Monday, September 20, 2010

The Health-Promoting Properties of Artichokes

I purchased two extraordinary looking globe artichokes yesterday and am looking forward to cooking them shortly. This got me thinking about the various health properties of this intriguing plant. The artichoke we buy in the store is actually the flower bud of a large thistle plant, Cynara scolymus. Like many green plants it contains beta carotene and potassium. But the leaf of the artichoke also has some health-promoting properties that can be beneficial to cancer patients. It is anti-inflammatory, especially in the digestive tract, and therefore can provide a kind of tonic for injured or aggravated tissues. In Italy, there is a popular artichoke-based aperitif called Cynar (pronounced "Chee-nar," from the plant's Latin name, Cynara scolymus). Cynar is generally served on the rocks, with soda and lemon, or else mixed with beer.

But what of the artichoke's health-enhancing properties, especially for the liver? This is an old naturopathic formula, that has been examined scientifically since the 1950s (Gonzalez 1958).

In July, Japanese scientists confirmed what they called "remarkable antitumor activity" using a extract of artichoke flowers. This was accompanied by an anti-inflammatory effect (Yasukawa 2006 and Yasukawa 2010).

In 2008, scientists from Rome similarly showed that the edible parts of the artichoke had a "marked antioxidative potential" that protects normal liver cells from oxidative stress. Furthermore, edible artichoke reduced the viability of cancer cells and led to their programmed cell death, or apoptosis (Miccadei 2008).

So, all in all, artichoke seems like a good bet for cancer patients, especially those who are concerned with improving the health of their livers. One can of course simply cook and eat artichokes. But for those who can't do that every day, or who want a more consistent exposure to this healthful plant, there are supplements for sale that consist of a concentrated leaf extract. They are not expensive: on the Internet I have found them selling for 5 to 10 cents per capsule. A standard dose has not been established, but in studies on indigestion patients have taken one to two 320 mg capsules three times per day, preferably with meals.

SOURCE: Cancer Decisions