The Artichoke is a nutritious and delicious addition to any meal, however the leaves of this vegetable are often overlooked, yet this is where many of the most valuable nutrients and plant compounds are stored. Artichoke leaves contain all of the benefits of Artichokes in highly concentrated form, and as such have become increasingly popular as a dietary supplement.
In traditional medicine, Artichoke was used to enhance liver function and to treat all manner of liver complaints such as jaundice and hepatitis. Artichoke leaves were used in European traditional herbal systems to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder, to combat diabetes symptoms and to treat heart conditions.
The Artichoke caught the attention of French scientists in the early 1900’s who wanted investigate its traditional use. It was then that they discovered Artichoke’s star phytonutrient, cynarin, a powerful compound that is responsible for the many benefits of this plant.
As one of the most important bodily organs, the liver is responsible for bile production, fat metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabolism, immune function, vitamin and mineral storage, cholesterol production and cleaning the blood. It carries out over 500 distinct functions within the body, so keeping the liver in tip top condition is of paramount importance to overall vibrant health.
As well as cynarin, Artichokes contain silymarin – another phytonutrient that is more commonly associated with Milk Thistle. These two compounds work to accelerate liver regeneration, increase bile production, optimise gallbladder function and protect the liver from toxins, environmental pollutants and carcinogens.
The importance of bile production is hard to overstate, if enough bile is not produced by the liver, there is an increased risk of liver disease and other diseases caused by toxic overload. Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder and is secreted to aid in the digestive process. It mixes with stomach acids to facilitate digestion and nutrient absorption. Bile is also responsible for getting rid of certain waste products from the body, such as haemoglobin from destroyed red blood cells, toxins and excess cholesterol.
Artichoke is rich in the prebiotic fibre “inulin” which helps to balance the microflora and feeds the good (probiotic) bacteria in the gut. Probiotics provide a host of health benefits, as they defend the digestive tract against harmful pathogens. They also help to break down food and eliminate toxins from the body.
Also a great source of general fibre, Artichokes can relieve diarrhoea and constipation by helping to normalise bowel movements. The inulin can add bulk to the stool and also works as a stool softener which helps to combat constipation. Fibre will slow down the overall digestive process, allowing for the assimilation of more nutrients from food consumed and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
Finally, Artichokes are high in thiamine (vitamin B1), a crucial nutrient in maintaining healthy levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is needed to initiate the breakdown of food within the digestive system and (contrary to popular belief), it is a lack of this acid that can cause indigestion. Insufficient HCL levels can cause poor digestion and inhibit the activation of critical enzymes that play a role in digestion.
Artichokes and their leaves benefit the heart in a number of ways. They are rich in potassium, an essential mineral which helps to normalise blood pressure by neutralising excess sodium in the body. A study was conducted on 98 men with high blood pressure, and after 12 weeks of taking Artichoke extract a significant decrease in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure was observed.
The phytochemical cynarin has also been found to normalise cholesterol levels which can lower the risk of developing heart disease and having a stroke or heart attack.
Artichoke Leaf Powder
Can be re-hydrated in water or fruit juice, encapsulated or added to a herbal powder blend. Take 1 to 3 grams daily as part of a balanced diet.
Artichoke Leaf Tincture
Can be added to water or fruit juice and taken when required.
Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Artichoke Leaf Tea
Infuse 1-2 teaspoons of Artichoke Leaf per cup of boiling hot water. Let the tea brew for 5 - 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy up to 3 times per day.
In the 1st century AD, the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides wrote about Artichokes as a medicinal plant. While traveling as a surgeon with the Roman army of Emperor Nero, he collected information on the remedies of the period and wrote a work on The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides. Originally written in Greek, Dioscorides’ herbal was later translated into Latin as De Materia Medica. It remained the authority in medicinal plants for over 1500 years.
The ancient Greeks and Romans considered Artichokes a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In Ancient Greece, the Artichoke was attributed to being effective in securing the birth of boys.
Beginning about 800 AD, North African Moors begin cultivating Artichokes in the area of Granada, Spain. It is thought that between 800 and 1500 AD the artichoke was improved and transformed, perhaps in monastery gardens, into the plant we would recognise today.
Cynarin, luteolin, cynardoside (luteolin-7-O-glycoside), scolymoside, and chlorogenic acid are believed to be Artichoke's bioactive constituents.
Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Not recommended if you have kidney stones or gallstones.