Artichoke leaves (medicinal plants)
Vegetable present in nature in more than 90 different varieties, the artichoke is a typical plant of the Mediterranean area that is cultivated by numerous populations (currently over 50% of world production takes place in Italy) and is used in the kitchen since the most remote times . There are in fact many testimonies that even at the time of the ancient Egyptians this dish was much loved, as well as from the Greeks and Romans, who used it in different culinary recipes and also for the preparation of distillates.
But the use of artichoke is not limited to food alone: being a vegetable rich in numerous beneficial properties for the body, it is equally well known and appreciated for its use in phytotherapy, the art of treating the body using herbs and plants.
The medicinal virtues of the artichoke are all concentrated in its leaves: they are rich in cynarin, the substance that among other things gives this vegetable its typical bitter taste. Besides it, the artichoke is rich in water, fibers, sugars and mineral salts such as potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, phosphorus and sodium. Another beneficial substance of which artichoke leaves are well provided is inulin, which has beneficial effects on the cholesterol level.
The beneficial effects of artichoke leaves
One of the major healing properties of artichoke leaves is that in favor of digestion, which helps and regularizes, and then that of encouraging diuresis.
Moreover, the artichoke is excellent for stimulating the functions of the liver and bile secretion, the latter being very important for the digestion of fats. In addition, the preventive action against the liver is also manifested through the ability of the artichoke to dispose of alcohol faster by the body (this thanks to the increase in diuresis and above all to the acceleration of ethanol metabolism) and in its ability to eliminate jaundice.
This is why this vegetable has an important purifying action on the body, known in herbal medicine since ancient times. This specific function is associated with the ability of artichoke leaves to treat dermatitis, intoxication and flatulence, as well as of course to deflate the belly and reduce the sense of heaviness that occurs after too abundant meals.
The inulin then makes the artichoke leaves an excellent ally against bad cholesterol and trigligerids which helps to maintain at normal levels. Thanks to the presence of chlorogenic acid, this vegetable is considered a powerful antioxidant.
Finally, artichoke leaves can be usefully used to prevent the appearance of cardiovascular and arteriosclerotic disorders.
How to take the artichoke
An excellent way to benefit from the healing properties of the artichoke is to take it as a decoction. The dried artichoke leaves are found in herbal medicine or can be prepared starting from the fresh product to be dried in the sun.
4 tablespoons of these previously crumbled leaves should be boiled in 500 ml of water for about 5 minutes and then left to infuse for another 5 minutes: a drink will be obtained that must be filtered with a sieve to remove the leaves and their small residues.
Being very bitter, the decoction of artichoke leaves can be sweetened by adding a tablespoon of honey, a natural sweetener that also has a calming and relaxing effect on the body and is widely used in phytotherapy.
On the market there are also artichokes already prepared, contained within single-dose filters similar to those of thè, which are recommended for those who have little time to devote to the preparation of this drink or when away from home. Furthermore, this type of herbal tea often mixes artichoke leaves with other beneficial plants, such as in the case of the artichoke and fennel-based drink that boasts high purifying and diuretic properties or as an herbal tea with artichoke and rhubarb which is a real cure-all for those suffering from stomach disorders.
Decoction and artichoke leaf infusions should always be taken in small sips and preferably after meals.
In pharmacology, instead, the artichoke leaves are converted into dry nebulized extract that can be easily taken by nasal route. Usually the recommended doses are 8 mg 3 times a day, but they obviously vary according to the specific medical prescription.
Artichoke leaves: Contraindications
The artichoke is to be avoided during the period of breastfeeding since the characteristics of its components reduce the production of breast milk in women as well as giving it a taste that is too bitter not very pleasant for the infant.
Furthermore, it is not recommended to take this vegetable and the drinks derived from it in conjunction with gastrolesive drugs since their effects, added together, could irritate and damage the gastric mucosa.
Finally, artichoke leaves are not recommended for all people who suffer from gallstones and bile duct obstruction which could occur, after the repeated and constant intake of this vegetable, in a colic.