Artichoke is a wonderful food and supplement that contains potent antioxidants and prebiotics. Artichoke extract helps to rebalance the gut flora in IBS, supports detoxification, helps with weight loss, and prevents cardiovascular diseases.
Read this post to learn more about the good and the bad of artichoke extract.
What is Artichoke?
Artichoke extracts come from the globe artichoke (Cynara Scolymus) or the cardoon (Cynara Cardunculus) plants. It has been historically used to treat stomach problems, gout, and diabetes .
Artichoke has a high mineral content. It also contains vitamin C, fiber, inulin, and polyphenols. Soil, climate, source, and part of the plant all affect its mineral content. The edible parts, or the artichoke heart, contain more nutrients than the leaves .
Polyphenolic compounds with medicinal effects are mainly found in the leaves and are responsible for the active principles of the plant. Thus, artichoke leaf extracts have more health benefits than eating the artichoke by itself .
Artichoke extracts are mainly used in herbal medicine to help lower cholesterol, protect the liver, and fight against bacteria and fungi .
There are two types of artichoke extracts that can be used.
The globe artichoke extract is used as an antioxidant, to help with stomach and intestinal problems, to protect the liver, and to decrease cholesterol levels. Globe artichoke hearts, leaves, and/or roots are crushed and then frozen. Then, they are freeze-dried and put in a mixture of methanol and water to make the extract .
The cardoon extract also has antioxidant effects. Phenolic compounds from bracts (modified leaves) of the cardoon plant are extracted with methanol. The extract is then dissolved and diluted with water .
Artichoke extract can be used alone or combined with other herbs. It can also be used to prepare herbal teas and medicinal products .
Artichoke Extract Constituents
Artichoke extract contains luteolin, caffeoylquinic acid, chlorogenic acid, apigenin, sterols, and inulin. It also contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, zinc, copper, and manganese .
Leaf extracts are rich in caffeoylquinic acid and luteolin. The edible parts (artichoke heart) are also rich in caffeoylquinic acids and various luteolin derivatives .
The main polyphenols in artichoke extract are chlorogenic acid, cynarin, luteolin 7-O-rutinoside, and luteolin 7-O-glucoside .
- Luteolin is an antioxidant, which helps prevent inflammation and cancer .
- Caffeoylquinic acid is another antioxidant. It helps form bonds with toxic compounds, which helps lower toxicity .
- Cynarin is another antioxidant compound found in artichoke. It stimulates bile production, which helps the gut digest fats and absorbs vitamins from food .
- Inulin is a sweet-tasting indigestible starchy substance found in artichoke. It is a prebiotic, which mean it can increase the number of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines .
Health Benefits of Artichoke Extract
1) Helps Treat Indigestion
Cynarin, a natural compound found in artichoke, stimulates bile production. This helps accelerate gut movement and also support fat digestion and vitamin absorption [1, 8]. Artichoke extract also helps with digestion by stopping muscle spasms in the gut.
In a study, researchers treated 247 patients with functional dyspepsia with either globe artichoke leaf extract or placebo (DB-RCT). The artichoke group improved dyspepsia symptoms compared to placebo .
The globe artichoke extract was especially effective in easing fullness and reducing flatulence. However, the artichoke extract was barely more effective than the placebo in reducing the pain and nausea caused by indigestion .
2) Helps Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects 22% of the population. Some symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence, and constipation .
Many factors contribute to IBS: abnormal gut movement, imbalanced intestinal microbes, genetic factors, inflammation, and immune disorders, among others .
Artichoke has both preventive and curative effects on IBS. It balances the intestinal microbiota and also stops muscle spasms. These effects can help reduce IBS symptoms .
Cynaropicrin, a constituent of artichoke, exhibits potent muscle suppression (anti-spasmodic) activity in hamster gut. Also, it is as powerful as papaverine (an antispasmodic drug) in stopping muscle spasms and relaxing muscle .
Balances the Gut Flora
Inulin, a starchy substance found in artichoke, balances the intestinal microbiota. In a controlled, double-blind crossover study, daily consumption of inulin derived from globe artichoke extract increased beneficial microorganisms in the gut of healthy adult volunteers .
Most of the inulin’s effects are caused by bacterial metabolites. The metabolites use the inulin for energy .
The metabolites, such as SCFA, then acidifies the colonic environment. This is beneficial for healthy bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. The acidic environment also stops the growth of potentially harmful species .
