Medically reviewed on June 13, 2018
Scientific Name(s): Cynara scolymus L., C. cardunculus L., Family: Asteraceae (daisies)
Common Name(s): Globe artichoke , garden artichoke , alcachofra (Brazil)
Artichoke has been used for its antioxidant and GI soothing effects. It also may have cytoprotective actions in the liver and hypocholesterolemic effects.
Artichoke leaf extract at 1.5 g/day was found to lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides in a postmarketing survey study.
Contraindications to the use of artichoke include allergy to Asteraceae family plants and any bile duct obstruction.
Generally recognized as safe or used as food. Avoid dosages above those found in food because safety and efficacy are unproven.
None well documented.
Artichoke can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, most commonly dermatitis.
Lack of toxicity data suggests limiting use during pregnancy and lactation.
The artichoke is a member of the daisy family. It is a perennial herb, widely cultivated in the Mediterranean regions and adjoining parts of central Europe. This well-known plant grows to a height of approximately 2 meters. It has a strong, erect stem and its large leaves are lobed and gray-green. The edible flower bud is purple-green in color, and has scales or bracts that enclose it. It blooms from July to August. 1 , 2 , 3 , 4
The artichoke was used as food and medicine by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The artichoke appeared in Europe in the 15th century. 4 The botanical name is derived in part from the tradition of fertilizing the plant with ashes, and partly from the Greek skolymos , meaning “thistle” from the spines found on the bracts (they are not leaves) that enclose the flower heads forming the edible portion of the plant. 5 The French have used artichoke juice as a liver tonic. The herb's abilities to break down fat and improve bile flow have been recognized. 6 Artichoke has been used traditionally to treat a variety of conditions including hepatic diseases, jaundice, dyspepsia, and chronic albuminuria. It has also been used as a diuretic and to manage postoperative anemia. 2 The flower head is cooked and eaten as a delicacy. The flower contains a sweetener that enhances flavor perception, while the leaves contain bitter principles that are used in the preparation of aperitif liqueurs. 7
Nutritionally, one large (100 g) artichoke contains 38 calories, 1 g fat, 5.8 g carbohydrates, and 3.4 g protein. 1 This protein was rich in phenylalanine, tyrosine, histidine, alanine, and glycine in one report. 8 In another report, aspartic and glutamic acids were abundant amino acids present, along with sugars. 9 Galactose is present at less than 0.1 mg/100 g of artichoke in a report discussing diet in galactosemic patients. 10 Artichoke also contains fiber, 1 , 11 calcium, phosphorus, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C, niacin, thiamine, trace minerals, 1 , 4 and carotenoids. 12
Acids present in artichoke consist primarily of acid alcohols, including glyceric, malic, citric, glycolic, lactic, and succinic acids. 13 Much of the pharmacologic activity of the leaves has been attributed to the presence of caffeoylquinic acid derivatives, mono- and di-caffeoylquinic acids, including chlorogenic, neochlorogenic, and cryptochlorogenic acids, luteolin, and cynarin. 14 , 15 , 16 HPLC determination of these derivatives has been performed. 17 The relative proportion of these compounds varies with the strain, age, and generation of the plant. 18 , 19 For example, germinating seeds of the artichoke have higher cynarin content than the leaves. 20 Caffeic acid specifically and these derivatives have been widely studied and percentages can vary depending on certain factors. 3 , 14 , 21 , 22 Hydroxymethylacrylic acid also has been isolated from artichoke. 23
Bitter sesquiterpene principles such as geosheimin, cynaratriol, and cynaropicrin have been found from Cynara species. 24 Cynaropicrin content exists in highest content in young leaves, but not in root mature fruits and flowers. 14 Dehydrocynaropicrin, grossheimin, 3 grosulfeimin and related guaianolides, 25 , 26 and cynarolide 27 have been isolated from the plant. Flavonoids (0.1% to 1%), including flavone glycosides and rutin, are present in artichoke. 3 , 14 , 28 Flavonoid glycosides apigenin, luteolin, cynaroside, scolimoside, cosmoside, quercetin, isorhamnetin, maritimein, and others also have been reported. 29 , 30 Analysis of phenolic compounds in fresh vs cooked/canned artichoke has been performed. 31
Volatile oils have been found in artichoke, including beta-selinene and caryophyllene as major sesquiterpenes, eugenol, phenylacetaldehyde, and decanal. 14 Analysis of volatile oil in artichoke from another report finds 32 compounds. 32 Fatty acid composition of oil has been investigated. 33 Artichoke is an ideal source for essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, containing stearic, palmitic, oleic, and linoleic (50%) acids. 34 Color and anthocyanic pigments in artichoke have been evaluated. 35
Numerous enzymes, including oxidases, peroxidases, cynarase, and ascorbinase are present in artichoke. 7 , 14 Ribulose-1,5-diphosphate carboxylase has been investigated. 36 , 37 Artichoke polyphenol oxidase has also been found in the plant. 38 , 39 Milk-clotting proteinases, possibly aspartic proteinases, exist in artichoke as well. 40
