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Artichoke

Artichoke
Photo © P. Schönfelder

Botanical name

Artichocke - Cynara scolymus L. (Syn. C. cardunculus L. ssp. flavescens Wikl., C. cardunculus L. ssp. scolymus)

Family

Composite plant (Asteraceae)

Common name

Useful information about the plant

The artichoke was probably introduced by the Arabs, along with its name Cynara, into Europe and the Mediterranean and has moved to the Canary Islands. In Central Europe it could not establish a footing as a wild plant since it is not hardy. Nowadays we only know it as a farmed plant and in the Mediterranean and Central Europe it is cultivated as a vegetable. The plant material for medicinal use comes exclusively from controlled leaf plantations in Europe, preferably Central Europe; leaves harvested from vegetable crops are of an inferior quality.
The artichoke is a composite plant with thistle-like inflorescence. Its large leaves are one to two times pinnate, spiny or simply thorny, and form a basal rosette. On the top they are pale green, fine hairs underneath. The leafy stems of up to 1.5m tall have 1 to 3 large flower heads (8 to 15cm in diameter). On the fleshy, flat base of the flower there are numerous purple tubular flowers. They are surrounded by many fleshy bracts lying imbricated over each other at the base, the edge is serrated or has spiny tips. They do not have ray florets. The fleshy base of the flower bracts and the fleshy base of the flower that is still closed are a popular delicacy when cooked.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried leaves of the artichoke leaf plantations are used and also the fresh plant juice of the not yet blossoming artichoke flowers. Leaf plantations are found in Franconia, Brandenburg and Thuringia as well as in Brittany, and imports come from South and Southeast European countries.

Ingredients of the drug

Artichoke leaves contain caffeoylquinic acids (among others: chlorogenic acid), flavonoids and sesquiterpene bitters.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of the following drugs or drug preparations is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur):

  • Artichoke leaves (folium Cynarae)
  • Artichoke leaf dry extract (Cynarae folii extractum siccum)

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

Dyspeptic complaints (Commission E).
Documented areas of use (approval) from clinical studies: dyspeptic complaints especially for functional disorders of the biliary system.

Traditional use

Artichoke leaves are traditionally used to help the digestive function (traditional use according to § 109a).

Dosage

Prepared drugs: see packaging leaflet;
Tea infusion: drink a cup of artichoke leaf tea before meals, daily dose: 6g of the medicine.

Preparation of a tea infusion

Pour hot water over 1 teaspoon of finely chopped artichoke leaves and strain after 10 min.

Advice

Artichoke leaves may not be used if the gall bladder is blocked or if there is an allergy to Compositae. There are still no studies on the harmlessness of using artichoke leaves during pregnancy or breast-feeding as well as with children under the age of 12. Therefore, the use is only recommended if clearly indicated by the doctor.

Side effects

Very rarely associated with mild diarrhoea and abdominal pain, nausea and heartburn.

Interactions

The efficacy of drugs used to inhibit blood clotting of the coumarin-type (marcurmar, warfarin) can be weakened.

References

Drug monographs

Commission E

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 217
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 45
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 121
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (artichoke leaves, no. 1866; artichoke leaves dried extract, no. 2389)

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