Policosanol
Policosanol

Background

Policosanol is a chemical most often obtained from sugar cane. It can also be made from other plants, such as wheat.

Policosanol is most commonly used for leg pain during exercise due to poor blood flow (intermittent claudication). It is also used for high cholesterol and heart disease, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
When taken by mouth: Policosanol is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken in doses of 5-80 mg daily for up to 3 years. Side effects of policosanol are generally mild and can include headaches, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, upset stomach, skin redness, or weight loss. But these side effects are relatively uncommon.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if policosanol is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Bleeding disorders: Policosanol can slow blood clotting and might increase the chance of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

Diabetes: Policosanol might reduce blood sugar levels. Taking policosanol might increase the risk of blood sugar levels becoming too low, especially if you are using insulin or other diabetes medications.

Surgery: Policosanol can slow blood clotting and reduce blood sugar levels. There is a concern that it might increase the chance of extra bleeding or blood sugar falling too low during and after surgery. Stop using policosanol at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Effectiveness

NatMed Pro rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
Likely effective Effectiveness definitions
  • Leg pain during exercise due to poor blood flow (intermittent claudication). Taking policosanol by mouth seems to improve the distance people with intermittent claudication can walk without pain.
Possibly effective Effectiveness definitions
Likely ineffective Effectiveness definitions
Possibly ineffective Effectiveness definitions
Insufficient evidence Effectiveness definitions
  • A procedure to open a blocked or narrowed blood vessel (angioplasty). Early research shows that taking policosanol does not help to decrease platelet activity in people who have had an angioplasty with a stent.
  • Heart disease. Early research shows that taking policosanol, alone or with aspirin for 20 months, can reduce heart disease-related events in people with clogged arteries.
  • Inherited tendency towards high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia). Early research shows that taking policosanol does not reduce total cholesterol or "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol) in people with inherited high cholesterol.
  • High cholesterol. Research findings disagree about the effectiveness of policosanol for treating high cholesterol. There have been some studies that find it effective. However, most of these studies were done in Cuba, where the sugar cane that is used to make policosanol is grown. Most research done outside Cuba (in Germany, Canada, and South Africa) found that policosanol does not lower cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure. Some early research shows that taking policosanol might lower blood pressure in people who are beginning to have high blood pressure.
  • Abnormal levels of cholesterol or other blood fats (dyslipidemia).
  • A grouping of symptoms that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (metabolic syndrome).
  • High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia).
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate policosanol for these uses.

Dosing & administration

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

ADULTS

BY MOUTH:
  • For leg pain during exercise due to poor blood flow (intermittent claudication): 10 mg of policosanol has been taken once or twice daily for up to 2 years.

Interactions with pharmaceuticals

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Policosanol might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking policosanol along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (Diabeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and others.

Medications for high blood pressure (Beta-blockers)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Beta-blockers are used to lower blood pressure. Policosanol might have additive blood pressure-lowering effects in people who are already taking beta-blockers. This might increase the risk of blood pressure going too low. Do not take too much policosanol if you are also taking beta-blockers. Some beta-blockers include atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard), propranolol (Inderal), and others.

Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Policosanol might slow blood clotting. Taking policosanol along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Nitroprusside (Nitropress)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Policosanol might increase the blood pressure lowering effects of nitroprusside (Nitropress).

Propranolol (Inderal)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Policosanol might increase the blood pressure lowering effects of propranolol (Inderal).

Warfarin (Coumadin)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Policosanol might slow blood clotting. Warfarin also slows blood clotting. Taking policosanol along with warfarin might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. But some research shows that this is not a big concern. Until more is known, do not take too much policosanol if you are also taking warfarin.

Interactions with herbs & supplements

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar: Policosanol might lower blood sugar. Using policosanol along with other herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar might cause blood sugar to go too low. Herbs that might lower blood sugar include alpha-lipoic acid, bitter melon, chromium, devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, Siberian ginseng, and others.
Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting: Using policosanol with other herbs that can slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bleeding in some people. These other herbs include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and others.

Interactions with foods

There are no known interactions with foods.

Action

Policosanol seems to decrease cholesterol production in the liver and to increase the breakdown of LDL (low-density lipoprotein or "bad") cholesterol. It might also help HDL (high-density lipoprotein or "good") cholesterol work better. Policosanol also decreases the stickiness of cells in the blood known as platelets.
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This monograph was last reviewed on 18/09/2023 10:00:00 and last updated on 07/11/2020 03:15:03. Monographs are reviewed and/or updated multiple times per month and at least once per year.
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