(NaturalNews) When people think of artichokes, most only think of artichokes sold as a vegetable in grocery stores and aren't aware of the healing properties of the artichoke leaf. Artichoke leaf extract (ALE) is an extract of the leaves at the base of the stem of the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus). Artichoke leaf extracts that are used medicinally have been found to possess greater therapeutic properties than the artichoke heart.
Artichoke leaf has a variety of important healing properties. For years traditional herbal healers have used the artichoke leaf as a treatment for digestive upset, poor liver function (artichoke leaf extract increases the flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder), along with the following disorders and discomforts:
* Abdominal Discomfort
* Bile Stimulant
* Biliary Deficiency
* Bitter Tonic Herb
* Digestive Disorders
* Gallbladder Health
* Gastrointestinal Disorders
* High Cholesterol
* Lowering LDL Cholesterol
* Vascular Disorders
The artichoke leaf has primarily been used as a choleretic, which is a substance that boosts liver function by means of enhancing bile production. Artichoke leaf extract protects and regenerates the liver. It can completely protect the body against poisoning and death from lethal doses of many toxins by helping the liver to detoxify many toxic substances. This is a great supplement to use for liver protection in today's world of heavy pollution.
The artichoke leaf has also obtained a reputation for being one of the best solutions for digestive and bowel problems. It is also known as a diuretic, for its ability to reduce water retention and increase urination. Also, sufferers of ulcers and acid reflux report that artichoke leaf extract reduced the burning, acidic and uncomfortable symptoms in the upper stomach.
Traditional herbal healers have recommended artichoke leaf extract as a means for lowering cholesterol and now there it scientific proof to support using artichoke leaf in place of statins for lowering cholesterol.
Researchers at the University of Reading have found that an over-the-counter Artichoke Leaf Extract (ALE) from the globe artichoke plant can lower cholesterol in otherwise healthy individuals with moderately raised levels. Cardiovascular diseases are the chief causes of death in the U.K., and are associated with raised circulating levels of total cholesterol in the plasma.
Once plasma cholesterol reaches a certain level, drugs such as statins are often prescribed to help reduce it. Intervention before concentrations reaches these levels may help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease without the need for drugs. This new piece of research has shown that otherwise healthy people with moderately raised plasma cholesterol may be able to lower their levels by taking this herbal supplement.
During the trial, 75 volunteers were given 1,280 mg (4 capsules) of an ALE, or matched placebo, each day for 12 weeks. ALE consumption resulted in a modest but favorable statistically significant reduction in total plasma cholesterol after the intervention period.
For over 10 years, the relationship between dietary intakes of antioxidant nutrients and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases has been recognized and investigated. Antioxidant nutrients include 'non-essential' phytochemicals (e.g. flavonoids) as well as 'essential' nutrients (e.g. vitamins C, E). Several plant-rich sources of flavonoids, such as fruits and vegetables, tea, red wine, cocoa and olive oil, have been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, although the exact mechanisms for their protective effects are still not clear. Research has shown that ALE's are rich in various flavonoids.
Globe artichokes have been used traditionally in Europe to improve digestive and urinary tract health. Artichoke leaf extracts (ALE's) are currently used in Germany and Switzerland as a remedy for indigestion, and are available in the U.K. as over-the-counter food supplements. Various studies have provided an evidence base for their use in conditions such as dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome.
Dr. Rafe Bundy said "Reducing cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Our research investigated whether ALE could be beneficial to otherwise healthy people who had raised levels of cholesterol but were not yet at a stage where they needed standard medical intervention. ALE may provide another option which people could try over and above a healthy diet in order to help lower plasma cholesterol."
Bundy R., et al. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.03.001
Leslee Dru Browning is a 6th generation Medical Herbalist & Nutritionist from the ancestral line of Patty Bartlett Sessions; Pioneer Mid-Wife & Herbalist. Leslee practiced Medical Herbalism and Nutritional Healing for over 25 years and specialized in Cancer Wellness along with Chronic Illness. She now devotes her career to teaching people, through her writing, about Natural Healing from An Herbal Perspective.