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6 Benefits and Side Effects of Artichoke (Please Be Aware of the 6 Contraindications)[Updated Jan/2023]

Artichoke is also known as chrysanthemum thistle, French lily, ball thistle, Yazhi bamboo. It has been widely used in Chinese herbal medicine since ancient times,  is a healthy food and folk medicine with anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.

Artichoke is native to the Mediterranean coast and appeared as a vegetable in Jewish, Roman and Greek cuisine a long time ago. It has also become a commonly used ingredient in modern Italian dishes (Italian: Carciofi). Due to its nutritional value, it has the reputation of “King of Vegetables” and “Noble in Vegetables” in Europe. Artichoke contains precious phytochemicals such as artichoke acid, artichoke polyphenols, chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, which have choleretic, liver-protecting, antioxidant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-inhibiting abilities.

What are the artichoke benefits and side effects? See text analysis for details.


What is Artichoke?

Artichoke is a perennial herb of the Asteraceae family (native to the Mediterranean region and northwestern Africa), with large spherical flower buds.

Its main medicinal parts come from leaves (bracts), which contain a variety of phenolic compounds (about 7.13%), including chlorogenic acid, cynarin, luteolin, and apigenin.

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What are the benefits of artichokes?

1.Artichoke benefits blood pressure regulation

Artichoke extract benefits people with high blood pressure.

Hypertension is medically defined as a long-term sustained increase in arterial blood pressure over 140/90 Hg mm (systolic blood pressure (SBP)/diastolic blood pressure (DBP)), which can be divided into primary (90%-95%) and secondary (5%-10%), mainly caused by genetics, environment, and lifestyle, especially diet.

About 35% of the global population is affected by hypertension, and this proportion is likely to exceed 50% by 2025, with oxidative stress, inflammation, immunomodulation, and endothelial dysfunction considered major pathological factors.

One study in 98 men with high blood pressure found that consuming artichoke extract daily for 12 weeks reduced diastolic and systolic blood pressure by an average of 2.76 and 2.85 mmHg.

How artichoke extract reduces blood pressure is not fully understood.

Additionally, artichokes are rich in potassium, which helps neutralize the effects of excess sodium, which has been thought to be the culprit behind high blood pressure. The potassium in artichokes replaces electrolytes and counteracts the negative effects of sodium. Even diabetics are encouraged to include artichokes in their diets, which can prevent complications related to blood pressure.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (meta-analysis, including 8 randomized controlled trials, with a total of 512 participants) noted that the meta-analysis showed that artichoke supplementation had no effect on systolic blood pressure (SBP) or Diastolic blood pressure (DBP) had no effect. Note 1

However, subgroup analyzes based on health status and timing of supplementation showed that artichoke intake in hypertensive patients significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure, while the duration required at least 12 weeks to effectively reduce diastolic blood pressure

*Conclusion: Artichoke extract may have a positive effect on blood pressure regulation, especially in hypertensive patients, but limited by the small sample size, more research is still needed for further verification.


2.Artichokes are good for reducing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and increasing HDL cholesterol

Among many modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking cessation, dietary changes, weight loss, blood pressure and glycemic control, lowering cholesterol remains a key factor in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Currently, the American College of Cardiology guidelines recommend that statins be included in the primary prevention of diabetes and hypercholesterolemia based on an individual’s cardiovascular disease risk.

A systematic review and meta-analysis (9 randomized controlled trials with a total of 702 participants) indicated that supplementation with artichoke/artichoke extract significantly reduced total cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. Note 1

What’s more, regular consumption of artichoke extract may raise “good” HDL cholesterol in adults with high cholesterol.

Artichoke extract affects cholesterol in two main ways.

First, artichokes contain luteolin, an antioxidant that prevents cholesterol formation.

Second, artichoke leaf extract encourages your body to process cholesterol more efficiently, reducing overall levels.

