ingredient information
Cynara scolymus
Alcachofra is the Brazilian name for the globe artichoke. A member of the milk thistle family, it grows to a height of about 2 m and produces a large, violet-green flower head. The flower petals and fleshy flower bottoms are eaten as a vegetable throughout the world, which has led to its commercial cultivation in many parts of South and North America (chiefly California) as well as in Europe. The artichoke was used as a food and medicine by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans; in Rome, the artichoke was an important menu item at feasts. It wasn't until the fifteenth century, however, that it made its appearance throughout Europe. Tribal & Herbal Medicine Uses Artichoke has been used in traditional medicine for centuries as a specific liver and gallbladder remedy. In Brazilian herbal medicine systems, leaf preparations are used for liver and gallbladder problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, anemia, diarrhea (and elimination in general), fevers, ulcers, and gout. In Europe, it is also used for liver and gallbladder disorders; in several countries, standardized herbal drugs are manufactured and sold as prescription drugs for high cholesterol and digestive and liver disorders. Other uses around the world include treatment for dyspepsia and chronic albuminuria. In France, a patent has been filed that describes an artichoke extract for treating liver disease, high cholesterol levels, and kidney insufficiency. 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 gallbladder, and to increases the contractive power of the bile duct. These bile actions are beneficial in many digestive, gallbladder, and liver disorders. Artichoke is also often used to mobilize fatty stores in the liver and detoxify it, and as a natural aid to lower cholesterol. Plant Chemicals The artichoke is popular for its pleasant bitter taste, which is attributed mostly to a plant chemical called cynarin found in the green parts of the plant. Cynarin is considered one of artichoke's main biologically active chemicals. It occurs in the highest concentration in the leaves of the plant, which is why leaf extracts are most commonly employed in herbal medicine. Other documented "active" chemicals include flavonoids, sesquiterpene lactones, polyphenols and caffeoylquinic acids. In the 1970s, European scientists first documented cynarin's ability to lower cholesterol in humans. Over the years, other researchers have continued to document artichoke's or cynarin's effect in this area. One of the more recent studies, published in 2000, was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study that used an artichoke leaf extract that was standardized to its cynarin content. For six weeks, 143 patients with high cholesterol were given the extract; at the end of the test, results showed a decrease of 10%-15% in total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL), and ratio of LDL to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Scientists now report that the cholesterol-lowering effect of artichoke can be attributed to chemicals other than just cynarin, including several newly discovered ones. The liver detoxifying and protective properties of artichoke first came to the attention of researchers in 1966 (in a study that supported its effect on liver regeneration in rats). A 1987 study that focused on the effects of rat liver cells subjected to harmful chemical agents found both cynarin and caffeic acids (both in artichoke) to have significant protective effects. Artichoke's main plant chemicals are 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, linolenic acid, luteolin glucosides, myristic acid, neochlorogenic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, phenylacetaldehyde, pseudotaraxasterol, scolymoside, silymarin, sitosterol, stearic acid, stigmasterol, and taraxasterol. Source: