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The artichoke is one of the oldest cultivated plants. 1 It was first grown in Ethiopia and then made its way to southern Europe via Egypt. Its image is found on ancient Egyptian tablets and sacrificial altars. The ancient Greeks and Romans considered it a valuable digestive aid and reserved what was then a rare plant for consumption in elite circles. In sixteenth-century Europe, the artichoke was also considered a "noble" vegetable meant for consumption by the royal and the rich.
In traditional European medicine, the leaves of the artichoke (not the flower buds, which are the parts commonly cooked and eaten as a vegetable) were used as a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys and as a "choleretic" to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder. (Bile is a yellowish-brown...
Artichoke leaf (as opposed to cynarin) continues to be used in many countries.
Germany's Commission E has authorized its use for "dyspeptic problems." 2 Dyspepsia is a rather vague term that corresponds to the common word "indigestion," indicating a variety of digestive problems including discomfort in the stomach, bloating, lack of appetite, nausea, and mild diarrhea or constipation. At least one substantial double-blind study indicates that artichoke leaf is indeed helpful for this condition. 3 Another fairly substantial study indicates that artichoke leaf may help lower cholesterol . 4 Based on a general notion that artichoke leaf is good for the liver, it has become a popular treatment for alcohol-induced hangovers. However, a small double-blind, placebo-controlled...
Artichoke leaf has not been associated with significant side effects in studies so far, but full safety testing has not been completed. For this reason, it should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. Safety in young children or in people with severe liver or kidney disease has also not been established.
In addition, because artichoke leaf is believed to stimulate gallbladder contraction, individuals with gallstones or other forms of gallbladder disease could be put at risk by using this herb. Such individuals should use artichoke leaf only under the supervision of a physician. It is possible that increased gallbladder contraction could lead to obstruction of ducts or even rupture of the gallbladder.
Finally, individuals with known allergies to artichokes or...