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Policosanol is yet another of the “natural supplements,” that people take for lowering blood cholesterol. It is a derivative of sugar cane, specifically, the alcohols that are derived from the wax produced by sugar cane. Actually, since it was developed in Cuba, this form is not widely available in the US. Policosanol made in the US may be made from wheat germ or from beeswax.
There was great hope that policosanol would prove effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels, because its side effects are few. This doesn’t mean the drug has no side effects or is always safe. Policosanol should never be used by children, or pregnant or nursing mothers. It should also not be used by anyone taking blood thinners because it can further thin the blood. Anyone who decides to use policosanol should do so under the direction of a licensed medical practitioner.
The medication is not without side effects as previous studies claimed. People taking policosanol have reported skin rash, stomach upset, heartburn, and weight loss. Some report difficulty sleeping and headaches. Many found the side effects resolved after a few weeks or months on the drug, but claims about it having “few side effects,” are clearly inflated.
In addition to contraindications and side effects, recent studies have shown that policosanol simply doesn’t work. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found little to no effect to taking policosanol, even when it was taken in higher than recommended doses. If you believe this study, then you would have to conclude there is little benefit to taking the supplement, especially when it’s offered at a high price.
Another claim about policosanol is that it enhances libido for both men and women. This is not proven, but you will find a number of “natural enhancers” of libido that contain the substance. There’s little evidence that policosanol has this effect, and thus may not be worth the 20-40 US dollars (USD) you might spend to try the product.
Policosanol is yet another of the substances on the market that are touted as a way to solve some major problems. High blood cholesterol is a source of concern, leading to heart disease and greater risk of stroke. Low libido can be a concern for many, and sometimes these claims made about a product establish false hope. It is true that early studies conducted by Cuban researchers on policosanol looked promising.
The gold standard of medical testing is that another researcher who follows the same protocol as followed in the initial testing can duplicate results. Results from early research on policosanol has not been duplicated, and has in fact shown conflicting results. It’s therefore wise to stick to the tested products on the market that can back up their medical claims with sound research.