Artichoke has a long history of use for digestive and liver disorders. Recent scientific studies have provided evidence to back the use of artichoke extracts in these conditions. Most modern extracts are taken from the leaves of the plant and have been demonstrated to have antioxidant properties, protect the liver from damage, enhance the production and flow of bile, and lower blood lipids (triglycerides, cholesterol etc). Some evidence suggests it helps to maintain healthy glutathione levels and stimulates blood circulation in the liver. Artichoke has also been shown to help alleviate abdominal pain and act as an antiemetic, preventing the nausea and vomiting associated with dyspeptic syndrome.
The benefits of artichoke would appear to be explained by its ability to increase the production and movement of bile. Bile is a substance produced in the liver which is required for the digestion of fats and for the stimulation of peristalsis therefore promoting healthy digestive function. It is also a medium for the expulsion of toxins by the liver. When the liver has dealt with toxins, as well as excess chemicals produced in the body such as cholesterol, they are expelled into the bile which is then secreted into the intestines for removal from the body with other waste products. If bile flow becomes stagnant for whatever reason (e.g. liver/gall bladder disease) toxins can build up causing further damage and symptoms throughout the body. By stimulating bile artichoke extracts have a beneficial effect on liver and digestive health as well as that of the rest of the body as a consequence.
Artichoke contains many different compounds and research shows that the more concentrated the extract the more effective it is. The phytochemicals which are thought to account for the majority of artichoke's beneficial effects are cynarin, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acids.
Artichoke supplements are widely available and quality products typically contain 5% of both cynarin and chlorogenic acid.