A relative of the hepatoprotective Milk Thistle, is popular for its pungent taste which is attributed to phytochemicals found in the green parts of the plants called cynaropicrin and cynarin, sesquiterpene lactones with documented medicinal actions. The phytochemicals in artichoke have been well documented and the leaves rather than the flower have been found to be higher in medicinal value.
Traditional uses have included support for sluggish liver, poor digestion and atherosclerosis.
The 1997 Commission E on Phytotherapy and Herbal Substances of the German Federal Institute for Drugs recommends Artichoke leaf for ‘Dyspeptic problems. Average daily dosage: Drug, 6 g; equivalent preparations. Mode of Administration: Dried, cut leaves, pressed juice of fresh plant, and other galenical preparations for internal use. Action: Choleretic
Research on standardized Artichoke extract has focused on the constituent, caffeoylquinic acid, and its ability to increase bile production in the liver. An increase in bile production assists the body in blood fat metabolism, which assists the digestion process.
Cynarin has been shown to increases bile production in the liver, and to increases the flow of bile from the gallbladder, as well as increasing the contractive power of the bile duct, that is, it is choleretic. Choleretics typically lower cholesterol levels because they increase the excretion of cholesterol and decrease the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. Cynara extract from artichoke leaf has been shown to lower blood cholesterol (13%) and triglyceride levels (5%) in both human and animal studies.
Consistent with its choleretic effect, Artichokes also possess some diuretic activity, helping with kidney disease and protein in the urine. A recent French patent describes an artichoke extract for treating liver disease, high cholesterol levels and kidney insufficiency. Artichoke has been shown to decrease the rate of cholesterol synthesis in the liver, and other blood fats such as triglycerides are thought to be reduced through the use of artichoke.