Madeleine_Steinbach/Getty Images

Essential oils don't always have the best rep—but a new study shows a pair of them may actually benefit your health.

Lauren Wicks
January 08, 2019

Over one-third of Americans have elevated cholesterol levels, putting millions at risk for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. High cholesterol levels, otherwise known as hypercholesterolemia, can typically be traced back to a poor diet and lack of exercise, and is often treated with statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs.

While many find success using statins, these drugs have also earned a reputation for long-term side effects such as liver damage and memory loss. But a team of researchers in Saudi Arabia may have found a natural counterpoint to cholesterol-lowering medications.

A 2017 study, published in the peer-reviewed African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, found ginger and rosemary oils to be potential option for natural hypercholesterolemia remedies. Jamie Vespa, MS, RD, has previously highlighted ginger's  medicinal properties as an anti-inflammatory agent, a digestive aid, and a nausea aid, among others, for Cooking Light. And there is more peer-reviewed research on rosemary's anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties.

Researchers tested the effects of ginger and rosemary oils administered, both independently and together, on the cholesterol levels of female rats fed a high-fat diet. Other factors were also considered to determine the potential cholesterol-lowering properties of the oils.

Ready to get healthy? Start here, with the Cooking Light Diet.

After six weeks of the high-fat diet, which also led to high cholesterol levels in the subjects, researchers saw the rats’ weights more than double, on average. But another six weeks of treatment complete with oral administration of ginger, rosemary, and a mixture of the oils, researchers reported weight loss in all groups, even while still administering high-fat diets.

Triglyceride and glucose levels, factors that also play a role in hypercholesterolemia, were also noticeably reduced. The researchers found that the oils neutralized the cholesterol-raising effects of a high-fat diet and also helped preserve the structure of the liver.

Looking for heart-healthy tips?

More research is needed in order for health professionals to recommend these natural remedies as a method to manage cholesterol levels. But safely incorporating ginger and rosemary oil supplements into your routine may be beneficial to those who are struggling to keep cholesterol levels in check.

In any case, more doctors are starting to turn to solutions other than medicine for issues like high cholesterol—including focusing on lifestyle changes. From preventing childhood obesity in Michigan to providing free meals to Medicare patients in California, the movement for utilizing food as medicine is growing, and could serve as a viable solution for millions of Americans suffering from chronic diseases in the near future.