Q. I took red yeast rice to control my cholesterol. It worked wonders for me. My doctors couldn't believe my perfect readings.

After taking the red yeast rice for eight months, I started having an ache in my leg. I tried taking magnesium, which helped a bit. Then my hip and leg both started aching so I stopped the supplement.

I know red yeast rice is somewhat similar to statin drugs and they can cause muscle pain and arthritis. Since it did such a good job controlling my cholesterol, I would like to use it again. But I do not want to hurt myself. Would CoQ10 be helpful?

A. Many people report disabling pain from statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs like Crestor, Lipitor or Zocor. This reaction is less common with red yeast rice, but some people experience pain and weakness with the supplement.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential natural compound that can be depleted from the body by statin-type medications. Taking extra CoQ10 may diminish pain and weakness.

We discuss the science behind red yeast rice for lowering cholesterol and the value of CoQ10 for people taking statin-type drugs in our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy. It is available in libraries or book stores or on this Web site.


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  1. betty parkins

    I have been taking RYR for about 6 mos. Recently I started having pain in my upper stomach that penetrated all the way to my back. It felt just like a gall bladder attack but I have had gall bladder surgery and no longer have a gall bladder. The pain is terrible and I believe it is coming from the ryr capsules. I have stopped taking them and am waiting to see it the pain subsides.

  2. PM
    Brooklyn, NY

    I have been taking RYR for more than six months now and I’m in excruciating pain in my lower back and left side. I’ve tried all statin drugs and the side effects were horrible. So my Dr told me to take RYR along with garlic pill and coq10. The coq10 ubiquinol is ok cause I used to take it before all this and I had no problem. So after reading all these comments it had me realized that the RYR is the culprit for all my aches and pain.

  3. Bruce

    Was on Lipitor several years ago for high cholesterol for about 6 months and stopped taking it due to sore arms. The soreness went away in about 2 months. Cholesterol went back up, so started lovastatin. My cholesterol came down, but after about a year my entire body ached with sore joints. I stopped the statins. My soreness became worse. I was finally diagnosed with Polymyagia Rheumatica (PMR). Daily doses of Prednisone for 18 months, reducing the Prednisone 1 mg each month until no Prednisone, the pain was gone. Unfortunately my cholesterol again elevated, so my Dr. and Nutritionist suggested Red Yeast Rice. 1200 mg each night before bed. My cholesterol dropped back down, but now, almost a year later, both hips sore and stiff joints after periods of no activity ( watching the TV lying flat on the floor for 2 hours). I am a 58 year old active owner of a construction company. I like hard work but the last couple of years have really slowed me down. I think I’m going to stop the Red Yeast Rice and see if the problems go away. I think the whole cholesterol thing is overrated. Your body produces cholesterol for a reason and needs a certain amount of it. It’s the arteries you need to keep an eye on. So I am going to stop taking RYR, drink more water, cut the carbs and try to stay active. If still high cholesterol, so be it. I would rather enjoy a shorter life than suffer with pain a longer one. I’m going to a better place anyway and not on my schedule.

  4. Susan

    Wow, I can’t believe what I’ve been reading here. I am 130 lbs and have always had high cholesterol around 300 for the last 15 yrs. Non smoker, very active person. I’ve been on it now for 8 months. I have terrible pain in my right hip, thigh, buttocks and lower back when bending at the waist. Have had headaches off and on. It’s very debilitating and it’s not getting better. I went on vacation for 6 days and didn’t take the RYR and felt better every day. I’m quiting it and hoping this goes away. I understand the statin has been banned from the RYR so what other ingredients could be causing this?

  5. Tom H

    I started taking RRY (600mg) and CO Q-10 (100mg) twice a day, and after a week all of my minor aches from old soccer injuries became crippling. My right foot felt like someone had driven a wooden stake through it and my right hip was so bad that I couldn’t lift it to put on underwear or shorts. Within 48 hours of when I stopped taking these pills, my pains disappeared.
    I contacted my doctor and he wants me to try again. Uggh!!!

