What is Policosanol?
Other names: Octacosanol, 1-Octacosanol, N-Octacosanol, Octacosyl Alcohol
Policosanol, a dietary supplement, is a mixture of alcohols isolated from Cuban sugarcane wax. It contains about 60% octacosanol.
Because patent issue and the US trade embargo against Cuba, sugarcane policosanol is not widely available in the United States. Instead, policosanol products sold in the US are generally derived from beeswax and wheat germ.
Uses for Policosanol
- To Lower Total and LDL Cholesterol
- To Raise HDL Cholesterol
What is the Evidence for Policosanol?
Policosanol has been touted as a dietary supplement that can lower cholesterol as well as statin drugs, without the side effects. Studies indicate that it works by inhibiting cholesterol formation in the liver.
However, almost all of the 80+ double-blind studies on sugarcane policosanol were conducted by a single research group in Cuba that owns 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 profile. This finding has casted 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 two times a day. Studies generally found that it can take up to two months to notice benefits.
Side Effects of Policosanol
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.
Possible Drug Interactions
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.
Arruzazabala ML, Molina V, Mas R, Fernandez L, Carbajal D, Valdes S, Castano G. Antiplatelet effects of policosanol (20 and 40 mg/day) in healthy volunteers and dyslipidaemic patients. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology. (2002) 29(10):891-7.
Berthold HK, Unverdorben S, Degenhardt R et al. Effect of policosanol on lipid levels among patients with hypercholesterolemia or combined hyperlipidemia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. (2006) 295:2262-9.
Castano G, Mas R, Fernandez L, Illnait J, Mendoza S, Gamez R, Fernandez J, Mesa M. A comparison of the effects of D-003 and policosanol (5 and 10 mg/day) in patients with type II hypercholesterolemia: a randomized, double-blinded study. Drugs Under Experimental and Clinical Research. (2005) 31 Suppl:31-44.
Castano G, Mas R, Fernandez L, Illnait J, Gamez R, Alvarez E. Effects of policosanol 20 versus 40 mg/day in the treatment of patients with type II hypercholesterolemia: a 6-month double-blind study. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research. (2001) 21(1):43-57.
Castano G, Mas R, Gamez R, Fernandez J, Illnait J, Fernandez L, Mendoza S, Mesa M, Gutierrez JA, Lopez E. Concomitant use of policosanol and beta-blockers in older patients. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research. (2004) 24(2-3):65-77.
Castano G, Mas R, Gamez R, Fernandez L, Illnait J. Effects of policosanol and ticlopidine in patients with intermittent claudication: a double-blinded pilot comparative study. Angiology. (2004) 55(4):361-71.
Lin Y, Rudrum M, van der Wielen RP, Trautwein EA, McNeill G, Sierksma A, Meijer GW. Wheat germ policosanol failed to lower plasma cholesterol in subjects with normal to mildly elevated cholesterol concentrations. Metabolism. (2004) 53(10):1309-14.