Supports Healthy Gut Movement
Dichloromethane and ethyl acetate extracts of globe artichokes, along with cynaropicrin, stop muscle spasms in the gut. In guinea pig intestines, the artichoke extract constituents inhibited spasmic gut contractions . This reduces abdominal pain and diarrhea.
In a study of IBS patients who took globe artichoke leaf extract, the patients had a significant reduction in IBS symptoms. 96% of the patients rated the extract as better than or equivalent to previous IBS therapies, such as antidiarrheals, laxatives, and anti-depressants .
In another study, 208 patients with both IBS and dyspepsia were administered globe artichoke leaf extract capsules. After two months of treatment, IBS symptoms decreased significantly. The patients also reported less constipation and diarrhea .
3) Has Antioxidant Properties
Artichoke, especially the leaves, contains many beneficial antioxidant polyphenols in high concentration .
The main ones are chlorogenic acid, cynarin, and luteolin .
In cell-based studies, globe artichoke extract protected the cells against hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress. It reduced prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) release; PGE2 is a marker of inflammation and oxidative stress .
Cells treated with artichoke extract had a reduced level of PGE2, which means there was less oxidative damage and inflammation .
4) Helps Stop Cancer Growth
Some antioxidants found in artichoke (rutin, quercetin, and gallic acid) induce the death of cancer cells and can stop the formation of new ones .
In cell-based studies, globe artichoke head extract inhibited human breast cancer cell growth. Artichoke causes cancer cells to stop dividing. The extract may selectively inhibit tumor cells without harming normal cells .
Artichoke leaf extract also has antitumor effects in mesothelioma (a type of cancers caused by asbestos in tissues that line the lungs, stomach, or heart) cancer cells. It reduced cell growth and migration .
Researchers plan to investigate artichoke extract anti-cancer activity in a clinical study in humans .
5) Protects the Liver and Supports Detoxification
Treatment with artichoke leaf extract can help protect the liver, increase tissue regeneration, and stimulate cell division .
Globe artichoke extract increases bile production, which helps remove dangerous toxins from the liver .
The antioxidants in artichoke extract can help protect the liver from oxidative damage .
Paracetamol (pain reliever) overdose often causes liver toxicity due to oxidative damage and decreased glutathione content. In rats, globe artichoke extract administration can protect against liver injury due to paracetamol overdose .
Comparing to control rats that weren’t pretreated with artichoke extract, rats that were pretreated with artichoke extract had less oxidative stress in the liver after the drug overdose. These pretreated rats also had lowered DNA damage, more antioxidant enzymes, and higher glutathione levels .
6) Lowers Cholesterol
One of artichoke’s constituents, luteolin, inhibits cholesterol formation. This helps reduce cholesterol levels .
The body’s main method of eliminating cholesterol is through the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids. Artichoke leaf extract stimulates bile acid secretion, which lowers cholesterol levels in the body .
High cholesterol levels can cause plaque formation in the arteries. This contributes to heart diseases. By reducing cholesterol levels, artichoke extract can stop the accumulation of plaque .
Artichoke extracts’ antioxidant effects also reduce the amount of plaque in the arteries .
In hamsters, a 6-week diet containing artichoke leaf extract led to significantly lower total cholesterol levels. Hamsters are a good animal model for human cholesterol studies because their cholesterol profiles are more similar to those of humans than rats .
- Male hamsters had significantly lower total cholesterol (15%), non-HDL cholesterol (30%), and triglycerides (22%) after artichoke leaf extract administration .
- Additionally, female hamsters showed reductions of 15% in total cholesterol, 29% for non-HDL cholesterol, and 29% for triglycerides compared with controls .
- Artichoke extract also inhibits LDL [low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol) oxidation. This stops the formation of atherosclerotic plaques .
7) Lowers Blood Pressure
The globe artichoke has a higher concentration of potassium than sodium. Artichoke heart consumption could help lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease .
Data from cellular and animal studies suggest that artichoke extract can activate cellular production and increase the activity of eNOS, the enzyme that produces nitric oxide .
Nitric oxide widens blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure. In cell-based studies, artichoke extract increased eNOS activity and nitric oxide synthesis .
In a study (DB-RCT) of mild hypertension patients, artichoke juice capsule administration lowered blood pressure. Although its mechanisms are unknown, researchers think that these blood pressure lowering effects may be due to the increase in eNOS activity .
8) Protects the Heart
The enzymes metalloproteinases are a major contributor to heart diseases. These enzymes play a key role in plaque accumulation and rupture in the arteries, which can trigger heart attacks .
