You may think of artichokes mainly as a vegetable, but there's an often overlooked part of the plant that has a lot of value in herbal medicine: the leaves.
Artichoke leaves are packed full of the same nutrients found in the rest of the plant and also contain powerful plant compounds that have health-boosting properties. They are traditionally used in the form of a concentrated extract, particularly for liver support and cholesterol health.
Here's more about the benefits of artichoke leaf and how you can use it for detox, cholesterol, and more.
What is Artichoke Leaf?
Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) are regarded as a vegetable, but they are actually a type of thistle that has both an edible heart and edible leaves.
The part of the artichoke you most often see is the heart. It's technically an unopened flower bud and is harvested by pulling off the leaves and removing the fuzzy section known as the "choke".
Often discarded after the hearts are harvested, the leaves of artichoke can be eaten or used to make a powerful extract. They have long been valued in traditional medicinal practices, particularly for liver health.
Note: It's important to make the distinction that the type of artichoke used as a supplement is the globe artichoke, also known as true artichoke or French artichoke, and shouldn't be confused with the Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke), which belongs to a whole different plant family.
Top Benefits of Artichoke Leaf
If you had an artichoke plant in your backyard and were to harvest the leaves to eat, you would be getting a very high amount of vitamins and minerals.
Artichokes in general (including the leaves) are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. They are also an excellent source of plant-based iron and contain a good amount of fiber.
Of course, if you use the leaves as an extract like most people do, the nutrition will be slightly different, and you won't be getting any fiber. However, the extract will have a concentrated amount of plants compounds, particularly one known as cynarine.
Supports Healthy Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol is something many people struggle with, and one of the top benefits of artichoke leaf is its potential to help lower cholesterol.
More than one study has found that artichoke leaf extract can decrease both LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels when taken daily for several months. Some research has even shown that it can boost HDL (good) cholesterol levels, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. (1)(2)
Getting cholesterol to a healthy level is great for your overall health but especially for your heart. As a bonus, artichoke extract also appears to help lower high blood pressure, which is more good news for the heart. (3)
You can take it regularly as a single extract, or try it in something like this Cholesterol Health extract.
Aids Liver Function and Detox
Your liver is a very important organ that is heavily involved in detoxification, digestive health, metabolism, and more. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for the liver to get bogged down with an overload of toxins.
Artichoke leaf is an excellent herb for supporting a healthy liver because it contains bitter compounds that stimulate the production of bile and help your liver to cleanse itself. (4)
Artichoke leaf extract has also shown an ability to help protect your liver from damage and to promote the regeneration of liver cells and tissues. (5)
Try artichoke leaf in this Liver Health extract for cleansing and healthy liver function.
Supports Gallbladder Function
By supporting liver health, artichoke leaf also has a positive impact on gallbladder function.
Your gallbladder is a tiny pouch that sits behind your liver and is connected to both the liver and small intestine. It's responsible for holding a supply of bile, which is a fluid needed for proper digestion, especially for breaking down fats.
When artichoke leaf stimulates bile production in your liver, it also stimulates your gallbladder and helps it to function optimally. This makes it one of several herbs that provide gallbladder support. (6)
If your digestive tract tends to be sluggish or you have indigestion from overeating, you could use the digestive benefits of artichoke leaf.
Like many other bitter herbs, artichoke leaf helps to stimulate digestive enzymes, saliva production, and- of course- bile production. All of these help your body to digest food properly and absorb the maximum amount of nutrients. (7)
Studies have also shown that taking artichoke leaf extract can help with common symptoms of indigestion, including gas, bloating, nausea, feelings of fullness, and heartburn. (8)
Rich in Antioxidants
Many herbs are incredibly beneficial for human health because they are rich in antioxidants (and many other plant compounds, of course).
Artichoke is no exception to this and contains antioxidants like cynarine, quercetin, and silymarin that are so powerful they've even demonstrated anti-cancer potential in lab studies. (9)
Besides potentially fighting cancer, antioxidants are also essential for combating free radical damage that contributes to many types of chronic diseases and help to keep you healthy as you get older.
How to Use Artichoke Leaf
Artichoke leaves can be eaten fresh, but most people don't have access to artichoke plants. Instead, the easiest way to take artichoke leaf is as an extract. Look for one that has been third-party tested for impurities to make sure there aren't any toxic substances in the extract.
Taking artichoke leaf extract daily is important if you have a certain health goal in mind. For digestion, you can take it either when you notice symptoms of indigestion or before a meal as a digestive bitter.
Artichoke hearts are also extremely healthy and filled with nutrients, so feel free to load up on them and take artichoke leaf extract!
Artichoke leaf extract is generally safe to use and well-tolerated. There is, of course, the possibility of an allergic reaction, but this is rare.
If you take too much extract at once, it may cause digestive symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and general indigestion. Start will small amounts to avoid this.
Generally, artichoke leaf extract is not recommended for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Some health experts also recommend against using the extract if you have gallstones because it may promote bile movement.
The Benefits of Artichoke Leaves
If your cholesterol levels could use a little help or if you want liver and digestive support, artichoke leaf could be just the herb you need. It has a bitterness to it that may not taste the best, but it provides powerful detox support for your whole body.
Try the extract on its own or use with other herbs in a formula to get all the benefits of artichoke leaf.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.