*Conclusion: For subjects with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia, artichoke extract supplementation may have a positive effect on cholesterol regulation, but the duration of this effect is uncertain and needs further confirmation.


3.Artichoke benefits liver health

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common chronic liver diseases and is characterized by the accumulation of more than 5% of liver fat by body weight.

NAFLD ranges from asymptomatic disease to isolated steatosis, to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and may progress to end-stage liver disease with liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma

Artichoke leaf extract may protect the liver from damage and promote the growth of new tissue. It also increases bile production, which helps remove harmful toxins from the liver.

There is no consensus on pharmacological therapy. Thiazolidinediones, metformin, lipid-lowering drugs and antioxidants… and other drugs that directly reduce oxidative stress and lipid accumulation can improve clinical manifestations

In one study, artichoke extract administered to rats resulted in less liver damage, higher levels of antioxidants, and better results after an induced drug overdose compared to rats not supplemented with artichoke extract liver function.

Studies in humans have also shown positive effects on liver health. For example, a study of 90 patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease found that taking 600 mg of artichoke extract daily for two months improved liver function. Note 2 In another study of obese adults with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, taking artichoke extract daily for two months was associated with less liver inflammation and less fat deposition than no artichoke extract. Note 3

Scientists believe that certain antioxidants in artichokes – cinnamon and silymarin – have been shown to improve the overall health of the liver by reducing the presence of toxins and promoting their elimination from the liver and body. In addition, the phenols and acids present in artichokes act as stimulants, help flush out harmful toxins from the body, and promote bile production.

Supplementation with Artichoke leaf extract increased hepatic venous flow and decreased portal vein diameter and liver size in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (2 months, 100 patients with ultrasound-diagnosed NAFLD) , reduce serum ALT and AST levels, improve AST/ALT ratio and APRI score, and reduce total bilirubin . Note 2

In addition, the concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides improved to varying degrees.

*Conclusion: For non-alcoholic fatty liver, artichoke extract supplementation may have positive effects on ultrasound liver parameters and liver serum parameters, but limited by the small number of samples, more research is still needed for further confirmation


4.Artichoke benefits blood sugar regulation

Diabetes Mellitus is a complex endocrine disease characterized by defects in insulin secretion or insulin action leading to impaired blood glucose levels (affecting nearly 10% of the world’s population), the treatment of which focuses on the regulation of glucose or lipid metabolism or both.

The current global prevalence of diabetes has increased significantly, with an estimated 439 million people living with diabetes by 2030, casting a shadow over the spread of modern lifestyles.

A systematic review and meta-analysis (9 randomized controlled trials with a total of 512 participants) indicated that supplementation with artichoke and artichoke products (daily doses of 100 mg to 19.45 g, study lengths from 8 weeks to 20 weeks) significantly reduced fasting blood sugar, but no changes in fasting insulin, insulin resistance, or HbA1c. Note 3

In addition, subgroup analysis showed that the single artichoke preparation was more effective than the co-combination in reducing the homeostatic model-assessed level of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR).

Another small study found that consuming cooked artichokes after meals lowered blood sugar and insulin levels 30 minutes after meals. Notably, this effect was only observed in healthy adults without metabolic syndrome.

How artichoke extract lowers blood sugar is not fully understood, and more research is needed to confirm it.

*Conclusion: Supplementing artichoke extract may have a positive effect on blood sugar regulation, but limited by the insufficient number of included studies, more research is still needed for further verification


5.Artichoke benefits digestive health

Functional dyspepsia is a common clinical manifestation (often diet-related).

The most commonly used definition refers to chronic or recurrent pain or discomfort centered on the abdomen above, without any known structural cause, without features of irritable bowel or gastroesophageal reflux, and possible symptoms including: abdominal pain, bloating, early satiety, fullness, hiccups, and nausea.

Artichokes are a great source of fiber, which can help you maintain a healthy digestive system by promoting beneficial gut bacteria, reducing the risk of certain bowel cancers, and relieving constipation and diarrhea.

