yet sure why there's also a connection between high HDL and high risk. There may be a causal connection. Or it's possible that an independent genetic factor predisposes people to both high HDL and infectious disease.

Regardless, it's a good idea to be mindful of your cholesterol levels and not simply assume that higher is always better when it comes to HDL cholesterol. Of course, if you do have very low HDL, you should increase those levels. Too little is still more dangerous than too much.

Fortunately, I've got an easy way you can improve your cholesterol numbers and your immune function at the same time: adaptogenic herbs. You may know these herbs for their ability to support your adrenal function and help your body adapt to stress. But that's not all they can do.

One of my favorite of these herbs, ashwagandha, can improve your overall cholesterol and support your immune system. In particular, it can drastically lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. It can also raise HDL cholesterol levels slightly.

In one study of people with mildly high cholesterol, taking 3 g per day lowered their total cholesterol by 10% and LDL cholesterol by 6%. It also raised their HDL by 4.2%. Another study with healthy participants saw similar results for total and HDL cholesterol. However, their LDL cholesterol went down by 14%!

If your ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol is bad, this is exactly what you want. And ashwagandha even goes a step further. One of the reasons LDL cholesterol is so dangerous is that free radicals can oxidize LDL inside your arteries. This creates the plaque that leads to heart disease. Ashwagandha supplies antioxidants that prevent this oxidation process by mopping up free radicals.

This antioxidant activity also supports the immune system. With fewer free radicals to deal with, the body can keep inflammation to healthier levels. And it will be better prepared to fight disease.

Ashwagandha is easy to find online. It has numerous additional benefits, like protecting the liver and improving diabetes symptoms. Plus, it doesn't have any known side effects. A standard dose is 1-2 tsp of leaf or root powder a day or 600-1200 mg root or leaf extract. These amounts are similar to those used in the studies I mentioned above.

If you're already taking other medications or herbs to lower your cholesterol, you may want to talk to your doctor about the best dose for you. But I'd much rather you take ashwagandha than a drug like a statin. Natural herbs are a much safer choice.

Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha are the solution to vulnerability to infection, protecting your heart, and slowly regulating your lipids. But you do have to take them for a reasonable amount of time.

The research shows you need at least 6 to 12 months to start turning the ship around. So don't panic if you don't see a difference right away.

You also shouldn't panic if you have very high HDL numbers. My own mother is 92, and her total cholesterol is 325 because her HDL is so high. But she hardly ever gets sick. She might catch a cold every couple of years, but that's it. So high HDL isn't a death--or disease sentence.

If you do have high or low HDL, take steps to support your immune system. That will help you overcome any vulnerability to infectious diseases you may have. And if your LDL is higher, go ahead and work on lowering that and getting your HDL up. You'll benefit your heart and lower your risk of disease.

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Publication:Women's Health Letter
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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