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Artichoke ARTICHOKE  
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Botanical:   Cynara scolymus
Family:   Compositae (daisy) - Asteraceae (aster)
Other common names:  Garden Artichoke, Globe Artichoke, Vegetable of the Gods

The Globe Artichoke is much valued at the table as a nutritious vegetable, but it is also an important aid to digestion and has been used to reduce cholesterol levels, which may help diminish the risk for arteriosclerosis.  Artichoke extracts are said to be helpful for kidney, gallbladder and liver insufficiency, postoperative anemia; and in some countries, Artichoke is considered a fine herbal aphrodisiac.

"it has the virtue of . . . provoking Venus
for both men and women;
for women making them more desirable,
and helping the men who are,
in these matters, rather tardy."

from The Book of Nature
Dr. Bartolomeo Boldo, 1576

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

History:
The Globe Artichoke is a perennial, thistle-like plant that is native to, and widely cultivated in, the Mediterranean countries and adjoining parts of central Europe, but it appears to have it origins in parts of Asia. The Artichoke is a member of the daisy/aster family, and its tuberous root produces a stem that grows to a height of approximately five feet.  It has a strong, erect stem and its large leaves are lobed and the edible flower bud is purple-green in color with scales or bracts that enclose it.  It blooms from July to August.   It is one of the world's oldest cultivated vegetables, grown by the Greeks and Romans at the height of their power and used for food and medicine.  In ancient Greek mythology, the god Zeus was said to love the Globe Artichoke, which gave rise to its nickname "Vegetable of the Gods."  In the first century A.D., Dioscorides recommended applying mashed roots on the body to sweeten offensive odors.  Globe Artichokes were first cultivated in Naples around the middle of the fifteenth century, and are said to have been introduced to France by Catherine de Medici in the sixteenth century.  During the same century, the Dutch introduced Artichokes to England, and the plants were then brought to the United States in the nineteenth century Louisiana by French immigrants and to California (where it is widely cultivated) by Spanish immigrants.  The name appears to have originated with the Arabic words, ardi shauk, meaning "ground-thorn," via an Italian word, articiocco.  The botanical specific is derived from the Greek word, skolymos, which means “thistle," describing the spines found on the bracts (they are not leaves) that enclose the flower heads forming the edible portion of the plant.  The Artichoke is now widely cultivated in many places worldwide, but it is not easily grown, since it is exacting in its soil and climatic requirements and thrives in deep, rich, well-drained soil in sun.   It requires good soil, regular watering and feeding, plus frost protection in winter.  Its leaves, flower heads and root are used medicinally, and the leaves are cut just before flowering for use fresh or dried in liquid extracts, syrups and capsules.  In recent years the Globe Artichoke has become important as a medicinal herb, following the discovery of its cynarin content.  The French have long used Artichoke juice as a liver tonic, because of the herb's abilities to break down fat and improve bile flow. The Artichoke is highly valued as an epicurean delight:  The unopened flower heads are boiled and eaten hot with sauce or melted butter, or cold with vinaigrette; the hearts are marinated, baked or fried.  Artichoke leaves contain a wide number of active constituents, including 1- and 3-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 3-caffeoylquinic acids (including cynarin and cholorogenic acid), flavonoids (including luteolin and derivatives, such as glucosides), scolymoside and bitters (sesquiterpene lactones, including cynaropicrin), protein, amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C, niacin, thiamine, trace minerals and carotenoids .

Beneficial Uses:
The Artichoke has been used as an aid to good digestion and a means to improve liver health.  It is a "cholagogue," and due to its cynarin content, it stimulates the flow of bile from the liver into the intestines, assisting the body in blood fat metabolism. The choleretic (bile stimulating) action of the plant has been well documented and in clinical tests, administration of standardized artichoke extract directly into the duodenum increased liver bile flow significantly. This choleretic effect has led to the popular use of Artichoke extract in Europe for the treatment of mild indigestion, particularly following a meal high in fat.  Artichoke extracts are commercially available in Germany and Switzerland as a remedy for indigestion, and in the U. K., as over-the counter digestive supplements.  The cynarin compound, which is found in the leaves, stimulates the gallbladder and improves liver function.  Artichoke has been used traditionally and in alternative medicine for managing dyspepsia, indigestion, nausea, flatulence, as well as liver and gallbladder ailments, including jaundice and hepatitis.

By helping the body to metabolize blood fat, the cynarin content in Artichoke is also believed to reduce blood lipids, serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels and is thought to be helpful in controlling arteriosclerosis. While scientists are not certain how Artichoke lowers cholesterol, test tube studies have suggested that the action may be due to an inhibition of cholesterol synthesis and/or the increased elimination of cholesterol because of the plant’s choleretic action.  In test tube studies, the flavonoids from the artichoke (e.g., luteolin) have been shown to prevent LDL cholesterol oxidation, an effect that may reduce risk of arteriosclerosis.  In 2008, U.K. research confirmed that Artichoke leaf extract can reduce cholesterol levels in healthy adults.  The studies determined that when Artichoke leaf extract was administered to otherwise healthy adults with raised cholesterol, levels dropped six percent.  The university researchers concluded that the study provided further evidence that Artichoke leaf extract may help reduce plasma total cholesterol in adults with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia.

Highly nutritious Artichoke is considered a diuretic, promoting the flow of urine and appears to be effective in improving kidney function.  Artichoke is also frequently used to eliminate excess water weight and peripheral edema, a condition in which the peripheral body tissues contain an excessive amount of tissue fluid.

Other qualities attributed to Artichoke use include hypoglycemic activity that may assist in lowering blood glucose levels.  Artichoke has had traditional uses in the Americas and Spain for managing diabetes.   It is also said to be useful in cases of postoperative anemia.

Tradition in some countries speaks of the Artichoke as an aphrodisiac food.  Interestingly, European women weren't allowed to eat artichokes in the sixteenth century because of their purported aphrodisiac properties.

Contraindications:
Artichoke Herbal Supplement is not recommended for those who are allergic to Artichokes or other members of the compositae (daisy) family.  At the recommended amount and according to the German Commission E Monograph, there are no known side effects or drug interactions. Those who have any obstruction of the bile duct (gallstones) should not take Artichoke.

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