Medicinal Uses of Artichokes

Medicinal Uses of Artichokes

Artichokes are healthy food. Like many other foods, artichokes have been touted as a panacea for many conditions for which their actual benefit is dubious at best. Home remedies using artichokes date back to ancient times when obviously there was no medical evidence to back them up, yet these old wives’ tales are slow to go away because so many people believe them.

Thus, for example, for many centuries there was a widespread belief that artichokes enhance sexuality and fertility. However, there is no clear evidence that the alleged aphrodisiac properties exist.

Another widely held notion through the years is that artichokes “cleanse” the blood by detoxifying the liver and gallbladder. Artichokes have been used to treat such varied conditions as snake bites, anemia, edema, arthritis, and itching. The fact that these conditions are so diverse and can have a myriad of causes.  It should be sufficient to tell you that proper diagnosis and treatment and seeing a physician is the answer.

Clearly, additional research is needed to shed more light on what role artichokes can play in preventing and/or treating various medical conditions. Meanwhile, based on existing findings, the following medicinal uses for artichokes look promising.

• Acts as a mild laxative and diuretic

Artichokes act as a mild laxative and diuretic contributing to healthy kidney and liver functioning. They help neutralize the effect of certain toxic substances and may help cleanse the body of unwanted toxins and waste products. Artichokes are used in the treatment of kidney stones and oliguria (low urinary output).

• Lowering risk factors for heart disease

One of the benefits of the silymarin in artichokes is that it may help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol.)The cynarin in artichokes also helps lower cholesterol and may improve clotting time. Studies with rats showed that wild artichokes improved the blood flow of veins and arteries where there was previously a problem.

Along with high cholesterol, another major risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure. The magnesium in artichokes helps keep blood pressure down and the muscles relaxing properly and reduce the likelihood of arrhythmia by 20-35% in those who are diagnosed with heart failure have a low magnesium level.

Artichokes also contain a good amount of folate. Folate is important in fighting heart disease because of its role in breaking down homocysteine, an amino like chemical related to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

• Protecting the liver and treating liver disease

Silymarin extract is used medically in Europe to treat liver disease. It is not clear if eating artichokes would produce the same benefits and, if so, how many are necessary?  For a person with liver problems eating artichokes should be beneficial.

• Preventing birth defects

The high folate content of artichokes is another component that serves a dual function. In addition to its role in helping to prevent heart disease, folate is very important in fetal development. Up to 70% of neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida, can be prevented when pregnant women get enough folate in the diet.

• Protecting against skin cancer

Research findings supporting this possible use of artichokes are not surprising considering that artichokes originated in the hot Nile Valley and are grown today in places like California with plenty of sunshine. A study at the University Hospitals of Cleveland and Case Western University School of Medicine found that a topical ointment made from silymarin prevented skin cancer in mice. When the ointment was applied to the existing skin cancers, it reduced cancer by 75%. Those mice that developed new tumors had tumors that were much smaller in size than the other mice not treated with silymarin.