What is Red Yeast Rice?
Red yeast rice is rice that has been fermented by the red yeast, monascus purpureus. It has been used by the Chinese for many centuries as a food preservative, food colorant (it is responsible for the red color of Peking duck), spice, and ingredient in rice wine. Red yeast rice continues to be a dietary staple in China, Japan, and Asian communities in the United States, with an estimated average consumption of 14 to 55 grams of red yeast rice per day per person.
Red yeast rice also has been used in China for over 1,000 years for medicinal purposes. Red yeast rice was described in an ancient Chinese list of drugs as useful for improving blood circulation and for alleviating indigestion and diarrhea.
Recently, red yeast rice has been developed by Chinese and American scientists as a product to lower blood lipids, including cholesterol and triglycerides. (Dennis Lee, M.D. Red Yeast Rice and Cholesterol, 2006).
Since 800 A.D., red yeast rice has been employed by the Chinese as both a food and a medicinal agent. Its therapeutic benefits as both a promoter of blood circulation and a digestive stimulant were first noted in the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia, Ben Cao Gang Mu-Dan Shi Bu Yi, during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine use red yeast rice to treat abdominal pain due to stagnant blood and dysentery, as well as external and internal trauma. In addition to its therapeutic applications, red yeast rice has been used for centuries as a flavor enhancer, a food preservative, and a base for a Taiwanese alcoholic rice-wine beverage.(Burnham TH, Sjweain SL, Short RM (eds). Monascus. In:The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, 1997).
(Hsu Hong-Yen. Oriental Materia Medica. Long Beach, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Institute, 1986, 731–2).
(Burnham TH, Sjweain SL, Short RM (eds). Monascus. In:The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons, 1997).