Cynara scolymus L.

Last updated: 2 August 2016

Scientific Name

Cynara scolymus L.


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

English Globe artichoke [1]; artichoke [2]

Geographical Distributions

Cynara scolymus cultivation in Europe dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. It is cultivated in North Africa as well as in other subtropical regions. [1]

Botanical Description

C. scolymus falls under the family of Asteraceae. It is a perennial thistle that can grow up to 1.5-2 m tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery glaucous-green leaves 50-80 cm long. [1]

The large leaves of C. scolymus are deeply lobed and glabrous in shape. [1]

The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8-15cm diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the heart; the mass of inedible immature florets in the center of the bud are called the ‘choke’. [1]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

C. scolymus has been reported to contain caffeic acid, caffeoylquinic acids(chlorogenic acid, cynarin), flavone glycosides(including luteolin), phytosterols. [3]

Plant Part Used

No documentation.

Traditional Use

C. scolymus has been used as a remedy for liver and gallbladder problems. In different regions of South and Central America, uses include high cholesterol, anemia, fever and gout. It has been used as a remedy for a variety of digestive complaints. Regardless of the region, there is a consistency of use as a hepatoprotective agent, treatment for gall bladder ailments and topically as an astringent. [4][5][6]

Preclinical Data


Antioxidant activity

Much of the pharmacological activity of the leaves has been attributed to the presence of cynarin, but chlorogenic acid has also been reported to be active in the body, particularly as an antioxidant [7].The relative proportion of these compounds varies with the strain, age, and generation of the plant. Cynarin is found in the highest concentrations in the leaves [8].

Metabolism and excretion of caffeic acid

Another constituent in C. scolymus is caffeic acid. The metabolism and excretion of this constituent has been further studied. After the absorption and metabolism of the caffeic acid esters are found in C. scolymus, they are excreted as methylated phenolic acids including ferulic, isoferulic, dihydroferulic, and vanillin acid. [9]

Liver protecting activity

C. scolymus has been reported to have significant liver protecting and regenerating effects [10]. In one study, the authors concluded that C. scolymus had hepatoprotection after exposure of laboratory animals to the liver toxic substance tetracholoromethane [8]. Some of the hepatoprotective qualities of C. scolymus seem to be linked to its anti-oxidant capacity, due mainly to the chlorogenic acid content in the leaves. Another possibility for its liver protection function is the cynarin content, which is claimed to restore healthy growth and reproduction of liver cells [11]. The antioxidant effect has been further supported by laboratory studies in both human and animal cells [7][12].


Acute toxicity

The oral LD30 and intraperitoneal LD10 in male rats of hydroalcoholic total extract of artichoke leaf (19% caffeoylquinic acids) were determined as >2000 mg/kg and >1000 mg/kg body weight respectively. With a purified extract (46% caffeoylquinic acids) the oral LD40 and intraperitoneal LD50 were 2000 mg/kg and 265 mg/kg respectively. [2]

Sub-acute toxicity

The oral and intraperitoneal median lethal doses of a hydroalcoholic extract of the leaves in rats were 2g/kg and 1g/kg body weight, respectively. External application of leaf extract to the skin of white rats, at doses of 1-3g/kg body weight for 21 days, did not poduce any toxic effects or have any cumulative effects on haematological parameters or the biochemistry of rats. No skin irritating or eye-irritating effects were observed in guinea-pigs. [2]

Chronic oral toxicity

Cynarin administered intraperitoneally to rats daily for 40 days at 50-400 mg/kg/day caused no changes in overall condition or blood parameters. Increased body weight and significantly increased kidney weight (p<0.01) in animals treated with 100-400mg/kg. Some rats treated with cynarin at 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg showed irrigative-degenerative changes in liver and kidneys most evident in rats receiving 400 mg. Young rabbits treated intravenously with cynarin at 50 mg/kg/day for 30 days remained in good condition with no evidence of toxicity from extensive haematological and histological investigation. [2]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Bile stimulant activity

C. scolymus is also reported to have a stimulant activity on bile production in the liver; termed choleretic action [11]. Alchofra stimulates the flow of bile juices aids in breaking down hard to digest fats, thereby increasing digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Studies have reported that when patients with dyspeptic complaints take C. scolymus as a supplement, symptoms rapidly disappear, reducing pain, nausea, retching and the sensation of fullness. The constituent cynarin has been stated to be most active in this capacity [13][14].