  6. bjd

    After taking RRY for one month I became extremely fatigued. I could barely function after 3pm and was falling asleep in my chair by 7pm. I felt like I had chronic fatigue syndrome. I stopped the RRY and my energy came back.
    It was night and day. I started taking it again a couple of days ago to see if the fatigue started again before disconcerting the RRY. I know have horrible muscle spasm in my by lower back/ hip area. I do go for deep tissue treatments once a month with a naprapathic doctor and just saw him two days prior to taking the RRY and felt great. I am now wondering if this muscle spasm is related to the RRY.

  7. pp

    I started taking ryr about two months ago. In the beginning everything seemed fine, no side effects, and I was happy I didn’t have any. Well, after about 6 weeks, I started getting light headed here and there, pretty much at random times, and at this time, I didn’t think it was the ryr. I attributed this feeling to general fatigue. Then, on the 7th week, I started getting migraine headaches. I usually don’t have migraine, so this was odd to me. This time, I had a feeling that it was the ryr. I went with my daily routines and ignoring the headache with Tylenol. On the 8th week, everything came crashing down. I experienced extreme fatigue. My muscles didn’t ache but my whole body had absolutely zero energy. I even felt tired while laying down. I could barely eat. In addition to all of this I had terrible migraine. I felt like I was dying.
    It made no sense how I went from active and healthy to feeling like a 90-year old dying man. The only herd I was taking was ryr and I knew it had to be it.
    After one week of stopping the ryr, my energy level returned to normal, but I was still getting intense migraine. It was like a stabbing headache–horrible. After 10 days, the migraine slowly faded out and now the headache is pretty gone… phew.
    I still have other symptoms like sensitivity to certain foods to which I never had a problem with before. I am hoping the sensitivity will die down as time goes on.
    My advice to others… don’t mess with this stuff.

  8. Bja

    I still am experiencing pain in my hips and the back of my thighs. Also both shoulders. I haven’t taken the RRY or Lipitor for almost two months. I have been watching my carbs and have lost 12 pounds but the pain continues. I have an appointment with my osteopathic doctor on the 17th of Oct to see if he can give me a shot of cortisone in hopes it will relieve the pain in the shoulder. I have so much fall work to do in the yard and hate to stumble around trying to get it done because of pain. My heart doctor told me when I asked about side effects that if he told me what they were I would probably think I had them. Well, I got the side effects without him telling me so what does that mean? I guess I will just have to keep watching my diet and ride the recumbent bike and walk on the treadmill and hope that will help lower the cholesterol. Just because I am 81 doesn’t mean I am ready to throw in the towel and sit around and do nothing.

  9. Kathy

    Stop the red Rice Yeast and see if you improve. I have a horror story about RRY and when I stopped my debilitating and severe pain stopped.

  10. bja

    I have been on RYR for about 1 year. My cholesterol was 204 and the doctor wanted me on drugs to lower it. I didn’t want regular drugs so he put me on the Ryr. Thing were going okay and when I went in for my blood tests they found my readings hadn’t gone down so the doctor put me on Lipitor.
    I have lots of pain in my lower hips and upper back thighs, also in both shoulders. Heating pad sitting is the name of the game. When the doctor put me on Lipitor he said to stay on the RYR also.
    I have been on the Lipitor for less than a week and today I was told to stop it for two weeks to see it the pain improved. I also stopped the Yeast (on my own). I have always been extremely active and this has really put me down. I was shocked when I brought up this site and saw the problems others have been having. I will now watch my carbs and hopefully my cholesterol will get to a better level. I am hoping for relief in less than two weeks.

