Policosanol for Cholesterol: Benefits, Dosage, Sources

This supplement is purported to help lower high cholesterol

Policosanol, a dietary supplement, is a mixture of alcohols isolated from Cuban sugar cane wax. It contains about 60% octacosanol.

Policosanol is sometimes taken in supplement form to lower cholesterol. While it has shown some promise at having a cholesterol-lowering effect, research is inconclusive.

Cut down sugar cane stalks
PamelaViola / Getty Images

Also Known As

  • Octacosanol
  • 1-Octacosanol
  • N-Octacosanol
  • Octacosyl Alcohol

Health Benefits of Policosanol 

Policosanol has been touted as a dietary supplement that can lower cholesterol.

Some studies suggest policosanol may help inhibit cholesterol from forming in the liver. However, most of the studies on sugar cane policosanol have been done by a single research group in Cuba that's involved with the policosanol patent.

An 2006 independent study didn't find any benefit of policosanol on cholesterol levels, even at high doses. This finding casts some doubt on the reliability of the Cuban research on policosanol.

A 2016 animal study found that rats fed a high-cholesterol diet and given policosanol for six weeks had a decrease in cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and enzyme activity in the liver that controls how cholesterol is made compared to rats not given policosanol.

Researchers concluded that policosanol may have potential as an effective dietary strategy for manage increased blood sugar and cholesterol levels after meals.

A review of 22 studies involving 1,900 people reported that sugar cane policosanol could reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

However, researchers concluded that more clinical trials are needed to confirm the effect of policosanol on high cholesterol.

Possible Side Effects

Although the reliability of the Cuban studies has been questioned, the reported side effects of policosanol have been mild and short-term.

Potential side effects include:

  • Indigestion
  • Skin rash
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss

In terms of notable safety concerns, policosanol may increase the effect of medications that interfere with blood clotting or anti-platelet drugs, such as:

  • Aspirin
  • Warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Heparin
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Ticlopidine (Ticlid)
  • Pentoxifylline (Trental)
  • Supplements such as garlic, ginkgo, or high-dose vitamin E

Policosanol may increase the effects and side effects of levodopa, a medication used for Parkinson's disease.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

How Much Policosanol to Take

A typical dosage of policosanol used in studies has been 5 to 10 milligrams (mg) twice daily.

Studies generally find that it can take up to two months to notice benefits.

What to Look For

The most-studied form of policosanol is derived from sugar cane and many products will tout that source. Other forms of policoanol haven't been well-researched.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety. Since dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may be different from what is specified on the product label.

A ConsumerLab.com analysis of six policosanol supplements found that all of the products contained their claimed amounts, which is consistent with what's used clinically. This suggests you can be assured that what's promised on the label is what's found in the supplements.

However, to be certain, when buying supplements look for products that have been certified by one of the following:

  • ConsumerLabs
  • The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention
  • NSF International

These organizations don't guarantee a product is safe or effective, but they indicate that it's undergone testing for quality.

Policosanol Food Sources

Policosanol is mainly sold in supplement form. It was originally derived from sugar cane wax, but is also in other plant foods. It can be found and isolated from the following food sources:

  • Beeswax
  • Corn kernels
  • Grape seed
  • Green tea leaves
  • Milk thistle
  • Perilla seeds
  • Rice bran
  • Sorghum
  • Sugar cane wax
  • Wheat bran

A Word From Verywell

Due to a lack of supporting evidence, it's too soon to recommend policosanol for the treatment of high cholesterol. If you're considering using it, talk with your healthcare provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can policosanol lower blood pressure?

    Yes. A 2019 review of 19 studies on over 2,200 adults concluded that a daily dose of policosanol (5 to 20 mg) decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults.

  • Can policosanol help with weight loss?

    Possibly. One study found that adults who took 10 mg of policosanol daily for eight weeks had a reduced body fat percentage, fat mass, and visceral fat mass. One of the groups in the study lost 30% of their fat mass.

  • Does policosanol work like a statin?

    Maybe. Statins lower cholesterol levels by blocking a liver enzyme that produces cholesterol, HMG CoA. Policosanol can also lower cholesterol levels. While some researchers think it also has something to do with HMG CoA, the exact mechanism of policosanol is unknown.

Was this page helpful?
8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Swanson B, Keithley JK, Sha BE, et al. Policosanol for managing human immunodeficiency virus-related dyslipidemia in a medically underserved population: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2011;17(2):30-5.

  2. Berthold HK, Unverdorben S, Degenhardt R, Bulitta M, Gouni-berthold I. Effect of policosanol on lipid levels among patients with hypercholesterolemia or combined hyperlipidemia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2006;295(19):2262-9. doi:10.1001/jama.295.19.2262

  3. Lee JY, Choi HY, Kang YR, et al. Effects of long-term supplementation of policosanol on blood cholesterol/glucose levels and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme a reductase activity in a rat model fed high cholesterol diets. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2016;25(3):899-904. doi:10.1007/s10068-016-0147-y

  4. Gong J, Qin X, Yuan F, et al. Efficacy and safety of sugarcane policosanol on dyslipidemia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2018;62(1) doi:10.1002/mnfr.201700280

  5. Castaño G, Más R, Fernández J, et al. Effects of policosanol on borderline to mildly elevated serum total cholesterol levels: a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, comparative study. Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 2003;64(8):522-37. doi:10.1016/j.curtheres.2003.09.002

  6. ConsumerLab.com. Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements Review.

  7. Askarpour M, Ghaedi E, Roshanravan N, et al. Policosanol supplementation significantly improves blood pressure among adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsComplement Ther Med. 2019;45:89-97. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.05.023

  8. Kim JY, Kim SM, Kim SJ, Lee EY, Kim JR, Cho KH. Consumption of policosanol enhances HDL functionality via CETP inhibition and reduces blood pressure and visceral fat in young and middle-aged subjectsInt J Mol Med. 2017;39(4):889-899. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2017.2907

Additional Reading