A familiar vegetable garden plant used since Antiquity, the artichoke is a vegetable used both for its taste properties and for its health benefits. At the table, it is the flower bud that is eaten while the leaves that grow along the stem are used for medicinal purposes, to promote digestion , treat liver problems or even stimulate kidney activity.
A little history
The artichoke is an edible plant whose flower bud is generally eaten. Of Mediterranean origin, it is part of the Asteraceae family and comes from wild thistle, which, through crossbreeding and improvements, has become the well-known plant of our vegetable gardens. This food has been consumed since Antiquity for its taste and medicinal properties. Thanks to ancient representations, we know that the Egyptians cultivated it and that the Greeks and Romans imported it and used it to promote digestion and treat liver and kidney problems. Indeed, in traditional European medicine, artichoke leaves have long been used to stimulate kidney activity and bile secretion.
But it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that French researchers confirmed its action on the kidneys and gallbladder and began to study it. Following this research, Italians isolated cynarin , a polyphenol which gives its properties to the plant . The latter would have cholagogue (facilitate the evacuation of vesicular bile) and choleretic (stimulate bile secretion by liver cells) properties. It was therefore synthesized and used to stimulate the liver and gallbladder and to lower cholesterol levels, before being replaced by other synthetic molecules.
A plant rich in nutrients
The artichoke that we usually eat is actually just the flower bud of the plant . All of its florets constitute the hay, also called the beard of the artichoke . If you allow the artichoke to develop completely, you can see a purple flower appear at its top. It is this flower that we consume in its immature form. The leaves used for medicinal purposes grow along the stem and are very rich in nutrients. They contain in particular high levels of phenolic compounds ( cynarin, luteolin) with strong antioxidant power, inulin, a prebiotic fiber beneficial for the balance of the microbiota, and excellent quality fibers. The artichoke is also rich in vitamins C and B9, in water and is a mine of minerals (potassium, magnesium, copper, iron, etc.). The therapeutic properties of the artichoke have long been attributed to its cynarin content . However, studies have highlighted that the health benefits of the artichoke have been attributed to the synergy of its active compounds. Indeed, it is a vegetable rich in polyphenols such as flavonoids and luteolins and especially in chlorogenic acids, well-known antioxidants. This synergy gives the plant diuretic, detoxifying and hepatoprotective properties. This is why it is widely used in herbal medicine today.
Artichoke extracts are recognized and have been the subject of several health claim submissions to the European Commission (EFSA). Most of them are awaiting evaluation and are mainly concentrated around the hepatic, renal and digestive areas.
Artichoke leaves are very effective in aiding digestion and relieving dyspepsia. This is a set of digestive pains or discomforts linked to poor functioning of the gallbladder and liver. Its leaves, rich in cynarin , stimulate the production of bile and thus promote the digestion of lipids. Studies have been carried out to confirm this beneficial effect and the European Commission now recognizes their use.
Stimulates the liver
Thanks to cynarin and chlorogenic acid, the artichoke has depurative and choleretic properties. It stimulates bile secretion by the liver and thus promotes the elimination of harmful toxins. Regular consumption of artichoke extracts may help protect the liver and relieve symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. More research is needed to confirm the role of artichoke in treating liver disease.
Relieves irritable bowel syndrome
Thanks to its antispasmodic properties, artichoke extract may help treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as irritable bowel syndrome. Some studies in people with IBS have shown that daily consumption of artichoke extracts reduced IBS symptoms and improved their quality of life.
Diuretic and appetite suppressant
Thanks to its concentration in inulin and its richness in potassium, it would have a slightly diuretic effect and would therefore facilitate renal and urinary elimination. A detox ally, it is also a very interesting food to include in a healthy diet . Rich in fiber and low in calories, it could help with the feeling of satiety without causing excess caloric consumption.
Thanks to its richness in fiber, the artichoke promotes the health of the digestive system, facilitates intestinal transit and even helps fight against colon cancer. Indeed, inulin, a dietary fiber which acts as a prebiotic, helps rebalance the intestinal flora by promoting the development of good intestinal bacteria and therefore relieving constipation and diarrhea.
3 clinical trials carried out in the 2000s showed that certain compounds in the artichoke , such as luteolin and inulin, would have the ability to regulate blood lipids, i.e. to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL) and therefore prevent atherosclerosis.
The results of numerous studies are favorable to the use of the artichoke for its various benefits, but still remain insufficient to clearly conclude on its effectiveness.
Depending on the desired benefit, the recommended doses of artichoke extracts vary. This is why it is recommended to seek the advice of your doctor before starting a course of treatment. Especially since its consumption can sometimes cause temporary adverse effects such as loss of appetite, diarrhea or flatulence.
If the artichoke is a harmless vegetable and excellent for health, taking it in the form of food supplements may, in certain special cases, be avoided. It is therefore advisable to remain cautious about its consumption. Due to its choleretic action, artichoke leaf extract is strongly not recommended for people prone to gallstones, gallstones or blocked bile ducts. A few cases of allergies have also been reported. Thus, people allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family could have reactions to artichokes . Finally, pregnant women and young children should avoid daily supplementation.