Using Artichoke for Health

artichokes
Woman shopping for artichokes. Steve Coleman/DigitalVision/Getty Images

What is Artichoke?

Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a plant used in herbal medicine. Typically sourced from the leaf, stem, and/or root of the plant, dietary supplements containing artichoke extract are used to treat a variety of health conditions. One of the most common uses for artichoke is cholesterol management.

Related: Natural Remedies for High Cholesterol

Artichoke is said to promote the release of bile from the liver.

A type of fluid involved in digestion, bile helps to break down fats into fatty acids.

Uses for Artichoke

Not only used to keep cholesterol in check, artichoke is also said to aid in the treatment or prevention of the following health problems:

arthritis 
• bladder infections
diabetes
hangovers
heartburn 
high blood pressure 
irritable bowel syndrome

In addition, artichoke is purported to boost kidney health and liver health.

The Benefits of Artichoke

Here's a look at the science behind the potential health benefits of artichoke:

1)  High Cholesterol

Artichoke leaf extract shows promise in the treatment of high cholesterol, according to a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2013.

For the report, scientists analyzed three previously published clinical trials (involving a total of 262 participants) that compared the effects of artichoke leaf extract to those of a placebo or medication in patients with high cholesterol levels.

While the reviewed trials were found to be of adequate quality, they also had some shortcomings (including, in one study, a small number of participants).

In all three trials, artichoke leaf extract was found to be more effective than placebo in lowering cholesterol levels. However, given the study's limitations, the report's authors concluded that the evidence for artichoke leaf extract's cholesterol-reducing effects is "as yet, not convincing."

In a study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition later in 2013, researchers assigned 92 overweight people with mildly elevated cholesterol to eight weeks of treatment with either artichoke leaf extract or a placebo. By the study's end, those treated with artichoke leaf extract showed a greater increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol and a greater decrease in LDL ("bad") cholesterol and in total cholesterol (compared to those given the placebo).

2) Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2004 indicates that artichoke leaf extract may ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. After two months of treatment with artichoke leaf extract, patients reported improvements in bowel function and in quality of life. The study involved 208 adults with irritable bowel syndrome.

3)  Indigestion

There's some evidence that artichoke leaf extract may help fight indigestion. In a study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2003, for instance, researchers found that artichoke leaf extract may benefit people with functional dyspepsia (a type of indigestion thought to be associated with abnormalities in the actions of the stomach muscle as it receives, digests, and moves food into the small intestine).

For the study, 247 people with functional dyspepsia were treated with either artichoke leaf extract or a placebo for six weeks. At the end of the study, artichoke leaf extract was found to be significantly more effective than placebo in alleviating dyspepsia symptoms and improving quality of life.

Safety

Since artichoke may stimulate the flow of bile, individuals with a known or suspected blockage of the bile duct should avoid using artichoke products.

Due to the risk of gallstones becoming lodged in the bile duct, people with gallstones should also avoid use of artichoke (unless under the supervision of a qualified health professional).

Where to Find It

Dietary supplements containing artichoke extract can be found in many drugstores, grocery stores, natural-foods stores, and stores specializing in herbal products. You can also purchase artichoke supplements online.

Sources

Bundy R1, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Marakis G, Booth JC. "Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: a subset analysis." J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Aug;10(4):667-9.

Holtmann G1, Adam B, Haag S, Collet W, Grünewald E, Windeck T. "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 Dec;18(11-12):1099-105.

Marakis G1, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Booth JC, Wright J, Pike DJ. "Artichoke leaf extract reduces mild dyspepsia in an open study." Phytomedicine. 2002 Dec;9(8):694-9.

Rondanelli M1, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, Faliva MA, Sala P, Perna S, Riva A, Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. "Beneficial effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation on increasing HDL-cholesterol in subjects with primary mild hypercholesterolaemia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial." Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Feb;64(1):7-15.

Wider B1, Pittler MH, Thompson-Coon J, Ernst E. "Artichoke leaf extract for treating hypercholesterolaemia." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Mar 28;3:CD003335.

    Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

    Continue Reading