Policosanol is a general term for a mixture of alcohols that are extracted from plant waxes. It typically comes from sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), although yams and beeswax are also commercial sources of policosanol.
Policosanol consists of eight specific long-chain alcohols, ranging in length from 24 to 34 carbon atoms. Octacosanol is the most abundant alcohol in policosanol, which accounts for about 63 percent of this mixture. Triacontanol comprises about 13 percent of policosanol, and hexacosanol makes up another six percent. The remaining alcohols in policosanol include dotriacontanol, heptacocosanol, nonacosanol, tetracosanol and tetratriacontanol.
Human and animal studies both show that policosanol may significantly lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and increase the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. The exact mechanisms of these actions are not well-understood, although it appears that policosanol inhibits the production of cholesterol in the liver. Policosanol also increases the uptake, binding and degradation of LDL within a cell’s endoplasmic reticulum, an effect that is independent of its actions in the liver. The bioavailability of policosanol is limited, and additional studies are needed to determine if policosanol is active in the liver.
Multiple studies also show that policosanol helps support the body’s ability to reduce the production of platelets. The primary mechanism of this action is the inhibition of thromboxane A2 production, although policosanol may also increase the production of prostacycline. Large doses of policosanol may also inhibit the aggregation of platelets caused by collagen and arachidonic acid.
Policosanol is used in health supplements to help with cholesterol level management. It may also be beneficial for relieving leg discomfort and artery health support.
Early research indicates that policosanol may help to maintain the functioning of the arteries. This use of policosanol typically lasts for at least 20 months and may be combined with aspirin.
Policosanol may be able to help manage leg discomfort caused by poor circulation. Oral supplements of policosanol may also increase the distance that people with leg discomfort can walk.
Policosanol may be effective in helping to manage a healthy cholesterol profile. The dosages studied for this purpose are typically in the range of five to 10 mg twice per day for two months.
An unhealthy cholesterol profile with high LDL levels is the strongest sign that you may benefit from policosanol. Leg discomfort is also an indication that you may need pure policosanol, especially when it is caused by muscle cramps after exercise. Additional signs that policosanol may benefit you include a loss of strength and stamina due to lesions in the arterial walls. Some people with skin conditions may also want to take policosanol due to its ability to maintain proper clotting.
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