You may have had artichoke dip, but what about artichoke extract? Although it’s often considered a vegetable, the artichoke is actually a type of thistle that has been used for centuries because of its potential medicinal benefits. It has been shown to possibly lower blood sugar levels and improve digestion, heart health, and liver health.
Here are some of the top benefits of artichoke extract that might have you reaching for it next time you’re in the supplement aisle.
Plenty of Nutrients
Artichokes are full of tons of powerful nutrients. Even a medium artichoke has 6.9 grams of fiber, 4.2 grams of protein, and only 0.2 grams of fat! Being low in fat and rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, especially folate and vitamins C and K makes it a great choice when you’re looking to start a healthy diet. It also supplies important minerals magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. Plus, a medium artichoke is only about 60 calories, so it’s a great addition to your plant-based diet. Don’t forget that it’s one of the most antioxidant-rich vegetables out there.
May Improve Cholesterol
A review of over 700 people found that “supplementing with artichoke leaf extract daily for 5-13 weeks led to a reduction in total and “bad” LDL cholesterol.” In another study of 143 adults with high cholesterol, artichoke leaf extract was taken daily for six weeks. They found that there was an 18.5% and 22.9% decrease in the total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Other studies in animals showed decreased triglycerides after regular consumption of artichoke extract. It may even boost the “good” cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol in those adults with high cholesterol.
It’s thought that this positive impact on cholesterol happens due to the presence of luteolin. Luteolin is an antioxidant that actually prevents cholesterol formation. Artichoke leaf extract also encourages the body to process cholesterol more efficiently, leading to overall lower levels.
Regulating Blood Pressure
For those with high blood pressure, artichoke leaf extract may be an effective supplement in controlling it. A study of 98 men with high blood pressure found that 12 weeks of daily artichoke extract intake reduced diastolic and systolic blood pressure on average 2.76 and 2.85 mmHg.
It’s not yet totally clear why artichoke extract can have these results. One though is that it contains an enzyme that can help to widen the blood vessels. Another thought is that it stems from the levels of potassium, another natural way to help regulate blood pressure.
Another benefit that may come from consuming artichoke leaf extract is the positive impact on your liver. Some studies show that taking artichoke leaf extract can help to protect your liver from damage and promote the growth of new tissue. It can also help to increase the production of bile, which functions to remove harmful toxins in your liver.
One trial of 90 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease showed that 600 mg of artichoke extract taken daily for two months resulted in improved liver function. These positive results have been seen in other studies, as well. It’s thought that this may be from the antioxidants cynarin and silymarin in the artichoke.
Improve Digestive Health
Thanks to the high fiber content of artichoke, taking the extract of artichoke leaf can help to promote friendly gut bacteria, reduce the risk of some bowel cancers, and alleviate constipation and diarrhea. It also contains insulin which can act as a prebiotic. One study of the impact of artichoke extract on the digestive tract even showed it can also provide relief from bloating, nausea, and heartburn.
The antioxidant cynarin may once again be the cause of these positive results. It’s believe that it promotes the production of bile, accelerates gut movement, and improves the digestion of certain fats.
Helping Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease
Luckily for those who suffer from the digestive system condition IBS, artichoke leaf extract may be a supplement that can help with symptoms. A study in people with IBS who consumed artichoke leaf extract daily for six weeks, 96% of the participants stated that the extract was at least as effective as other IBS treatments, like antidiarrheals and laxatives, to ease symptoms. Another study of 208 IBS sufferers showed an approximate 26% reduction in symptoms and overall improvement of their quality of life by 20%.
This may be from the anti-spasmodic properties of artichoke extract, meaning it can help with the stomach muscle spasms that are common in IBS. It can also help to balance gut bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Lowering Blood Sugar
An exciting benefit of artichoke extract is the effect it has on blood sugar. In a study of 39 overweight adults, those who consumed kidney bean and artichoke extract daily for two months showed a lowered fasting blood sugar level. This result isn’t fully explained yet, though it may be in part thanks to artichoke extract slowing down the activity of alpha-glucosidase. This enzyme breaks down starch into glucose and could potentially impact a person’s blood sugar level.
May Have an Anticancer Effect
Some studies have shown that artichoke extract has impaired cancer growth. There are some antioxidants that may be responsible for this, namely ruin, quercetin, silymarin, and gallic acid. One study in test tubes and animals found that silymarin could help to prevent and treat skin cancer. Currently, there are no human studies about the effects of artichoke leaf extract on cancer prevention or treatment. However, the current studies provide some hope.
Whatever your reason for taking artichoke leaf extract, there are some significant benefits for your overall wellness. Always consult with a physician before starting a new supplement.