Can Artichokes Protect Your Liver?

Liver diseases, unlike ailments that affect other organs like the heart, don’t have too many treatment options. Often, lifestyle changes and alternative therapy are the only course of action. Diet, in particular, plays a central role in managing such conditions and in preventing liver problems. The petals of the artichoke conceal more than just the luscious pulpy vegetable. Studies have revealed its role in keeping your liver healthy and working well, so it’s time you added it to your meals.

Heart Of The Matter

So what’s in an artichoke? According to the US Department of Agriculture, antioxidants – and plenty of them! The humble artichoke clocks in at an impressive fifth place overall on foods with high antioxidant content.1 Each medium-sized artichoke is about 60 calories and has 15 mg of antioxidant nutrient vitamin C. The vegetable has been found to have antiproliferative, antioxidant, and protective effects on the liver, making it a popular remedy for hepatic disorders. When administered as a treatment, it is typically given in capsule form, each containing a dose of artichoke leaf extract.


The Protective Effect Of Artichoke

The liver-healing properties of this beautiful vegetable lie in its phytonutrients cynarin and silymarin.2

Silymarin is a flavonoid and has a protective effect on the liver. It prevents lipid peroxidation from taking place in the cellular membrane of liver tissue. This helps the liver function optimally and keeps it in good form. The hepatoprotective effect has been seen in multiple studies, including those investigating its use in preventing hepatocellular carcinoma.3


Cynarin in artichokes can help give your liver’s bile production a boost. The bile, in turn, helps the body digest fats and eliminate harmful toxins from your body. This has been documented in many studies such as the 2002 study that investigated bile flow and formation in rats treated with artichoke leaf extract.4

Inhibiting Cholesterol Synthesis In The Liver

Artichoke extracts have an inhibiting effect on hepatic cholesterol biosynthesis.5 Researchers also found that the use of artichoke leaf extract helped reduce oxidative stress by lowering cholesterol levels in the animal test subjects’ livers.6


Cancer Protection

Research in Italy concluded that artichoke extract could help protect human liver cells from damage due to the action of the antioxidants in it. The extract was, in fact, also able to hamper the development of cancer in the liver cells of human test subjects.7 A separate study in 2012 found that artichoke extract inhibited a cancer cell line in the breast, lowered cell viability, and inhibited growth, while also activating apoptotic mechanisms. This chemoprotective effect was attributed to the polyphenolic extracts of the artichoke.8

Careful How You Eat It

While fresh artichokes trimmed and prepared from scratch at home are good, buying artichokes preserved in salt and oil may not be as healthy. Artichokes are already rich in natural sodium content. Unfortunately, the high sodium content and oils in which marinated artichokes are preserved could make them a less healthy proposition, so be sure to check the labels before you buy them. Also try and buy organic artichokes as far as possible, because of the high levels of pesticides typically used in cultivating mass-produced ones. Alternatively, rinse them well with a baking soda solution or vegetable rinse to clear them of any traces of chemicals before consuming.