Artichoke Leaf Extract
Artichoke Leaf Extract is an herbal remedy made from the lower leaves of the artichoke plant (Cynara scolymnus,) a member of the thistle part of the compositae family. It contains 15% caffeoylquinic acids. Artichoke is used as a sweetener and flavoring agent in some alcoholic drinks. Its aromatic "bitter" properties (particularly from the leaves, stem, and roots) inspire its use in alcoholic liqueurs intended to encourage good digestion. The extremely bitter taste is believed to stimulate the production of digestive juices, which is why the traditional aperitif is drunk before meals in many countries.
Artichoke leaf extract supports healthy digestive function by promoting bile flow, fat digestion and gastric comfort, including reduced feelings of bloating and fullness especially as related to fatty meals. This extract is also helpful for supporting healthy lipid and triglyceride metabolism as well as liver function. Used as a food and a medical remedy as early as the 4th century B.C., the artichoke plant has a long history. At the time, a pupil of Aristotle named Theophrastus was one of the first to describe the plant in detail. Enjoyed as a delicacy, an appetizer and digestive aid by the aristocracy of the Roman Empire, it later seems to have fallen into oblivion until the 16th century, when medicinal use of the artichoke for liver problems and jaundice was recorded. In 1850 a French physician successfully used extract of artichoke leaves in the treatment of a boy who had been sick with jaundice for a month and had made no improvement from the drugs used at that time. This accomplishment inspired researchers to find out more about the effects of this extract, and their research resulted in the knowledge we have today about the constituents of the extract and its mechanisms of action.
Artichoke leaf extract is made from the external, serrated leaves of the artichoke plant; these have been shown to contain the highest concentration of biologically active compounds. These compounds include flavonoids, caffeoylquinic acids, caffeoylquinic acid derivatives, luteolin, scolymoside, cynaroside, chlorogenic acid (a powerful antioxidant) and cynarin. This part is chosen for medicinal use, because the concentration of the biologically active compounds is higher here than in the rest of the plant. The most active of these compounds have been discovered to be the flavonoids and caffeoylquinic acids. These substances belong to the polyphenol group and include chlorogenic acid, caffeoylquinic acid derivatives (cynarin is one of them), luteolin, scolymoside and cynaroside.
Artichoke leaves have a long history of traditional use as a digestive aid and liver tonic. Modern research has validated these uses, along with cholesterol-lowering and cardioprotective effects. Artichoke leaves also have potential applications in the treatment and prevention of HIV, cancer and diabetes. Bile is produced by the liver and secreted into the small intestine, where it breaks down fats. It is also important to help carry toxic substances out of the liver, dumping them into the intestine where they can be eliminated from the body. Bile also stimulates peristalsis, the contractions of the intestines which promote regularity and prevent constipation. Artichoke leaf is thought to lower cholesterol by two specific mechanisms. First, by increasing bile flow and production, it stimulates the breakdown and elimination of cholesterol. Second, it inhibits the production of cholesterol in the liver. Some studies have suggested that chlorogenic acid, cynaroside and luteolin are primarily responsible for the cholesterol-inhibiting effects of artichoke leaf, while cynarin seems to be more influential in promoting bile production.