Latin name: Cynara cardunculus
What is an Artichoke?
A native of the Mediterranean, the artichoke is a member of the thistle tribe of the sunflower (Compositae) family. The “vegetable” that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the violet-blue colored blossoms can measure up to seven inches in diameter. The edible portion of the buds consists of the fleshy base of the leaves, known as the “heart;” the mass of florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke.”
The origin of artichokes is unknown, although they are often said to have come from the North Africa. The English name “artichoke” is derived from the Arabic term “Adri-Shoki,” which means “ground thorny. ” Today, artichoke cultivation is concentrated in the countries bordering the Mediterranean basin.
What are the health benefits of Artichokes?
Artichoke is considered a potent liver protector due to its content of a flavonoid called silymarin. Silymarin has strong antioxidant properties, and studies on animals indicate that it may protect against liver toxicity and cancer.
Nutritionally, one medium sized artichoke is a good source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium. In studies, this diuretic vegetable exhibits the abilities to help with digestion, strengthen of the liver and gall bladder function, and reduces cholesterol levels, lowering the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Aqueous extracts from artichoke leaves have also shown to reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase. Artichokes contain the cancer-preventing agents apigenin and luteolin.
Most people cook the whole artichoke and slip each leaf petal, one by one, through their teeth until they reach the delectable heart.
More information about the healing powers of Artichoke Leaf Extract can be found in the Herb section.
Where can I find Artichokes?
Artichoke can be found in most grocery stores and in some outdoor markets in season; they are at their best in the spring.
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