Artichokes contain inulin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. In one study, 12 adults experienced improvements in gut microbiota after consuming inulin-containing artichoke extract for three weeks.

Artichoke extract may also relieve symptoms of indigestion, such as bloating, nausea, and heartburn. A study of 247 people with indigestion found that consuming artichoke leaf extract daily for six weeks reduced symptoms such as bloating and discomfort, compared to not taking it.

Cynarin, a natural compound in artichoke, produces these positive effects by stimulating bile production, speeding bowel movements, and improving the digestion of certain fats.

A randomized double-blind controlled trial (6 weeks, 247 patients with functional dyspepsia) showed that artichoke leaf extract was significantly better than placebo in relieving symptoms and improving quality of life . Note 4

*Conclusion: For functional dyspepsia, artichoke may be able to bring positive help, but the number of samples is limited, so more research is still needed for further verification


6.Artichoke benefits alcohol-induced hangovers

Alcohol hangovers are defined as a combination of mental and physical symptoms that occur on the day after binge drinking, when blood alcohol levels are near zero, that can jeopardize everyday activities, such as driving a car or operating heavy machinery.

An alcoholic hangover may last up to 24 hours, and symptoms include headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, thirst, dizziness, nausea, cognitive impairment, and mood changes.

We now know that artichoke has a positive effect on the liver, so it may also help with hangovers. Artichokes can reduce toxin levels in the blood by quickly eliminating toxins in the blood. Some people choose to chew some artichoke leaves after a night of heavy drinking.

A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover trial (2 weeks, 15 volunteers) found that artichoke extract was not effective in preventing alcohol-induced hangover symptoms (as measured by Hangover Score, Mood Status Questionnaire, and Cognitive performance test measure) . Note 5

*Conclusion: Artichoke is not effective in preventing alcohol-related hangover symptoms, but limited by the small sample size, further verification is needed.


What are the artichoke extract side effects?

Even though artichoke benefits our life in many different ways, some people raised concerns on artichoke extract side effects. Any side effects of artichoke extract? Artichoke extract is generally safe in normal doses for most people.

Safety precautions (6 points of contraindications)

  1. Pregnant and lactating women should not use artichoke leaf extract (due to unknown safety)
  2. Artichokes belong to the Asteraceae family. People who have been allergic to ragweed, marigold, daisy, chrysanthemum, Echinacea, sunflowers, and other similar herbs may also be allergic to artichokes. avoid eating
  3. Avoid use in patients with gallstones or blocked bile ducts, as artichoke may stimulate bile acid production and worsen symptoms
  4. The low FODMAP diet or those who are sensitive to FODMAP should be used with caution, because inulin and fructooligosaccharides in artichokes are easily fermented in the small intestine, which can produce gas and cause bloating, weakness, and hunger, especially with heavy use
  5. Do not use in combination with cholesterol-lowering drugs (such as statins/statins), which may affect the efficacy of the drug, because artichokes also have cholesterol-lowering effects
  6. Do not use with drugs that need to be metabolized by cytochrome P450 (cytochrome P450) enzymes, which may affect the efficacy of the drug

There is currently insufficient data to establish dosing guidelines.


How to add them to your diet?

After understanding artichoke benefits and side effects, you may want to add them to your diet. There are many varieties of artichokes, most are green or purple, ripe, large, and spherical. How to choose? Pick the ones that are bright in color, have less stains on the petals, are tightly packed, and weighs heavier. Some people call artichokes the “noble food”, because the most essential part of an artichoke is only a small heart in the base.

It’s easy to cook Artichokes:

  1. Trim stem and tip of the petals
  2. Steam ‘stem up’ for about 30 mins or until the base of the stem is tender.
  3. Enjoy a petal one at a time, pulling the base of the petal through slightly clenched teeth to strip off the petal ‘meat’. When you get to the ‘heart’ of the Artichoke (round area at the base) , scoop out the fuzzy top layer, then enjoy the delicious ‘heart’!
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