A reader finds that a home remedy for cholesterol is effective. Plus: gentian violet can help improve toenail fungus, but it’s a strong blue dye that can stain skin and nails. Another letter-writer tells us how to remove it.

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Q: Thank you for your advice on controlling cholesterol. I’m a 77-year-old woman of normal weight. My cholesterol hovered around 200, even with a strict diet and getting plenty of exercise (total 197, HDL 77, LDL 101).

My primary doctor said that this must be hereditary and wanted to put me on a statin. Instead, I started taking red yeast rice and sprinkled at least half a teaspoon of turmeric and at least a quarter of a teaspoon of black pepper on each meal.

After doing this for about four months, continuing my exercise and strict diet, my total cholesterol dropped to 162, HDL 77, LDL 76, triglycerides 47. My pharmacist confirmed that red yeast rice would not interfere with any of my other medications. I hope this helps others.

A: We are impressed with your results. You were not in bad shape to start with. An HDL of 77 is considered excellent. So are your other lipid levels.

Red yeast rice contains natural statins. A meta-analysis of 13 randomized, placebo-controlled trials concluded that “red yeast rice is an effective and relatively safe approach” for high cholesterol (PLOS One, June 4, 2014). The active ingredient in turmeric (curcumin) has been shown to reduce triglycerides and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, online, Nov. 29, 2017).

You can learn more about red yeast rice and other nondrug approaches in our “Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.” Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. C-8, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com. It was wise of you to check with the pharmacist about interactions.

Q: I hope you won’t mind another letter about gentian violet; my experience has been positive. After reading about it in your column, I applied it carefully with a cotton swab once a week for a month. My toenails appeared to have purple polish.

After trying over-the-counter and prescription remedies for many years, I am seeing excellent changes to my toenails for the first time. I’ll keep up the treatment in hopes it will cure this terrible fungus.

Now for another use for gentian violet: Every winter for years, I’ve had painful splits in the skin around my thumbnails. As with my toenails, I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, to no avail. After painting my toenails, I decided to paint the miserable wound on one of my thumbs. Within a week, there was noticeable healing. No physician ever suggested that this malady was a fungal infection. I don’t mind the bright-purple toenails (with a little iridescent sheen!) if it defeats nail fungus.

A: We are delighted that the gentian violet has been helpful for your split thumb tips. We remind anyone else who decides to try this that gentian violet is quite a strong blue dye.

That said, we heard from another reader who inadvertently discovered a way to remove the color:

“After reading about gentian violet’s use for nail fungus, I’ve been treating my wife’s toenail fungus with it. It seems to be working slowly. I accidentally discovered an easy way to remove it: common hydrogen peroxide. With a little rubbing, the peroxide removed the gentian violet quite well.”