The artichoke is one of the oldest cultivated plants.
In traditional European medicine, the leaves of the artichoke (not the flower buds, which are the parts commonly cooked and eaten as a vegetable) were used as a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys and as a "choleretic" to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder. (Bile is a yellowish-brown fluid manufactured in the liver and stored in the gallbladder; it consists of numerous substances, including several that play a significant role in digestion.)
In the first half of the twentieth century, French scientists began modern research into these traditional medicinal uses of the artichoke plant.
What Is Artichoke Used for Today?
Artichoke leaf (as opposed to cynarin) continues to be used in many countries.
Based on a general notion that artichoke leaf is good for the liver, it has become a popular treatment for alcohol-induced hangovers. However, a small double-blind, placebo-controlled study failed to find it more effective than placebo.
A number of
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Artichoke?
double-blind, placebo-controlled study
of 143 people with
Another placebo-controlled study of 44 healthy people failed to find any improvement in cholesterol levels attributable to artichoke leaf.
In Europe, vague digestive symptoms are commonly attributed to inadequate flow of bile from the gallbladder. Evidence tells us that artichoke leaf does indeed stimulate the gallbladder.
A previous study of an herbal combination containing artichoke leaf also found benefits.
Warning : People with gallbladder disease should use artichoke only under medical supervision (see Safety Issues below).
Artichoke leaf has not been associated with significant side effects in studies so far, but full safety testing has not been completed. For this reason, it should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. Safety in young children or in people with severe liver or kidney disease has also not been established.
In addition, because artichoke leaf is believed to stimulate gallbladder contraction, individuals with gallstones
Finally, individuals with known allergies to artichokes or related plants in the Asteraceae family, such as arnica or chrysanthemums, should avoid using artichoke or cynarin preparations.
13. Holtmann G, Adam B, Haag S, et al. Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: a six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther . 2003;18:1099-1105.
14. Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, et al. Artichoke leaf extract ( Cynara scolymus ) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: A randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2008 Apr 16
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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