Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus)


Artichoke Summary

Originating from the Mediterranean, globe artichokes have since spread the world over. They're used as both food and medicine.

The unopened flowering bracts are harvested and eaten as a delicacy, while the leaves are mainly used as a bitter, and treatment for liver and gallbladder conditions.

The bitter principles stimulate the release of bile from the gallbladder, and cynarin, one of the main bioactive compounds in the plant protects the liver from metabolic dysfunction.


+ Indications

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Constipation
  • Dyspepsia
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Hepatobiliary diseases
  • High cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Reducing effects of lead poisoning
  • Viral Hepatitis

+ Contraindications

  • Caution advised for drug interactions through CYP enzyme metabolism.

Herbal Actions:

  • Antioxidant
  • Bitter
  • Choleretic
  • Cholagogue
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Diuretic
  • Carminative
  • Hypocholesterolemic
  • Spasmolytic
  • Mild ACE inhibitor

What Is Artichoke Used For?

Globe artichoke is mainly used for metabolic syndrome, diabetess, high cholesterol or hypertriglyceridemia. It is also used as a digestive supportive, liver supportive, cardiosupportive, gallbladder defficiencies, and allergies.


Herb Details: Artichoke

Weekly Dose

Part Used

Unopened flowers, and leaves.

Family Name




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Constituents of Interest

  • Cynarin
  • Luteolin
  • Cafeoylquinic acids
  • Sesquiterpene lactones

Common Names

  • Artichoke
  • Alcachofra
  • Artichaut
  • Tyosen-azami


  • Unknown


  • Neutral


  • Acceptable during pregnancy.


  • Bitter, Sweet

Duration of Use

  • Long term use is acceptable.

Botanical Information

Artichoke is part of the asteraceae (sunflower) family of plants, which is the largest of the flowering species of plants.

The Cynara genus consists of about 10 species. The main species used as medicine is Cynara scolymus, however, many of the other species are eaten as a vegetable.

Globe artichoke is a type of thistle, characterised by sharp prickles on the leaf margins. Other members of the family include Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), and Scotch thistle.


Habitat, Ecology, Distribution

Globe artichoke originated in the Mediterranean basin, and was known well by the ancient Romans, and Greeks [6].


Pharmacology & Medical Research

+ Cholesterol

A group of European scientists in the 1970s was the first to document Cynarins cholesterol-lowering effect on humans [7]. 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 [7].

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 [5].

+ Diabetes

The chlorogenic acid content produces the ability to regulate glucose levels in the blood through the inhibition of the glucose- 6-phosphatase [6].

+ Antioxidant

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.

+ Choleretic

One study showed that Cynara scolymus leaf extract significantly increased bile secretion into the duodenum of healthy volunteers [5]. These effects are likely the cause of globe artichokes positive effects on dyspepsia symptoms.

+ Digestion

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 suggestively corrective support for the condition [4].

+ Hepatoprotective

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 — as a result, the extract 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 demonstrated in rats. Inhibition of xanthine oxidase will lower uric acid levels, and decrease oxidative stress associated with it [1].

Blood pressure regulation is mostly 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 [1].

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 [1].

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 impact of the single extracts included, found that C. scolymus was able to provide ACE inhibition, and pancreatic lipase inhibition [1]. These effects are likely due to the polyphenol content, which is known to have a strong affinity for proteins.



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 [7].

Some other documented active constituents include various flavonoids, sesquiterpene lactones, polyphenols, and caffeoylquinic acids [7].

Taylor L. (2005) lists in her book, the constituents of Cynara scolymus as follows: caffeic acid, caffeoylquinic 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), [6].

The majority of its remedial actions are believed to be due to its polyphenolic antioxidants, and high nutrient density [6].


Clinical Applications Of Artichoke:

The combination of ACE inhibitor, glucose-6-phosphatase inhibition, choleretic, and antioxidant value of artichoke makes it especially useful for conditions related to metabolic syndrome (diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and cardiovascular disease). Additionally, artichoke is useful for reducing toxic burden, and relieving dyspepsia.



Avoid strong concentrations if pregnant (normal dosage range is okay), or if gallstones are present, the cholagogue activities of this herb can force the stones to block the gall ducts.



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 [1].



Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)


Recent Blog Posts:


  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. K. Kraft. (1997). Artichoke leaf extract - Recent findings reflecting effects on lipid metabolism, liver and gastrointestinal tracts. Phytomedicine. Vol 4. 4. 369-378.

  6. 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.

  7. Taylor, L. (2005). The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinals. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers.