Policosanol is a mixture of waxy substances generally manufactured from sugarcane. It contains about 60% octacosanol, along with many related chemicals. In some cases, the terms octacosanol and policosanol are used interchangeably.

Numerous studies have reported that sugarcane policosanol can substantially improve cholesterol profile, with an efficacy approximately equal to that of the most effective drugs used for this purpose. On this basis, policosanol has been approved as a treatment for high cholesterol in about two dozen countries, most of them in Latin America.73 However, essentially all positive studies of policosanol were performed and reported by a single Cuban research group—a group with a financial relationship to the product. Independent verification of the product’s effectiveness was delayed for several years by various legal obstacles. During the years 2006 and 2007, however, several independent studies of sugarcane policosanol were at last reported. In none of these trials has policosanol proved more effective than placebo.

The tested Cuban policosanol product is manufactured from sugarcane. Octacosanol and related substances are also found in wheat germ oil, vegetable oils, alfalfa, and various animal products.1,2

Due to political and patent issues, sugarcane policosanol has not been widely available in the US. Products sold in the US market as "policosanol" are generally derived from beeswax or wheat germ. These products have a significantly different mixture of constituents and could have substantially different effects.3,77