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Artichoke Extract Review
Artichoke Leaf Extract

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1. What is it and where does it come from?

Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. It is a grand perennial and has a purplish flower head. The artichoke is native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Canary Islands. The flesh of the spike-tipped petals, called "bracts," and the heart of the flower head are eaten as a delicacy. The plant's large, lobed leaves and their extracts are used medicinally.

Artichoke extract is made from the long, deeply serrated basal leaves of the artichoke plant. The reason it is extracted from that part is because the biologically active compounds are greater here than in other parts of the plant. Flavonoids and caffeolyquinic acids are the most active of these compounds. These substances belong to the polyphenol group and include chlorogenic acid, caffeoylquinic acid derivatives (cynarin is one of them), luteolin, scolymoside and cynaroside.

In 1934 cynarin was the first constituent of the extract to be isolated. It is only found in trace amounts from fresh leaves, but is formed by natural chemical changes during the process of drying and extraction of the plant material. At one time it was believed to be the only active component of the extract. Today the whole complex of compounds is considered important.

The chlorogenic acid has recently become known as a powerful antioxidant with some very intriguing and potential applications.

Most modern research has been done with a German extract that is standardized to contain 3% caffeoylquinic acids. A new, more potent extract, is now available on the American market. It is standardized at 15% caffeoylquinic acids that are calculated as chlorogenic acid.

2. What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?

In traditional European medicine, the leaves of the artichoke were used as a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys and as a "choleretic" to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder. Bile is a yellowish-brown fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Many of the substances in the bile play a significant role in digestion. In the first half of the twentieth century, French scientists did research that suggested the plant does actually stimulate the kidney and gall bladder.

By mid-century, Italian scientists had isolated a compound from the leaves called cynarin. From the 1950's to the 1980's, synthetic cynarin was used to stimulate the liver and gall bladder and maintain healthy cholesterol. Due to the fact that newer pharmaceuticals have been discovered, cynarin is being used less.

Artichoke extract has been proven to be a safe and natural way to maintain and improve your health, because of the many applications it can be used for. It can be safely used as a nutritional supplement and antioxidant with conventional therapies.

3. Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?

Just about anyone could benefit from supplementing Artichoke Extract. However, because it is not an essential nutrient, true deficiencies do not occur. One might want to consult their professional health care provider before supplementing Artichoke Extract into their diet.

4. How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?

It is suggested that an adult takes 300-640 mg of the standardized leaf extract three times daily for a minimum of six weeks. If the standardized extract is not available, use 1-4 grams of crude, dried leaves, three times a day. If you are using a liquid extract or tincture, use 1 teaspoon mixed with water or 15 to 30 drops tincture mixed with water.

If you are allergic to artichokes and/or other members of the Compositae (e.g. daisy) family, it is recommended you do not use artichoke extract. Also if you have any obstruction of the bile duct or problems with your gall bladder do not use artichoke extract without the consent or supervision of a medical professional. There are no well-known drug interactions at this time.

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