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

C. scolymus leaf extract (ALE) may have potential for treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well. In a study evaluating the use of ALE in dyspeptic patients, a small subset was identified as having IBS. This subset had the severity of their symptoms reduced and provided an overall favorable evaluation of the extract. As many as 96% of the subset claimed that C. scolymus leaf extract was well tolerated and that it worked at least as well as other therapies used for their symptoms. [15]

Lowering of blood cholestrol

C. scolymus products have been reported to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels in humans and animals [16][17]. The net effect of C. scolymus is claimed to be the result of both an inactivation of and an interference with cholesterol metabolism. Cynarin reportedly decreases the rate of cholesterol synthesis in the liver, enhances biliary excretion of cholesterol, and increases conversion towards the bile acids [18].One study examined the free radical scavenging properties of a luteolin-rich C. scolymus extract and some of its pure flavonoid constituents by assessing their ability to prevent LDL oxidation in vitro [19]. C. scolymus extract retarded LDL oxidation in a dose-dependent manner, with the authors concluding that the anti-oxidant activity of C. scolymus extract relates in part to its constituent flavonoids. There have been a few reports that C. scolymus has no lipid reducing effect in familial Type II hyperlipoproteinemia [20]. A recent, double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, multi-center clinical study in 143 adult patients reported that a dry C. scolymus extract (25-35:1 w/v) lowered blood cholesterol levels. Changes of total cholesterol and LDL Cholesterol from baseline to the end of treatment showed a statistically significant superiority of C. scolymus dry extract over placebo (18.5% vs. 8.6% respectively). LDL/HDL ratios were also reduced [21].


No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

Concomitant use with C. scolymus containing medicinal products may decrease the efficacy of anticoagulants (coumarin derivatives like phenprocoumon, warfarin). [2]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.


No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. Plants for a Future. Cynara scolymus L. [homepage on the Internet]. c1996-2012. [cited on 2016 Aug 2]. Available from:
  2. European Medicine Agency. Assessment report on Cynara scolymus L., folium. European Agency; 2012.
  3. Dranik LI. [Quantitative analysis of cynarin in the leaves of the artichoke]. Farm Zh; 1965;20(5):56-59. Ukrainian.
  4. Taylor L. The healing power of rainforest herbs: A guide to understanding and using herbal medicinal. New York: Square One Publishers, 2005; p. 114.
  5. Duke JA. Medicinal plants of Latin America. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2009; p. 721.
  6. Roth I, Lindorf H. South American medicinal plants: Botany, remedial properties and general use. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2002.
  7. Gebhardt R. Antioxidative and protective properties of extracts from leaves of the artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) against hydroperoxide-induced oxidative stress in cultured rat hepatocytes. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1997;144(2):279-286.
  8. Maros T, Seres-Sturm L, Rácz G, Rettegi C, Kovács VV, Hints M. Effects of Cynara scolymus extracts on the regeneration of rat liver. Arzneim-Forsch Drug/Res. 1966;16(2):127-129.
  9. Rechner AR, Pannala AS, Rice-Evans CA. Caffeic acid derivatives in artichoke extract are metabolised to phenolic acids in vivo. Free Radic Res. 2001;35(2):195-202.
  10. Adzet T, Camarasa J, Laguna JC. Hepatoprotective activity of polyphenolic compounds from Cynara scolymus against CCl4 toxicity in isolated rat hepatocytes. J Nat Prod. 1987;50(4):612-617.
  11. Khadzhai I, Kutnetsova VF. Effect of artichoke extracts on the liver. Farmakol Toksikol. 1971;34(6):685-687.
  12. Perez-Garcia F, Adzet T, Canigueral S. Activity of artichoke leaf extract on reactive oxygen species in human leukocytes. Free Radic Res. 2000;33(5):661-665.
  13. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philipson D. Herbal medicines: A guide for health care professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996; p. 36-37.
  14. Marakis G, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Booth JC, Wright J, Pike DJ. Artichoke leaf extract reduces mild dyspepsia in an open study. Phytomedicine. 2002;9(8):694-699.
  15. Walker AF, Middleton RW, Petrowicz O. Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in a post-marketing surveillance study. Phytother Res. 2001;15(1):58-61.
  16. Kirchhoff R, Beckers C, Kirchhoff GM, et al. Increase in choleresis by means of artichoke extract. Phytomedicine. 1994;1(2):107-115.
  17. Wegener T, Fintelmann V. Pharmacological properties and therapeutic profile of artichoke. Wien Med Wochenschr. 1999;149(8-10):241-247.
  18. Wojcicki J, Kadykow M. The influence of cynarine on serum lipids in patients affected with diabetes mellitus. Pun Med. 1974;16:127-129.
  19. Brown JE, Rice-Evans CA. Luteolin-rich artichoke extract protects low density lipoprotein from oxidation in vitro. Free Radic Res. 1998;29(3):247-255.
  20. Heckers H, Dittmar K, Schmahl FW, Huth K. Inefficiency of cynarin as therapeutic regimen in familial type II hyperlipoproteinaemia. Atherosclerosis. 1977;26(2):249-253.
  21. Englisch W, Beckers C, Unkauf M, Ruepp M, Zinserling V. Efficacy of artichoke dry extract in patients with hyperlipoproteinemia. Arzneimittleforschung. 2000;50(3):260-265.