Globe Artichoke – Description
A perennial herb, native to Mediterranean southern Europe, northern Africa. Its cultivation dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. It is cultivated in subtropical regions mostly. Powdered dried leaves are used mostly in the natural health industry. Artichoke hearts are popular as food.
Traditional Use of the Globe Artichoke
Artichoke leaf has been used as a gallbladder and Kidney stimulant in traditional European medicine since Roman times (1). Traditional medicinal uses of artichoke have focused on liver function. Artichoke leaf is considered choleretic (bile increasing), hepatoprotective, cholesterol-reducing, and a diuretic (2). In Germany, it is used today as a gallbladder stimulant (3) and for its lipid-lowering, liver-stimulating actions (4).
The pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the artichoke on the Liver had already been well known in the 17th century. Modern studies started in the last century confirmed the stimulating properties of artichoke extracts on the liver and gallbladder. (16)
Modern human studies have investigated its choleretic activity for the treatment of digestive disorders (5). An article by Kraft summarized various post-marketing surveillance studies conducted on patients with dyspepsia and/or diseases of the liver or bile duct. The studies included anywhere from 417 to 557 patients and treatment duration ranged from 4 to 6 weeks. Statistically significant reduction of symptoms (e.g., abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, and nausea) were reported for the surveillance studies referred to in this paper. Artichoke preparations were well tolerated (up to 95% of cases) with a low rate of side-effects (6).
- Indigestion – In one clinical trial, 20 men with acute or chronic metabolic disorders were separated at random into two groups. The test group was given a standardized artichoke extract of 320 mg in a capsule dissolved in 50 ml water, taken directly into the duodenum. Results were assessed by measuring duodenal bile secretions, which increased 127.3% after 30 minutes, 151.5% after 60 minutes, and 94.3% after 90 minutes. The relative differences for the placebo were significant. The researchers concluded that artichoke extract can be used for the treatment of digestive disorders characterized by poor assimilation of fat due to insufficient bile secretion. No adverse side effects were observed (6).
- Lead toxicity – The results of one test clearly showed that the artichoke extract in lead-poisoned rats has suitable chelating properties for the reduction of blood lead levels. (14)
- Liver protection – Artichokes multidirectional treatment is a documented fact and it is associated with the treatment of dyspepsia, the influence of active substances contained in artichoke on plasma lipid levels and with a strong antioxidant effect. Due to these properties, artichoke compounds have a protective effect on liver cells. (15)
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Artichoke leaf consists of the fresh or dried leaf of C. scolymus L. [Fam. Asteraceae] and its preparations in an effective dosage. The preparation contains caffeoylquinic acid derivatives such as cynarin and bitter principles.
Pharmacopeial grade artichoke leaf consists of the dried radical leaves of Cynara scolymus L. The dried leaf must contain not less than 25% water-soluble extractive (7).
Artichoke leaf contains up to 2% phenolic acids, mainly 3-caffeoylquinic acid (chlorogenic acid), plus 1,5-di-O-caffeoylquinic acid (cynarin), and caffeic acid; 04% bitter sesquiterpene lactones of which 4783% is cynaropicrin; 0.11.0% flavonoids including the glycosides luteolin-7-b-rutinoside (scolymoside), luteolin-7-b-D-glucoside and luteolin-4-b-D-glucoside; phytosterols (taraxasterol); sugars; inulin; enzymes and a volatile oil consisting mainly of the sesquiterpenes b-selinene and caryophyllene (8).
The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia reported hepatic action. In vivo, artichoke leaf has demonstrated hepatoprotective and hepatostimulating properties (9). The Merck Index reported the therapeutic category of cynarin, an active principle of artichoke, as choleretic (10). Artichoke leaf has shown cholesterol-lowering and lipid-lowering activity in rats and humans (11). Human studies have validated carminative, spasmolytic, antiemetic, and choleretic actions (12).
Fatty Liver Disease
Based on recent basic and clinical investigations, the extract of artichoke (Cynara scolymus) leaf has been revealed to be used for hepatoprotective and cholesterol reducing purposes. The study sheds light on the potential role of Cynara scolymus in the management of Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis. The active constituents of this herb such as flavonoids and caffeoylquinic acid may be responsible for this effect. These compounds have been proven to have hepatoprotective activity and hypolipidemic effect. (18)
Preparations of artichoke have been used for bloating, nausea, and impairment of digestion. It is specifically indicated for indigestion though its proven lipid-lowering actions suggest that it may also be useful against atherosclerosis (13).
In Herbal medicine it can be used to promote liver and gallbladder function, better digestion so would be very useful within a Herbal Detox program for these purposes.
Artichoke with multiple therapeutic properties and practically no side effects is recommended not only in disorders of the Liver but also in the prevention of atherosclerosis and hyperlipidemia or dyspeptic disorder. (17)
Known allergies to artichokes and related species (Asteraceae or Compositae). Obstruction of bile ducts. In the case of gallstones, use only after consulting a physician.
Side Effects and Drug Interactions
Dosage and Administration
- Dried Leaf: 2 g, three times daily.
- Dry Extract 12:1 : 0.5 g single daily dose.
- Fluid Extract 1:1 : 2 ml, three times daily.
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(1) Bianchini, F. and F. Corbetta. 1977. Health Plants of the WorldAtlas of Medicinal Plants. New York: Newsweek Books.
(2,5,6) Kirchhoff, R. et al. 1994. Increase in choleresis by means of artichoke extract. Phytomedicine 1:107115.
(3) BAnz. See Bundesanzeiger.
(4,8) Hnsel, R., K. Keller, H. Rimpler, G. Schneider (eds.). 19921994. Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5th ed. Vol. 46. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.
(7) British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP). 1996. Exeter, U.K.: British Herbal Medicine Association.
(9) Adzet et al., 1987; Maros et al., 1966
(10) Budavari, S. (ed.). 1996. The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, 12th ed. Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck & Co, Inc. 467-468.
(6, 12) Kraft, K. 1997. Artichoke leaf extractrecent findings reflecting effects on lipid metabolism, liver, and gastrointestinal tracts. Phytomedicine 4(4):369378.
(11) Lietti, A. 1977. Choleretic and cholesterol lowering properties of two artichoke extracts. Fitoterapia(48):153-158.
(13) Bruneton, J. 1995. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. Paris: Lavoisier Publishing.
(14) Pharm Biol. 2013 Sep;51(9):1104-9. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2013.777931. Epub 2013 Jun 7. Protective effect of artichoke (Cynara scolymus) leaf extract against lead toxicity in rat. Heidarian E1, Rafieian-Kopaei M. PMID: 23745593
(15) [Artichoke–untapped potential of herbal medicine in the treatment of atherosclerosis and liver diseases]. [Article in Polish] Horoszkiewicz M1, Kulza M, Malinowska K, Woźniak A, Seńczuk-Przybyłowska M, Wachowiak A, Florek E. PMID: 23421107
(16) Health-promoting properties of artichoke in preventing cardiovascular disease by its lipidic and glycemic-reducing action. Rondanelli M1, Monteferrario F, Perna S, Faliva MA, Opizzi A. PMID: 23923586
(17) [Artichoke–herbal drug]. PubMed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23421105
(18) The Effect of Artichoke Leaf Extract on Alanine Aminotransferase and Aspartate Aminotransferase in the Patients with Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis. PUBMED https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4879230/