  11. PW

    Two years ago my doctor recommended taking red yeast rice, when my cholesterol had creeped up to 240. I had been taking it for about a year and half, when I started getting needle and numbing pain in my thigh off and on. Now two years later my cholesterol was evaluated again and really high.
    My new Kaiser doctor wanted to put me on 80 units of a new statin drug. I said absolutely not–finally reluctantly agreed to take 20 units of Zocor for a limited time. I now have numbness and burning pain constantly, and am waiting for a referral to a Neurologist I am sure this was caused by the red yeast rice.
    I am a waitress, 64 and always perfectly active and healthy. I am taking control of my body by cutting carbs, sugar, and saturated fats and more exercise to get numbers down. I was referred to an excellent web site mercola.com (the world’s number 1 natural health website) and I am reclaiming my health.
    In addition to my regular supplements, I have added fish krill oil (raised in the Antartic–free of mercury) Ubiquinol Active Coq10 and Niacin. Hopefully with these lifestyle changes, things will improve. Keep in mind the statin drug business equates to over $2 billion year industry, and the pharmaceutical companies and doctors would like to keep it that way. Red yeast rice is a statin in disguise and contains components from Lipitor.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: While red yeast rice does contain statin compounds, it would be more accurate to say it contains lovastatin, the active ingredient in Mevacor. This compound is produced naturally by the yeast, not added to the product by the manufacturer. Many people who don’t tolerate statins can handle RYR, but others find that they are susceptible to side effects even from RYR.
    We hope that you will make a good recovery. Your proposed plan should be able to get your cholesterol under control.

  12. MC

    My husband has been taking RYR for about 2 years with very positive results and no issues. However, I began taking it a few months ago and didn’t put it together until now that my muscle cramping at night could be from the RYR… I only take 600 mg and when I inadvertently traveled a few weeks ago and forgot this supplement, I noticed no pain in my legs at bedtime. I took it last night and within 15 minutes my hamstring began cramping severely… something that has happened a few times prior. I am going off it completely. It is interesting that I was fine until I switched brands of the RYR.

  13. SAJ

    I started taking red yeast rice accompanied by CoQ10. I also was taking 1/2 of my prescribed doses of statins. Within a few days I began having a pain in my shoulder but attributed it to heavy yard work. Within 1 week I had very painful muscle aches throughout my entire body. I stopped taking both supplements the pain subsided after the next evening but woke up with extensive stomach bloat and a bad case of diarrhea. My holiday weekend has been on the couch needless to say. I normally do not have reactions to much of anything but these threw me under the bus.

  14. YD

    About three months ago, I, too, started taking Red Yeast Rice to reduce my cholesterol (blood test is June 5). I am 52, very active (walk, run, Zumba classes). In the past two weeks, I have been plagued with muscle pain in my upper arm, knee pain and shin splints.
    I NEVER had these problems before. I realized last night it might be the Red Yeast Rice (a co-worker started taking it and within two weeks, developed severe headaches daily). I am going off the RYR and see how I feel in a couple weeks.

  15. greell

    I’ve been taking red yeast rice in powder form for the past 6 weeks. I started having severe abdominal pain 3 weeks ago culminating in intense pain for 10 hours last night. CT scans and ultrasound found nothing last week and this morning. I checked for spinal damage kidney stones and diverticulitis. My gastroenterologist and urologist can’t figure out the cause. My GP dismissed any relationship to red yeast rice.

  16. ehw

    I have a friend to whom I gave my red yeast rice when I discovered that it was pretty much just another statin. She suffered intense pain and had to be in bed for a day – red yeast rice is a statin. In my opinion, don’t even consider taking it.

  17. ANN

    I have recently taken Red Yeast Rice…..about 10 days after taking the supplement, I started to have intense thigh pain…I have to lift my leg with my hands to avoid the pain….difficulty getting dressed…as well….I went to my primary care dr….and he put me on Predisone…as well as instructing me to get a MRI of the spine…The predisone….did nothing which the Dr was surprised at and the MRI showed nothing wrong….
    Today, I went to a Orthopedist…..he took further xrays…and he too is perplexed as why I am having this intense pain….I now have to go for a complete 3 phase bone scan…..The orthopedist claims that it is not from the Red Yease Rise pills…..but, I feel differently after reading other peoples reactions on line….- I am very frustrated…about what is happening….I am overall a very healthy person….I walk 2 – 3 miles a day….and now I have curtail my actives…..I would really appreciate, if anyone has any further info on this…to please post a response….
    Thank you

