Bile deficiency is a problem that affects many people. It is categorized as an insufficient secretion of bile by the gall bladder. Bile is essential for the detoxification of the liver, as well as for the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
One of the least consumed vegetables is actually one of the most unique, nutritionally therapeutic, and nutrient-dense: the artichoke. In 2004, the USDA conducted a large scale study investigating the antioxidant compounds found in a large variety of vegetables, fruits and plant foods. Artichokes were among the top 4 vegetables.
Artichokes and their nutrient-dense leaves have been a part of herbal traditions, and have been listed in various herbal materia medica for a very long time. Artichoke leaf extract is a potent “cholagogic” herb, capable of stimulating the production and secretion of bile by the gall bladder. This is largely due to the artichoke’s cinarin content. Cinarin is a unique phytochemical that gives artichokes their semi-sweet taste.
In traditional herbal preparations, artichoke leaves are tinctured in alcohol for several weeks, which results in the extraction of their unique phyto-nutrient and polyphenolic compounds.
Artichokes also contain silymarin, a phenol compound that is powerfully hepato-protective (liver-protective). Silymarin is also found in milk thistle, giving it this same characteristic.
Additionally, artichoke leaves contain a number of anti-cancer polyphenols such as rutin, quercitin and gallic acid. Gallic acid also seems to possess anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, and is even used to treat psoriasis.
A 2004 study has found that artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Artichokes may be part of a nutritional protocol for individuals suffering from GI dysbiosis and gut-related toxicity.
Preparation Of Artichokes
Artichokes can be cooked (preferably steamed), or the leaves tinctured in alcohol. Choose organically grown artichokes that are rich in color, especially when the leaves are tinted purple and violet. These indicate a stronger tendency for higher phyonutrient content.
Steaming an artichoke takes approximately 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, use your teeth to scrape off and eat the nutrient-rich inner contents of the leaves.
Eating artichokes takes time! Once the artichoke leaf meat has been eaten, you may also eat the heart of the artichoke and the stem.
You’ll notice a semi-sweet flavor remaining in your mouth for upto an hour. This is the residual effect of the cinarin. Pay attention to your liver/gall bladder region (upper right quadrant). Most people report feeling a warming sensation, or stimulation in the gall bladder region within 1-2 hours of consuming an artichoke. This is due to the stimulation of liver activity and bile induced by this medicinal food.
If you’re interested in tincturing artichoke leaves, remove all of the raw leaves of the artichoke. Place in a blender, add organic vodka and blend on high for 10-30 seconds. Ideally, artichoke leaf extract is prepared in a 1:2 ratio; that is 1 part artichoke leaf, 2 parts alcohol. Store in glass jar with lid for 4-6 weeks. Shake daily. Use a wine press to extract all of the liquid from the leaf fiber. Alcohol-prepared tinctures can be preserved for several years.
Use artichoke leaf in combination with other cholagogic herbs such as bayberry, dandelion root, or aloe vera.