The Collison Newsletter January 2015

 

HERBS FOR LIVER HEALTH

4. ARTICHOKE*

 

 

Artichokes provide exceptional regenerative effects on the liver. Artichoke stimulates the flow of bile from the liver to the gall bladder, assisting in the removal of toxins.

The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial plant or thistle, originally coming from Southern Europe. It grows up to 2 metres tall. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8cm to 15cm in diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are generally purple. Globe artichoke cultivation is, today, concentrated in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is also grown in California (for the USA).

The globe artichoke is the immature flower of the thistle plant. There are some 140 varieties, although only 40 are grown commercially. The colours range from dark purple to pale green.

The Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is not an artichoke. It is a relative of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus), and it is a root vegetable. The plants have smaller sunflower-looking flowers and grow as tall as sunflowers. The tuber (root) is edible and can be cooked in the same way as potatoes.

Nutrient Content of Globe Artichokes

Artichokes contain an usually high amount of antioxidants in the form of phytonutrients. A study by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that artichokes ranked number one in antioxidant content.

Artichokes contain the most powerful phytonutrients cynarin and silymarin, as well as quercetin, rutin and gallic acid. There are also other pharmacologically active ingredients.

They contain high levels of fibre, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and other trace elements.

Medicinal Benefits of Artichokes

Artichokes and artichoke leaf extract have a powerful effect on liver function. The hepato-protective effects result from:

Cynarin

Cynarin, one of the active ingredients, causes an increase in bile flow. This assists in excreting toxins and other waste products, including drugs. This increased bile flow also results in lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, with flow-on benefits.

Silymarin

Silymarin, another of the active ingredients, stops the process of lipid peroxidation from occurring in the cell membranes of the liver. Lipid peroxidation is the oxidative degradation of lipids, a process in which free radicals "steal" electrons from lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage.

Quercetin, rutin and gallic acid

These are all phytochemicals and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties with beneficial effects on the liver.

 

During detoxification of the liver, the toxic substance is often initially converted to an even more toxic form. The body receives toxins in many forms through food, water, and the air we breathe, and these toxins constantly bombard the liver, where they are processed for removal from the body. Bile serves as a carrier, removing these toxins, or their breakdown products, from the liver on to the intestines for further elimination. When the bile excretion is inhibited (cholestasis), these toxins, as well as cholesterol, may remain in the liver with the build-up having damaging effects. Without adequate protection, every time the liver neutralises a toxin, its cells can also be damaged in this process. Artichoke extract has been shown to provide these valuable preventive health benefits and protection by the mechanisms described above.

Artichokes Eaten as Medication

Artichokes can be eaten as a food, with the inherent benefits as outlined above. It is suggested that regular consumption is part of a healthy diet.

Artichoke as a Supplement

Artichoke leaf extract, standardised (generally having a minimum of 5% cynarin) is available. The tablets or capsules contain between 400mg and 500mg, and the recommended adult dose is 1-2 per day. (www.iherb.com).

Artichoke leaf extract is well-tolerated, with the occasional report of transient increase in flatulence. It should not be taken in the presence of gall stones and other causes of bile duct occlusion, due to its stimulating effects on bile flow.

Conclusion

Artichoke leaf extract has been used as a herbal medicine for years. Traditional use, as well as recent clinical studies, continue to verify the health benefits as set out above.

 

*Copyright 2015: The Huntly Centre.

Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.

 

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