Globe Artichoke Summary:
Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a popular vegetable crop from the Mediterranean. It was highly regarded among the ancient Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks.
Aside from an important food crop, globe artichoke offers strong medicinal potential in its leaves and unopened flower. It has a strong action on the liver and gallbladder, thus affecting digestion, blood, and cholesterol levels.
The main component is known as cynarin. It's a powerful choleretic and bitter chemical, useful for stimulating the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder.
Artichokes also deliver a potent dose of antioxidants (due to the phenolic acids), and inhibits cholesterol synthesis (from the luteolin portion). It provides powerful hepatoprotective (liver protective), anticholesterol, choloretic, cardioprotective, and antidiabetic effects.
Many people use artichoke flower or leaf for heart conditions, digestive disorders, various forms of cancer, as well as high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
+ Hepatobiliary Conditions
- Metabolic syndrome
- Fatty liver disease
- High xenobiotic load
- Hepatitis (caution)
+ Cardiovascular disease
- High cholesterol
- Reducing effects of lead poisoning
- Autoimmune disorders
+ Western Herbal Medicine
Artichoke has been used as food and medicine by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The Romans used it as an important ingredient during feasts .
Traditional use of Cynara throughout the ages has most commonly been used as medicine for the liver, or gallbladder. Brazilian medicine is a good example, it has valued the leaves for such uses as liver and gallbladder issues, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, anemia, diarrhea fevers, ulcers, and gout. Many of these conditions listed have pathologies related to the liver, or gallbladder.
In other areas of the world, Cynara has been used for dyspepsia, as well as chronic albuminuria . Taylor L. (2005) in her book (Healing power of rainforest herbs) states that "In all herbal medicine systems where it is employed, artichoke is used to increase bile production in the liver, increase the flow of bile from the gall bladder, and to increase the contrastive power of the bile duct". This is important if you consider how many processes rely on both healthy digestion, and toxin and nutrient metabolism, which both rely on a healthy liver/gallbladder to function properly.
C. Scolymus grows to a height of about 2m and is often cultivated as a food crop throughout the world. The large, fleshy, violet-green flowerhead and flower bottoms are eaten as a vegetable. Most of the globe artichokes in North America are grown in California, with cultivation also taking place in other parts of the United States, as well as many parts of South America and Europe.
There are four morpho-productive groups of Globe artichoke that have been recognized: Spinoso, Violetto, Catanese and Romanesco .
Habitat, Ecology, Distribution:
Globe artichoke originated in the Mediterranean basin, and was known well by the ancient Romans, and Greeks .
Harvesting, Collection, and Preparation:
Still compiling research.
The bitter taste delivered by Cynara scolymus, is attributed mostly to a chemical called cynarin, and is found in the green parts of the plant (highest concentrations in the leaves). It is considered one of the plant's main biologically active constituents .
Some other documented active constituents include various flavonoids, sesquiterpene lactones, polyphenols, and cafeoylquinic acids .
Taylor L. (2005) lists in her book, the constituents of Cynara scolymus as follows: caffeic acid, cafeoylquinic acids, caryophyllene, chlorogenic acid, cyanidol glucosides, cynaragenin, cynarapicrin, cynaratriol, cynarin, cynarolide, decanal, eugenol, ferulic acid, flavonoids, folacin, glyceric acid, glycolic acid, heteroside-B, inulin, isoamerboin, lauric acid, linoleic acid, linoleic acid, luteolin glucosides, myristic acid, neochlorogenic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, phenylacetaldehyde, pseudotaraxasterol, scolymoside, silymarin, sitosterol, stearic acid, stigmasterol, and taraxasterol.
The fleshy flowering heads are a rich source of nutrition, in the cultivar campuanella, for example, contains protein (3.08 g/100 g), amino acids (2.83 g/100 g) (main one being asparagine), linoleic acid (44.20% of total fatty acids), α- linolenic acid, and γ-linolenic acid, total phenol (425.46 g/100g), .
The majority of its medicinal actions are believed to be due to its polyphenolic antioxidants, and high nutrient density .
+ Full Chemical Profile
Pharmacology and Medical Research:
A group of European scientists in the 1970s were the first to document Cynarins cholesterol lowering effect on humans . Since then, many articles and studies have been produced examining the effects cynarin has on the liver and cholesterol in both humans and animals. During this time, scientists have discovered that cynarin is not the only constituent in artichoke to produce these effects, with several of them just newly discovered .
The cholesterol-lowering effects were reported to be due to an inhibitory effect on hepatocytes associated with de novo cholesterol biosynthesis. The constituent suggested to be responsible for this action is known as luteolin (inhibits 30-80%). Secondly, the choleretic activity of C. scolymus increases the excretion of cholesterol through bile. This was confirmed in vivo when a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled group study showed a significant decrease in LDL, with an increase in HDL compared to the treatment group .
The chlorogenic acid content produces the ability to regulate glucose levels in blood through the inhibition of the glucose- 6-phosphatase .