Other constituents in artichoke include phytosterols (taraxasterol), tannins, sugars, starch, and inulin. 14 At low temperatures, artichoke contains more inulin and less starch; at high temperatures, the opposite is observed. 41 L-asparagine was found in artichoke fluid. 42
Overviews of artichoke constituents/preparations are available; however, they are written in German or Russian. They discuss chemical composition in review of major materials 43 and evaluate artichoke preparations, including freshly squeezed juice and dried preparations. 44 , 45 , 46 A report in English evaluated by HPLC, the active ingredients in artichoke and variations in compounds according to different parameters. 47
Uses and Pharmacology
Artichoke possesses many properties, including antioxidant effects, hepatoprotective ability, GI soothing qualities, and cholesterol-lowering effects.Antioxidant activity
The flavonoid constituents in artichoke (eg, luteolin) demonstrate antioxidant activity. 48Animal data
Flavonoids/polyphenol fractions possess chemopreventive effects as well, as seen with mouse skin cancers. 49 , 50 Similarly, triterpene taraxasterol from artichoke was found to also markedly inhibit induced skin tumors in mice. 51 Flavonoid silymarin from the plant had similar actions. 52
Antioxidant effects of artichoke in the liver have been numerously reported. Certain extracts have been demonstrated to be effective in regeneration of rat liver. 53 , 54 Later reports confirm artichoke extracts as having antioxidative and protective potential in rat hepatocytes. Constituents cynarin and caffeic acid specifically have been shown to be responsible for these effects. 55 , 56 , 57Clinical data
Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of artichoke as an antioxidant.Cholesterol-lowering effects
Artichoke has been found to possess cholesterol-lowering effects. Leaf extracts were found to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis.Animal data
Constituents cynaroside and its aglycone luteolin were mainly responsible for this effect, while chlorogenic, caffeic dicaffeoylquinic acids, and cynarin demonstrated little or no inhibitory effects. 58 , 59Clinical data
Another report also concluded the ineffectiveness of cynarin, demonstrating no hypolipidemic actions in 17 patients with familial type II hyperlipoproteinemia. 60 A prospective study investigating 143 patients with total cholesterol greater than 280 mg/dL reported that patients given 1800 mg dry extract/day vs placebo over a 6-week period experienced statistically significant changes in total and LDL cholesterol. Total cholesterol was decreased 18.5% vs 8.6% and LDL cholesterol was reduced 22.9% vs 6.3% in patients using the dry artichoke extract vs placebo, respectively. Thus, dry artichoke extract was recommended to treat hyperlipoproteinemia, preventing atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. 61Other uses
A review on artichoke leaf extract is available, discussing digestive, antioxidative, hepatoprotective, lipid-lowering, and other effects. 62
GI effects of artichoke include beneficial actions in digestive and dyspeptic ailments, loss of appetite, and gallbladder problems. 2 , 3 , 15 Artichoke flavonoids and caffeoylquinic acids are responsible for these actions, including hepatobiliary dysfunction and digestive complaints. 63 Naturally occurring fructose-containing oligosaccharides in artichoke act as prebiotics in the gut. 64
Other reported effects of artichoke include analgesic/anti-inflammatory 65 and hypoglycemic. 25 The artichoke is a good source of nutrition, including protein and fiber. 1 , 8 , 9 , 11 Artichoke extracts also may exert mild diuretic activity. Cynarase has been used commercially to curdle milk during cheese-making processes, clotting milk at a dilution of 1 part in 150,000. 7
Artichoke seed oil was suggested to be of use as a component in making soaps, shampoos, resins, and polishes. 66
Artichoke leaf extract at 1.5 g/day was found to lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides in a postmarketing survey study. 67
Generally recognized as safe or used as food. Avoid dosages above those found in food because safety and efficacy are unproven.
None well documented.
In a 143-patient study, no adverse events were reported from artichoke administration, indicating excellent tolerability of dry extract. 61 Frequent contact with artichoke and other Asteraceae family plants, however, has caused allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Reports of contact dermatitis 68 and urticaria syndrome from occupational contact with artichoke have been documented, identifying the responsible components as cynaropicrin and other sesquiterpene lactones. 68 , 69 , 70 One study in guinea pigs demonstrated no skin or eye irritation with one artichoke preparation. 71 Another article by the same authors found no injury or stimulating effects in gonad morphology caused by artichoke when administered to male rats. 72
According to the German Commission E Monographs, contraindications to the use of artichoke include allergy to Asteraceae family plants and any bile duct obstruction. Presence of gallstones warrants a physician's consultation. 15
Lack of toxicity data suggests limiting use of artichoke during pregnancy and lactation. 14
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