The Health Benefits of Artichoke Leaf Extract

Scientists Examine the Link Between Artichokes and Cholesterol

Artichoke in Baskets, Fresh Spring Vegetables at Farmer's Market
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Artichoke leaf extract is derived from artichokes (Cynara scolymus). This plant belongs to the daisy family and is native to areas such as southern Europe and northern Africa.

Artichokes are a delicious accompaniment to many dishes, and its leaves have been traditionally used to treat ailments like jaundice, acid reflux, and various liver disorders. Research studies are showing that artichoke may have a new niche: lowering cholesterol.

Health Benefits

Artichoke extract is sometimes used to treat a variety of health conditions. For example, some consumers use the extract to treat hangovers, high blood pressure, anemia, arthritis, kidney problems, liver problems, snake bites, water retention, and other concerns. There is not enough evidence to support the use of artichoke leaf extract for these health benefits.

There is research, however, to support the use of artichoke leaf extract to treat indigestion and high cholesterol with studies about cholesterol gaining interest.

High Cholesterol

Unfortunately, the studies are mixed regarding the use of artichokes in lowering cholesterol. Most only involve examining the effects of artichoke leaf extract, which is also widely available as a supplement.

One study found that total cholesterol levels were lowered by 18.5 percent compared to 8.6 percent in those individuals taking a placebo. Additionally, LDL cholesterol was lowered by 22.9 percent, compared with 6 percent of those taking a placebo. To see this difference, the participants in this study had to take at least 1800 mg of artichoke leaf extract for roughly 6 weeks.

Although a few studies have found that total cholesterol levels were lowered by between 5 percent to 45 percent in those taking artichoke leaf extract, many other studies have found no significant difference.

Additionally, the majority of these studies found that triglycerides and HDL do not appear to be greatly affected by artichoke leaf extract. The average amount of artichoke leaf extract taken in these studies ranged between 1800 to 1900 mg daily for at least 6 weeks.

The manner by which artichokes lower cholesterol is not fully known. It is thought that artichokes may indirectly interact with the same protein that statins interact with to lower cholesterol. Called HMG-CoA reductase, this enzyme plays an important role in the making of cholesterol.

Artichokes also contain antioxidants, such as flavonoids. These chemicals are also in a variety of other, colorful vegetables and fruits and are thought to play a role in lowering the oxidation of LDL, which contributes to atherosclerosis.

Possible Side Effects

Artichokes are likely safe when consumed as food and possibly safe when taken by mouth as medicine. It has been used safely in research for up to 23 months.

During research studies, the only significant side effects noted were hunger, flatulence, and weakness. Other possible side effects include upset stomach and diarrhea.

Artichoke and artichoke supplements might also cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to plants such as marigolds, daisies, and other similar herbs.

Dosage and Preparation

There is not enough scientific data to provide a recommended dose of artichoke leaf extract. Amounts used in research varies.

For example, in studies investigating the extract's effect on indigestion, 320-640 mg of artichoke leaf extract was used three times daily for up to eight weeks.

For studies investigating high cholesterol, doses ranging from 500-1920 mg of artichoke extract has been taken daily in divided doses. In some cases, the extract was combined with other herbal treatments.

The appropriate dose for you may depend on factors including your age, gender, and medical history. Speak to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice.

What to Look For

Artichokes are a healthy alternative to consuming other high-fat foods, but they should not be solely relied upon to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Although there are also several forms of artichoke extract supplements commercially available, they might not lend the other nutrients that an actual artichoke can contribute to your diet. Because artichoke leaf extract supplements may interact with other medical conditions that you have or medications you are taking, you should talk to your healthcare provider before including them in your health regimen.

There are plenty of ways to include artichokes in your cholesterol-lowering diet. Artichokes can be lightly sautéed, roasted, grilled, or consumed raw. Just be careful not to cook your artichokes in heavy fats or fry them - this can add more calories and saturated fat to your dish.

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Article Sources

  • G. Holtmann  B. Adam  S. Haag  W. Collet  E. Grünewald  T. Windeck. Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: a six‐week placebo‐controlled, double‐blind, multicentre trial. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapuetics. 20 November 2003 doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2003.01767.x

  • Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW. Artichoke leaf extract reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine 2008 Sep;15(9):668-75
  • Pittler MH, Thompson CJ, Ernst E. Artichoke leaf extract for treating hypercholesterolemia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;3:CD003335
  • Rondanelli M, Giacosa A, Opizzi A et al. Beneficial effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation on increasing HDL-cholesterol in subjects with primary mild hypercholesterolemia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2013; 64:7-15.