  18. F Hoy

    This song is my true experience with angina, which is caused by clogged arteries which is why we take statins (lipitor)and red yeast rice.
    My story is to inspire natural healing, and I was fortunate to find the answer. The entire remedy is to have a descending calcium score. Both Oprah and Sanjay Gupta c.n.n. dr. oz.have recommended knowing and lowering your calcium score. Ask your doctor, also go online, for accurate and complete story, before trying it.
    My doctor told me I was plugged, my arteries lined with plaque.
    I need to change my ways today or have a heart attack,
    eat more fish and drink more wine and do more exercise,
    for then you will extend your life, to tell more truths than lies.
    The doctor ordered me some drugs to take each day for sure.
    There is no guarantee of cure, except to make me poor.
    For everywhere both far and near, the rich and poor will die.
    Of heart attack and stroke and in their graves they’ll lie.
    Along came Linus Pauling with his saving protocol.
    He said to drink more orange juice, with a little alcohol.
    The truth that you must know to keep your arteries clear.
    Is not as simple as his words, you must not harbor fear.
    The cure to keep you healthy, is more than vitamin C,
    Amino acids, niacin, and anti-oxidant teas.
    Along with fearsome exercise and cleansing of your gut.
    Remove your mind from prejudice, think thoughts not from your butt.
    It’s been 2 years, since my doctor said my heart is full of fat.
    With Linus Pauling’s protocol, each day I firmly sat.
    My cardio said I should know my calcium score, so he scanned my heart.
    If its under 10 he won’t see me no more.
    The pain is gone, my chest is clear, my pressure’s nice and low.
    When I climb a hill I chug along, my legs just seem to flow.
    My doctor checked my score, he dropped his jaw in awe.
    A zero faced him squarely, thats exactly what he saw.
    yipee yiyay yipee yipee yiyoo learn linus paulings protocol.

  19. Cheryl L.

    I have been taking red yeast rice for about 2 1/2 years. My cholesterol dropped dramatically. I began to develop muscle ache and joint pain in my legs and hips. I went off of the red yeast rice for about 2 months and the pain remained so I assumed it was not responsible and went back on it with flush-less niacin and COQ10, as my cholesterol had gone right back up when I stopped. Now my pain has become debilitating and constant.
    I was on celebrex which really helped but began to have burning in my stomach which scared me, so I stopped it. My pain has become even worse and is affecting my job and my ability to exercise. Now I’m wondering if it might be the red yeast rice. I’ve been to so many doctors and have no idea where this pain is coming from. I have been active my whole life and at 59 I feel like I’m headed toward a battle with chronic pain in my lower extremities. Doctors don’t seem to want to admit red yeast rice or statins are the culprit. Any help??!!

  20. cathy

    How about a professional opinion/comment? . . ..
    I too have similar problems with statins, and (including) red rice yeast.
    Any comments from a pharmacist and/or physician???… greatly appreciated

  21. RF

    I also am on red rice yeast and suffer from muscle pain in my leg which my Doctor has diagnosed as trochanteric bursitis.
    My Doctor says he doesn`t believe it`s caused from the red rice yeast but I disagree. I`m 53 and am have worked out for most of my life. There`s really no reason for this pain considering my active life. I`m going to try to add cq10 to see if it helps. Considering these forums I`ve been reading there`s a common option that muscle pain is not uncommon when taking red rice yeast.

    • Annie
      Lower Macungie

      I was advised by my dr to take red yeast rice for an elevated tl cholesterol and ldl. Initially I developed calf pain at night. It resolved when I stopped the red yeast rice. I thought possibly the symptoms were not related so I restarted the red yeast rice. I developed a severe pleuritic pain that resolved after a day and stopping the pills. One more time after several weeks I restarted the red yeast rice. I developed a left hip deep aching, dull pain that causes me to limp. Despite stopping the red yeast rice and vowing to never take it again, the hip pain is persisting. My dr does not know of side effects such as bursitis from ryr. My hip xray shows mild arthritis. I do not understand how she would recommend such a product, as opposed to a prescription fda approved med. Will this pain resolve?