Various studies have been conducted on C. scolymus' antioxidant effects. Taylor L. (2005) refers to 2 studies: one in 2002 focused on the antioxidant properties in cultured blood vessel cells and noted marked protection against oxidative stress induced by inflammatory mediators. She lists another study, done in 2000 that focused on human white blood cells under various forms of oxidative stress that lists results consistent with these findings.
G. Sonnante et al., (2010), reports that much of the antioxidant effects are due to the polyphenol content (flavonoids, and phenolic acids), particularly chlorogenic acid, di-caffeoylquinic acids, and caffeic acid. These chemicals are contained in high amount in the flowering bracts.
One study showed that Cynara scolymus leaf extract significantly increased bile secretion into the duodenum of healthy volunteers . These effects are likely the cause of globe artichokes positive effects on dyspepsia symptoms.
Indigestion (dyspepsia), is one of the most prevalent symptoms in the western world. There are many possible causes for this condition, including biliary dyskinesia, insufficient secretion of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, diet content, gut flora (ex: H. pylori), pharmaceutical side effects (NSAIDS), and various psychological factors. C. scolymus has been shown to improve the symptoms of dyspepsia and produced a suggestively corrective support for the condition .
Taylor L. (2005) refers to a study in her book done in 2002, which noted that artichoke leaf extract was able to reverse the damage done in rat liver cells by harmful chemicals, and as a result was able to enhance bile production.
+ Metabolic Syndrome
Defined by a set of different metabolic disorders including obesity, hyperglycemia, atherogenic dyslipidemia, and hypertension. This disease process increases the chances of developing type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease significantly. Some research suggests that this syndrome is experienced by 20-30% of the adult population. The causative factors associated with this disease process, is obesity, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity.
Some other studies have shown that uric acid may have a pathogenic role in the process of metabolic syndrome, and this relationship was shown in rats. Inhibition of xanthine oxidase will lower uric acid levels, and decrease oxidative stress associated with it .
Blood pressure regulation is largely reliant on angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which converts angiotensin 1, into the powerfully vasoconstricting angiotensin 2. Therefore, inhibition of ACE is one of the main modes of actions used to control the hypertension aspect of metabolic syndrome .
One route for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, would be to use agents that will reduce postprandial hyperglycemia, by inhibiting carbohydrate digesting enzymes, such as ⍺-glucosidase .
Boldacynara®, contains herbs that have been shown as single extracts, to produce a variety of effects, positively affecting metabolic syndrome abnormalities. These herbs include Cynara scolymus, Taraxacum officinale, Silybum marianum, and Peumus boldus. In a study investigating the effects of this formula, by looking closer at the effects of the single extracts included, found that C. scolymus was able to provide ACE inhibition, and pancreatic lipase inhibition . These effects are likely due to the polyphenol content, which are known to have a strong affinity for proteins.
Avoid use if gallstones, or significant liver disease is present. Avoid use of extracts if pregnant. No indications for issues as a food source however while pregnant.
A herbal formula, Boldocynara®, containing Cynara scolymus, Silybum marianum, Taraxicum officinale, and Peumus boldus, has been shown to produce positive effects on the abnormalities associated with metabolic syndrome .
The Sunlight Experiment
Updated: June 2017
- A. Villiger, F. Sala, A. Suter, V. Butterweck. (2015). In vitro inhibitory potential of Cynara scolymus, Silybum marianum, Taraxacum officinale, and Peumus boldus on key enzymes relevant to metabolic syndrome. Phytomedicine. Vol 22. 138-144.
- Gabriella Sonnante*, Rosalinda D’Amore, Emanuela Blanco, Ciro L. Pierri, Monica De Palma, Jie Luo, Marina Tucci, and Cathie Martin. (2010). Novel Hydroxycinnamoyl-Coenzyme A Quinate Transferase Genes from Artichoke Are Involved in the Synthesis of Chlorogenic Acid. Plant Physiology. Vol. 153, pp. 1224–1238
- G.C Dong, P.H Chuang, K.C Chang, P.S. Jan, P.I Hwang, H.B. Wu, M. Yi, H.X Zhou, H.M. Chen. (2008). Blocking effect of an immunosuppressive agent, Cynarin, on CD28 of T-cell receptor. Pharmaceutical Research. Vol 26. 2.
- G. Marakis, A. F. Walker, R. W. Middleton, J. C. L. Booth3, J. Wright, and D. J. Pike. (2002). Artichoke leaf extract reduces mild dyspepsia in an open study. Phytomedicine. Vol 9: 694–699
- K. Kraft. (1997). Artichoke leaf extract - Recent findings reflecting effects on lipid metabolism, liver and gastrointestinal tracts. Phytomedicine. Vol 4. 4. 369-378.
- Roberta Dosi, Addolorata Daniele, Vincenzo Guida, Luigia Ferrara, Valeria Severino, Antimo Di Maro. (2013). Nutritional and metabolic profiling of the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus L. 'Capuanella' heads) in province of Caserta, Italy. Australian Journal of Crop Science. Vol 17. 12. 1923-1934.
- Taylor, L. (2005). The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers.