Taking Policosanol for High Cholesterol

Close-up of sugar cane stalks
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Other names: Octacosanol, 1-Octacosanol, N-Octacosanol, Octacosyl Alcohol

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

Sugarcane policosanol is not widely available in the United States. Instead, policosanol products sold in the United States are generally derived from beeswax and wheat germ.


In alternative medicine, policosanol is generally used for high cholesterol.

Health Benefits

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

Although some studies suggest that policosanol may help to inhibit cholesterol formation in the liver, the majority of the studies on sugar cane policosanol have been conducted by a single research group in Cuba that is involved with the policosanol patent.

An independent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006 did not find any benefit of policosanol, even at high doses, on cholesterol levels. This finding casts some doubt on the reliability of the Cuban research on policosanol.

A typical dosage of policosanol used in studies has been 5 to 10 mg twice daily. Studies generally find that it can take up to two months to notice benefits.


Although the reliability of the Cuban studies has been questioned, side effects of policosanol reported in the trials have generally been mild and short-term. They have included indigestion, skin rash, headache, insomnia, and weight loss.

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), or pentoxifylline (Trental), or 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.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. 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..

Using Policosanol for Health

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 primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstance or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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Article Sources
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