Herb Health: Artichoke

You might not know that the artichoke is one of nature’s best-kept secrets when it comes to looking for a herbal remedy for digestive problems, high cholesterol and a hangover after a night of partying.

The artichoke (Cynara scolymus) belongs to the same botanical family as the milk thistle and the daisy. It can grow as high as two metres and produces large purple flowers in late autumn. The young unopened flower heads are often cooked while the fleshy parts together with the receptacle or ‘heart’ are much prized by foodies.


If you suffer from bloating, flatulence and uncomfortable feelings of fullness, artichoke may be just the remedy for you. Whether you use it as an ingredient in your cooking or take it as a supplement, it appears to significantly reduce the symptoms, helping to make you feel more comfortable.


In a recent study, IBS sufferers reported a significant improvement of their symptoms within six weeks of taking artichoke supplements. 96% reported that artichoke was more beneficial than previous treatments they had tried. Painful intestinal spasms were also reported to be greatly reduced after taking artichoke supplements.


Studies show that artichoke can have a beneficial effect on healthy gut flora.  This is because artichoke contains a substance known as inulin, which is thought to have a prebiotic effect, meaning it encourages healthy and beneficial bacteria to flourish in the gut. Healthy gut flora not only helps with a healthy digestive system but also plays a huge part in the way our immune system functions. A healthy gut flora may reduce our tendency to acquire infections, and also plays a significant role in allergies and autoimmune diseases.


Research suggests that artichoke supplements may help relieve symptoms of nausea, vomiting and flatulence. Try taking them before and after a heavy night out.


A study carried out by the University of Reading showed that artichoke extracts may help reduce serum cholesterol in patients suffering from hypercholesterolaemia (high levels of blood cholesterol).  After 12 weeks of taking the supplement patients’ total blood cholesterol levels were reduced by an average of 4.2%.


According to a study carried out in Beijing, certain constituents within artichoke, including cynarin, have antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is especially active against the common bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which has been linked with respiratory infections, skin infections and food poisoning. It may also have a role to play in the treatment of candida (yeast) infections.


Artichoke supplements may help with sluggish gall bladder function, as they stimulate the production and flow of bile. A study carried out in Germany also suggests that they may have a role to play in the prevention of gallstones. However artichoke supplements should only be used under medical supervision if there is any risk of gallstones – always consult a healthcare professional in this case.

For more information visit the Artichoke Herbfile.