  22. sk

    I, too, had astounding results from taking Red Yeast Rice for 3 months to lower my elevated lipids. Every muscle in my body developed severe, constant aching which subsided within 10 days of discontinuing the supplement. I felt like a brand new person in a pain-free body and am relieved the pain was not permanent and there was no damage.
    I also developed a persistent pain in the lower left quadrant of my abdomen for which I have scheduled an ultrasound. I am hoping this condition is separate and unrelated to the Red Yeast Rice therapy. There has to be another way to treat high cholesterol for those individuals who require more than diet and lifestyle approaches to correct their condition.

  23. CLK

    I began taking Red Yeast Rice, 2 caps of 600 mg daily in March of 09…I was thrilled to learn in Sept of 09 that my cholesterol lowered …from 213 total to 172, LDL down from 150 to 111..thinking it would get better, I started taking four pills per day, as the bottle says that is the maximum. I never thought that the two medical problems that began this year could be related.
    Developed plantar faciitis in left heel around May or June (assumed it was because I run and walk too much, and am sixty-two) and in Oct, developed bladder and rectal pressure, which hasn’t been solved. thought it was a UTI, but antibiotics didn’t help, and when the pressure moved from the bladder to colon area, and colonoscopy guy said something is pushing in on my colon, I’m just wondering if I caused either of these problems with these meds. the only thing different this year than last was the red yeast rice and soy milk…. relation? I am seeing kidney problems as side effect, so I’m nervous.

  24. EHW

    I just took ONE pill of red yeast rice yesterday, and my muscle pain started up again – I am totally in a quandary – all of the statins I have taken in the past have caused the muscle pain as has zetia and welchol. Just amazing. I am now taking lovaza, flaxseed oil capsules and policosanol to try to get my cholesterol lower.

  25. YC

    I have been taking 1800 mgs of red yeast rice per day, with much success. However, just recently the muscle pains have developed. Dr. said to stop taking it and see what happens. Statins also gave me worse muscle pains. I’m in a quandary.

  26. Linda

    I have been taking 600 mg of Red Yeast Rice twice daily for about 2 month. I have constant muscle pain in my lower back. It is hard to even get out of bed at night. I see a chiropractor a few times a week. After my labs to check my cholesterol at the end of the month, I will got off of it to see if the RYR is the reason for my pain.
    I had tried a very low dose of Crestor, but had leg pain, got scared, and stopped it.

  27. EH

    I too took Lipitor for elevated cholesterol readings and also discovered that I had some veins in my brain that showed up blocked. (I also take BP medicine.) No symptoms early on, but about 5 months later arthritis symptoms appeared on right side (knee, foot, shoulder) to the point that I couldn’t walk very far. I stopped taking it and the pain stopped, period. I wait for my next doctor visit.

  28. B.B.

    My cardiologist also prescribed 10 mg Zetia daily to assist the 20 mg Lipitor I was taking every day to keep my cholesterol low. After 5 days, I experienced severe pain in my shoulder. I voluntarily stopped the Zetia and within a day or two the pain vanished.

  29. R. R.

    In June of this year (2007) I began taking a cholesterol-lowering drug. Severe leg cramps began on the 4th day after starting the drug. My doctor went on to prescribe 3 other drugs in turn, each one causing the leg and toe cramping.
    I then tried red yeast rice with the same side effects. I stopped all cholesterol medication. Since that time, I have developed a sensitivity to the blood pressure medication I had taken for many years. That medication had to be changed. Now, 4 months later, I still have severe leg and toe cramps nightly which are alleviated only by drinking tonic water with quinine before bed. Before the cholesterol medication I had no problems with leg cramps at all.

  30. Hazel R. Carr

    I, too, take Red Yeast Rice, but my doctor suggested I add Zetia (10 mg). Shortly afterwards I developed an ache in my Achiles heel area. It was x-rayed but no problem was found. Now, a couple of months later, the ache has vanished. During the aching period I had difficulty walking and had to ‘shuffle’ with that foot.

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