What Is It?
And Where Does It Come From?
The Globe Artichoke (Cynara Scolymus) is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. It is a grand perennial and has a purplish flower head. The artichoke is native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Canary Islands. The flesh of the spike-tipped petals, called "bracts," and the heart of the flower head are eaten as a delicacy. The plant's large, lobed leaves and their extracts are used medicinally.
As early as the 4th century B.C., it was used as a food and a medicine. It is clearly seen in ancient Egyptian drawings involving fertility and sacrifice. Ancient Greeks and Romans used it as a digestive aid and was only eaten by the most elite circle of people.
There were no other records of artichokes being used until the 16th century, when the use of artichoke for liver problems and jaundice was recorded. In 1850, a French physician used artichoke extract to treat a boy who had jaundice for a month with no improvement from the drugs used at that time. This inspired researchers to do more studies and is responsible for the information that we have today about the extract.
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The extract is made from the long, deeply serrated basal leaves of the artichoke plant. The reason it is extracted from that part is because the biologically active compounds are greater here than in other parts of the plant. Flavonoids and caffeolyquinic acids are the most active of these compounds. These substances belong to the polyphenol group and include chlorogenic acid, caffeoylquinic acid derivatives (Cynarin is one of them), luteolin, scolymoside and cynaroside.
In 1934, Cynarin was the first constituent of the extract to be isolated. It is only found in trace amounts from fresh leaves, but is formed by natural chemical changes during the process of drying and extraction of the plant material. At one time, it was believed to be the only active component of the extract. Today the whole complex of compounds is considered important.
The chlorogenic acid has recently become known as a powerful antioxidant with some very intriguing and potential applications. Research is being done all over the world right now with some promising findings for future clinical applications in areas such as HIV, cancer, and diabetes.
Most modern research has been done with a German extract that is standardized to contain 3% caffeoylquinic acids. A new, more potent extract, is now available on the American market. It is standardized at 15% caffeoylquinic acids that are calculated as chlorogenic acid.
What Does It Do?
And What Scientific Studies Give Evidence To Support This?
In traditional European medicine, the leaves of the artichoke were used as a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys and as a "choleretic" to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder.
Bile is a yellowish-brown fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. Many of the substances in the bile play a significant role in digestion. In the first half of the twentieth century, French scientists did research that suggested the plant does actually stimulate the kidney and gall bladder.
By mid-century, Italian scientists had isolated a compound from the leaves called cynarin. From the 1950s to the 1980s, synthetic cynarin was used to stimulate the liver and gall bladder and to treat elevated cholesterol. Due to the fact that newer pharmaceuticals have been discovered, cynarin is being used less and less.
In a controlled trial, a small sample of healthy volunteers were given 1.92 grams of standard artichoke extract directly into the duodenum.
The duodenum is largely responsible for the breakdown of food in the small intestine. Two very important ducts open into the duodenum, namely the bile duct and the pancreatic duct. Brunner's glands are only found in the duodenum and they secrete mucus. These mucus filled glands are composed of simple cube-shape epithelial cells. The duodenum wall is composed of a very thin layer of smooth muscle cells that forms the muscularis mucosa.
The liver bile flow increased significantly. In an uncontrolled clinical trial with 553 people suffering from non-specific digestive disorder, 320-640 mg of a standardized artichoke extract was administered three times per day. The results indicated that the use of the extract reduced nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, and flatulence in over 70% of the study participants.
The standardized extract has also been used to treat high cholesterol and triglycerides. In a controlled trial, 900-1,920 mg per day of the standardized extract was found to lower cholesterol and triglycerides significantly.
| What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the main components of vegetable oil and animal fats, and form much of the fat stored by the human body. They consist of glycerin (a sweet, syrupy liquid) plus 3 individual fatty acids all mixed together.
Triglycerides play an important role in metabolism as energy sources. They contain twice as much energy (8 kcal/g) as carbohydrates.
In the human body, high levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream, however, have been linked to atherosclerosis, pancreatitis, and, by extension, the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cardiovascular exercise and low-moderate carbohydrate diets containing essential fatty acids are recommended for reducing triglyceride levels. When these fail, statin drugs are often used to reduce triglyceride levels.
Scientists aren't exactly sure how artichoke leaves lower cholesterol, but some studies suggest that the flavonoids from the plant may prevent LDL-cholesterol oxidation - an effect that may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
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Artichoke extract has been found to affect the cholesterol metabolism in two separate ways. It increases the breakdown of cholesterol into bile salts and enhances their elimination by increasing bile production and flow. It also inhibits the internal production of cholesterol in the liver.
Artichoke extract has been proven to be a safe and natural way to maintain and improve your health, because of the many applications it can be used for. It can be safely used as a nutritional supplement and antioxidant with conventional therapies.
Who Needs It?
And What Are Some Symptoms Of Deficiency?
Just about anyone could benefit from supplementing Artichoke Extract. However, because it is not an essential nutrient, true deficiencies do not occur. One might want to consult their professional health care provider before supplementing Artichoke Extract into their diet.
How Much Should Be Taken?
And Are There Any Side Effects?
It is suggested that an adult take 300-640 mg of the standardized leaf extract three times daily for a minimum of six weeks. If the standardized extract is not available, use 1-4 grams of crude, dried leaves, three times a day. If you are using a liquid extract or tincture, use 1 teaspoon mixed with water or 15 to 30 drops tincture mixed with water.
| What Is A Tincture?
An herb is soaked in a solvent (alcohol, water, etc.) for a determined amount of time. Then, a tincture is made out of the pressed solution (liquid). The ratio is close to 1:5 (1 part of plant for five parts of solvent). This is opposed to extracts and standardized (solid) extracts, which offer higher concentrations of the herb.
If you are allergic to artichokes and/or other members of the Compositae (e.g., Daisy) family, it is recommended you do not use Artichoke Extract. Also if you have any obstruction of the bile duct or problems with your gall bladder, do not use artichoke extract without the consent or supervision of a medical professional. There are no well-known drug interactions at this time.
Where Can I Get It?
Does Bodybuilding.com Sell It?
There are a few different brands that manufacture supplemental Artichoke Extract. Yes, we offer some for sale in our store.
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