MMP-9, a metalloproteinase, is involved in the body’s natural process of tissue repair and breakdown. It breaks down proteins, which can contribute to disease progression. High levels of metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) are also correlated with heart attack and stroke .
Artichoke (cardoon) extract inhibits the MMP-9 activity in rats, likely due to its antioxidant properties .
9) Improves Skin Health
Cynaropicrin is a major bioactive chemical in globe artichoke extract. It reduces oxidative damage caused by UV rays and protects the skin .
10) Helps with Diabetes Symptoms
Artichoke leaf extract administration lowers blood glucose .
In a study (DB-RCT) of 39 overweight patients, the supplementation of kidney bean and globe artichoke extract for 2 months helped lower (fasting) glucose levels. The glucose reduction in the extract group was much higher than that of the control group. However, blood insulin levels did not change .
The combination of artichoke and bean extract also lowered glucose levels in rats. The two extracts acted independently. However, the combination of their effects led to a better result than when they were administered separately .
One possible mechanism for artichoke’s glucose-lowering activity is the inhibition of α-Glucosidase, which is an enzyme that breaks down starch into glucose. Artichoke extract weakly inhibits α-Glucosidase activity .
11) May Help with Weight Loss
A combination of kidney bean and globe artichoke extract can help with weight loss. Supplementation helped to increase the feeling of fullness in a study (DB-RCT) of 39 overweight patients .
During the study, the extract group lost more weight than the control group. However, these effects were not statistically significant. It could also be attributed to the low-calorie diet the patients were following .
Artichoke and kidney bean extract can reduce appetite over the long term. Since a 2-month treatment with artichoke extract increased fullness, overweight patients could control their appetite. However, most of these effects were due to the kidney bean extract and not solely due to artichoke extract .
12) Has Antimicrobial Properties
In test-tube studies, artichoke extract inhibited fungal activity. All different extracts (leaves, heads, and stems) actively inhibited eight different types of fungi .
In another test, artichoke leaf extract exhibited strong activity against bacteria, yeast, and mold .
However, there is still not enough evidence on the antimicrobial effects of artichoke in animals or humans.
13) Protects Against Lead Toxicity
Lead is a dangerous heavy metal that can negatively affect human health. It accumulates in the liver, kidney, and other organs after absorption. Lead may even cause physical, mental, and reproductive dysfunctions .
Artichoke extract can help protect against lead toxicity in rats. Globe artichoke antioxidant activity helped reduce lead concentration in the blood .
The artichoke leaf extract stopped the increase of blood lead level. This was possibly due to the chelating properties of cynarin, chlorogenic acid, and caffeoylquinic acid .
Artichoke extract also reduced lead levels in rats’ livers and protected liver cells from damage .
Artichoke Side Effects
Generally, artichoke extract is safe for normal use. However, full safety testing has not yet been completed .
1) Artichoke Inulin is a FODMAP
Inulin in artichoke is a FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). People who are sensitive to FODMAPs may react to artichoke extracts or other supplements that contain inulin.
Some side effects include flatulence, a feeling of weakness, and hunger .
2) Allergies to Artichoke
Skin contact with the plant can cause allergic reactions. However, oral ingestion of the extract has not yet shown any allergic reactions .
Artichoke belongs to the daisy/Asteraceae family. People who are allergic to dandelions or other plants of the daisy/Asteraceae family might also be allergic to artichoke.
3) Avoid In Cases of Gallstones or Bile Duct Occlusion
Patients with gallstones or bile duct occlusion should not take artichoke extract because it stimulates bile acid production .
4) Don’t Take High Doses of Artichoke Extract
In cell-based and animal studies, high doses of artichoke leaf extract damaged the cells. It can lead to oxidative damage as well as DNA mutations .
Buy Artichoke Extract
- “I use this product for bloating and/or IBS. It’s the only thing that helped after 2 years of doctors trying to help me. It took about 8 days for it to start showing me an improvement” .
- “This was added to my vitamin regimen. Has been helping with fat digestion and metabolism. Cholesterol has decreased by 20%.”
- “Efficient liver cleaner, helps lowers cholesterol, and helps losing weight” .
- “Really improves digestion without any side effects!” .
- “This product helps your liver to produce bile, which often isn’t happening as it should when your liver is compromised in any way – like fatty liver, viral diseases of the liver, or poor health in general. This helped me when I had pain and elevated liver enzymes, and it was a big part of my healing protocol” .