Artichoke is a extremely nutritious super food that is beneficial for this time of year. Particularly because of its relation to the liver and wood element that I have been discussing. Artichoke Cynara scolymus and Cynara cardunculus known as globe artichokes. Perennial plant known for the large, edible flower buds. It is a plant that is part of the thistle (asteraceae) family. Native to the Mediterranean region. A versatile plant is revered for the many health benefits. If you know anything about milk thistle, a common herb used for nourishing the liver in herbal medicine. Then you will start to see how artichoke can be used in similar ways. In this blog, we will explore the various uses of artichoke with a recipe perfect for the wood element and springtime.
Medicinal Uses of Artichoke
Artichoke has long been used as a medicinal plant due to its rich content of nutrients and active compounds. In TCM, artichoke is used to support liver function, promote bile flow, and improve digestion. Its cooling and drying properties make it suitable for individuals with liver stagnation or heat-related digestive issues. Known specifically to move qi in the liver, stomach, and heart meridians.
- Liver health: used to support liver function, with studies suggesting its potential to protect the liver from damage and promote regeneration of liver tissue. The leaves are often extracted to help stimulate the natural flow of bile. Also helpful with heart burn and hangovers.
- Digestive health: used to relieve symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, and bloating, as well as to improve overall gut health.
- Cholesterol management: Research has shown that artichoke leaf extract can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while maintaining or increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Blood sugar regulation: Some studies suggest that artichoke extract may have positive effects on blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Artichoke is also used for headaches, for improved cognitive abilities, diarrhea, constipation, as a liver tonic to promote healthy digestive cycle, lowers blood pressure, hangovers, anemia, diabetes, and obesity.
Health Benefits of Artichoke
- Rich in antioxidants: Artichoke is an excellent source of antioxidants, which help protect the body against oxidative stress and inflammation.
- High in fiber: Artichoke’s high fiber content aids in digestion, weight management, and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Containing higher levels of fiber than beans, peas, and oats. Which helps regulate and maintain bowl movements.
- Nutrient-dense: Artichoke is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E. Helping to nourish the digestive system.
Constituents of Artichoke
Artichoke has therapeutic properties and a unique combination of active compounds:
- Cynarin & silibinin: Two key constituent of artichoke, cynarin is believed to stimulate bile production and improve digestion. Silibinin is hepatoprotective and used to treat liver toxicity and damage.
- Luteolin: A potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoid found in artichoke.
- Chlorogenic acid: An antioxidant compound that may help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- As well as Anthocyanins, Quercetin, Rutin, Vitamin K and C, Potassium, Folic acid, Manganese, Cynarine Sesquiterpene-lactones, Silymarin (powerful antioxidant), Caffeic acid, Gallic acid, Ferulic acid, Copper, Calcium, Phosphorous, Flavonoids, Zinc, Iron
Herbal Actions and Energetics of Artichoke
Hepatoprotective, protects the liver and supports its function and your bodies detoxification process. Choleretic, stimulates bile production. Diuretic, increases urine production, promoting detoxification. Other actions include Antioxidant, Digestive, Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Antispasmodic. Artichokes contain more antioxidants than blueberries, cranberries, and dark chocolate.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), artichoke is considered to have a cooling, drying effect, making it beneficial for individuals with excess heat or dampness in the body.
History and Origin of Artichoke
Artichokes are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, with a history of use dating back to ancient Greece, Rome and parts of Northern Africa. Historically, they were prized for their purported aphrodisiac properties and were often consumed during festive occasions. It was also commonly used as a deodorant and breath freshener. Throughout history, artichoke has been associated with various magical properties and folklore used for protection, abundance, love and fertility. Artichoke leaves have been used in amulets and charms for protection against evil spirits and negative energies. And have long been regarded as a symbol of love and fertility, with their purported aphrodisiac properties contributing to this association.
Dosage for Medicinal Purposes
15-30 drops tincture 3x day to to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and upset stomachs. And to boost the production of digestive bile and nourishes the digestive tract.
Spinach Artichoke Cassoulet
- 1 1/2 cups of cannellini beans
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 tsp of red chili flakes
- 1 lemon
- 8 sprigs of thyme
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsps of champagne vinegar
- 1 leek
- 2 cups of water
- 1/2 cup of sourdough croutons
- 4 cups of spinach
- 1 can of artichoke hearts
- Cook the dry beans on low for 3-4 hours with a sprig of thyme, bay leaf, and seasoned with salt and pepper
- Slice garlic and fry in a pan with olive oil. Add in the red chili flakes, zest of the lemon, 1 sprig of thyme. Cook until fragrant then add the artichoke hearts. Cook for 5 minutes until the artichokes soften.
- Remove artichokes from pan and add in the sliced leek with the white beans, water, and salt and pepper. Cook until the beans start to break down.
- Cook black lentils in a separate pot with salt, pepper, bay leaf, and 1 thyme sprig. Once cooked add in with the beans and then add artichokes with juice of lemon. Serve and top with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.
Need more inspiration on what to eat during the wood element and for liver health. Check out this wood element eating guide! And learn how to use herbs specifically for different liver imbalances here. Then if you are looking for a good herbal blend to help nourish and balance the wood element try my wood element tea blend.
- Ben Salem, M., Affes, H., Ksouda, K., Dhouibi, R., Sahnoun, Z., Hammami, S., & Zeghal, K. M. (2015). Pharmacological Studies of Artichoke Leaf Extract and Their Health Benefits. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 70(4), 441-453. doi:10.1007/s11130-015-0503-8
- Bundy, R., Walker, A. F., Middleton, R. W., Marakis, G., & Booth, J. C. (2008). Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: a subset analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(6), 727-732. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0068
- Englisch, W., Beckers, C., Unkauf, M., Ruepp, M., & Zinserling, V. (2000). Efficacy of Artichoke dry extract in patients with hyperlipoproteinemia. Arzneimittel-Forschung, 50(3), 260-265.
- Gebhardt, R. (1997). Antioxidative and protective properties of extracts from leaves of the artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) against hydroperoxide-induced oxidative stress in cultured rat hepatocytes. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 144(2), 279-286. doi:10.1006/taap.1997.8138
- Pittler, M. H., & Ernst, E. (2005). Artichoke leaf extract for serum cholesterol reduction. Perfusion, 18, 7-9.
- Wang, M., Simon, J. E., Aviles, I. F., He, K., Zheng, Q. Y., & Tadmor, Y. (2003). Analysis of antioxidative phenolic compounds in artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 51(3), 601-608. doi:10.1021/jf020792b
- Zhu, X. F., Zhang, H. X., & Lo, R. (2004). Phenolic compounds from the leaf extract of artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) and their antimicrobial activities. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 52(24), 7272-7278. doi:10.1021/jf0490192