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The Artichoke plant is a type of thistle, related to Silybum marianum (Milk Thistle) and is thought to be native to Northern Africa but has been naturalized over most of Europe and parts of North America. It is well known as a culinary delicacy, popularized by French and Italian aristocracy. There is a Greek myth that the first artichoke was a woman of surpassing beauty named Cynara, who lived on the island of Zinari. Zeus, who was there visiting Poseidon, fell in love with her and decided to make her a goddess. Cynara missed her home and mother so much that she would sneak back to earth from Mount Olympus to visit. This infuriated Zeus, who returned her back to earth transforming her into the first artichoke.


The properties of Artichoke have been recognized since antiquity. It was particularly popular in the 16th-19th centuries. The eclectic physicians of North America used Artichoke to support healthy urine flow and production and to support normal function of the digestive system and liver*. In European herbal medicine it has been used to support the same functions, but also to support healthy skin, encourage a normal appetite, and to support healthy bile flow and cholesterol metabolism*.

Good digestion is the foundation of good health. Studies indicate that Artichoke extract helps maintain normal bile production, supporting fat digestion and metabolism*.

Uses of Artichoke


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Sesquiterpene lactones including cynaropicrin, caffeic acid derivatives (polyphenols). (The next group is sometimes referred to as Caffeoylquinic Acids or Chlorogenic Acids they are synonymous) Chlorogenic acid (3-caffeoylquinic acid), cynarin (1,3-dicaffeoyl quinic acid) and many other dicaffeoylquinic acid derivatives, flavonoids (mainly derivatives of luteolin).

Parts Used

  • Leaf

Important precautions

Do not take artichoke leaf if you have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction.

Additional Resources

Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Wallis C, Simpson HC. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2008 Sep;15(9):668-75. PubMed PMID: 18424099.

Holtmann G, Adam B, Haag S, Collet W, Grünewald E, Windeck T. Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: a six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Dec;18(11-12):1099-105. PubMed PMID: 14653829.

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