Most of you will be familiar with the artichoke best known as a vegetable eaten for its delicious heart but how many of you knew that the leaves could also be used to improve various aspects of your health?
An enormous amount of research has been done into the health benefits of artichoke leaf extract with extremely positive results. According to studies, artichoke leaf extract can improve liver function, digestion, reduce cholesterol and more. If you would like to learn more about what this plant’s leaves can offer and how to take it, then read on.
What is Artichoke Leaf Extract?
Two different types of artichoke are used to make medicinal extract – either the globe artichoke or cardoon.
Globe Artichoke – Cynara Scolymus
Extract made from the globe artichoke has excellent antioxidant properties. It is also known for liver health, to treat digestive disorders and to reduce cholesterol. The leaves, heart and root can be used to make the extract. The ingredients are first crushed before being frozen, freeze dried and finally added to a water and ethanol mixture.
Cardoon – Cynatra cardunculus
Extracts made from cardoon also have potent antioxidant effects. Compounds are extracted from the plant’s leaves with methanol then diluted with water to make the finished product.
All parts of the artichoke are high in fiber and nutrients like vitamin C, inulin and various polyphenols. The heart contains more minerals and vitamins than its leaves however the polyphenols with the best therapeutic effects are found in the plant’s leaves. Studies have revealed that artichoke leaf extract is packed with powerful antioxidants that can combat the damaging effects of free radicals and protect against a number of illnesses.
The Health Benefits of Artichoke Leaf Extract
1) Digestive Health
Artichoke leaf extract can be used to keep your digestive system in efficient working order and also to prevent many common digestive complaints like indigestion and cramping.
One of the compounds found in artichoke and its extract called cynarin helps to stimulate the production of bile. This in turn stimulates the digestive system and helps improve absorption and according to studies, it is extremely effective. (1)
In one study, researchers looked at the effectiveness of artichoke leaf extract on 247 patients suffering from functional dyspepsia. The participants were given either an extract of artichoke leaf or a placebo. The researchers found that the group given the extract exhibited significant improvements in some of the symptoms of dyspepsia compared with the placebo group. (2)
2) Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome commonly referred to as IBS is a very common gastrointestinal condition that affects over 20% of the population. Some of the most commonjsymptoms of OBS include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pains, bloating and flatulence.
Studies show that artichoke leaf extract can help both prevent and treat IBS. It helps to balance the gut’s microflora and can also help prevent spasms.
Inulin which is a starchy compound in artichoke helps to balance your intestinal microbiota which can have a very positive effect on IBS. In one study, healthy volunteers were given inulin extracted from artichoke leaf, the researchers found that it increased the level of good bacteria in the gut. (3)
Artichoke leaf extract can also prevent spasms in the intestines. Animal studies have found that artichoke extract prevented muscle spasms in the gut which reduced both diarrhea and abdominal pain. (4)
Another study looked at the effects of artichoke leaf extract on patients with IBS. The researchers found that those treated with the extract experienced significant reductions in their symptoms. When asked to rate the remedy, 96% of the participants rated it either on a par with or even better than their prescription medications. (5)
Another study looked at the effects of the extract on patients with dyspepsia and IBS. By the end of the two-month study, the majority of patients experienced a significant reduction in symptoms including diarrhea and constipation. (6)
3) Cholesterol Reduction
Studies have showed that artichoke extract can protect the heart in a number of ways. It contains an active compound called luteolin which inhibits the formation of cholesterol. It also stimulate bile secretion which can help reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. (7)
High cholesterol levels are a major risk factor in the build-up of plaque and heart disease like atherosclerosis. The antioxidant effects of artichoke extract also help protect the heart from disease.
In one animal study, hamsters given artichole leaf extracts for 6 weeks experienced a significant reduction in cholesterol levels compared with the control group. (8)
4) Reduced Blood Pressure
As well as reducing cholesterol levels, studies show that artichoke leaf can protect the heart’s health by reducing blood pressure.
Studies show that artichoke leaf extract increases the activities of enzymes which produce nitric oxide. This is significant since nitric oxide helps dilate the blood vessels resulting in reduced blood pressure. (9)
Another study looking at the effects of artichoke extract on patients with mild hypertension found that it helped to reduce blood pressure. (10) By reducing both cholesterol and blood pressure levels, artichoke leaf extract can significantly reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease.
5) Cancer Prevention
Some of the antioxidants present in artichoke including quercetin, rutin and gallic acid can help induce cancer cell death and prevent new cancer cells from forming.
In laboratory studies, artichoke extract has shown the potential to inhibit breast cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and proliferating. (11)
Artichoke extracts have also demonstrated antitumor actions against mesothelioma – a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. (12)
Because of the potential demonstrated in the laboratory, there are plans to investigate further with clinical trials on humans.
6) Liver Health
Artichoke extracts may also help to keep the liver healthy and help detoxify the system. It is known to stimulate bile production which helps to eliminate harmful toxin from your liver while its antioxidant content also protects the organ from oxidative stress .
Animal studies have also showed that artichoke leaf extract could help protect against damage caused by paracetamol overdose. (13) Another study found that artichoke extracts could protect against inflammation of the liver and potentially prevent fatty liver disease. (14)
7) Skin Health
As well as their beneficial effects on your internal health, the antioxidants found in artichoke leaf extract can help rejuvenate your skin making you look younger and more alive.
One of the compounds found in artichoke called cynaropicrin also helps protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV rays. (15)
Studies have also revealed that artichoke leaf extract could help reduce blood glucose levels making it a potential remedy for people with diabetes.
In one study, overweight patients were given artichoke extract and kidney beans for 2 months. The researchers found that the group given these supplements had a significant reduction in blood glucose compared with the placebo group. It should be noted however that insulin levels were not affected. (16)
9) May Help Weight Loss
The same study mentioned above also found that the combination of artichoke extract and kidney beans increased the feeling of satiety in the participants. While the researchers noted that the group given the supplements lost slightly more weight than those given a placebo, the results were not significant.
It is however possible that a combination of kidney bean and artichoke extract could reduce a person’s appetite and lead to more significant weight loss in the long-term. However, it is likely that the reduction in appetite was a response to the kidney bean extract rather than the artichoke leaf.
Precautions and Side Effects
There is plenty of evidence that artichoke leaf extract is indeed therapeutically beneficial but there are certain precautions and side effects that you should be aware of.
- Some people have an allergic reaction to contact with the artichoke plant. however, there have not been any reports of an allergic reaction from oral use of the extract. Artichoke belongs to the same Asteraceae family as the daisy so people who are allergic to daisies may also react to artichoke.
- Artichoke contains inulin which has plenty of benefits but is also a FODMAP. People with FODMAP sensitivity should avoid using artichoke extract and any other supplements which contain inulin.
- People who have gallstones should not use artichoke leaf extract because it stimulates the production of bile acids. The same caution applied to people with bile duct occlusion.
- Very high doses of artichoke leaf extract may cause damage to the cells. Animal studies using extremely high doses of the extract have found it can cause oxidative stress.
The Bottom Line
The evidence suggests that artichoke leaf extract has a number of potential health benefits. A number of studies have demonstrated that it can benefit the hear, the digestive system and the liver while protecting against oxidative stress. Studies also indicate that when taken in appropriate doses it is a very safe supplement for the majority of people.
Let us know if you have used this supplement and what you thought of it. We are always pleased to receive your comments.