Artichoke Leaf for IBS and indigestion

The problem I have with most drugs is not their primary purpose is to promote healing, but difficult to mask symptoms. They generally do not address the cause of the problem and, often, they lead to unintended adverse effects. But to be honest, sometimes even the most holistic doctors just can not pinpoint the cause of a disease. In those cases, alternative health practitioners often resort to the use of natural medicines. This is often an attractive option because alternative solutions are generally safer and sometimes offer significant “additional benefits”.


Dyspepsia is essentially a medical term for “indigestion”. It is a very common condition with symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, improper fullness when eating and include nausea. Most of these discomforts occur during or shortly after eating. The extent to which someone has dyspepsic symptoms varies widely. For some it is only an occasional annoyance. In other cases it is the incarnation of a more serious condition known as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Artichoke leaf extract (ALE) can offer a good alternative to conventional medicine for people with dyspepsia and IBS. The evidence is clearly documented in the scientific literature of recent decades. It also appears that ALE often other beneficial effects, and improves digestive function, namely to improve cholesterol and liver protection.

ALE and Digestive Ills

  • 208 patients with IBS use is made of an artichoke extract for 2 months. At the beginning and end of the study, a group of English scientists reviewed questionnaires filled by the IBS participants and administered a test, the Nepean Dyspepsia Index (NDI). Based on the collective results, they found an 26% reduction in self-reported incidence of IBS symptoms. There was a 41% decrease in NDI scores of volunteers. A 20% improvement in the quality of life measures were also noted. A separate study showed that patients ALE benefits assessed as “very good” and the vast majority (96%) found ALE equal to or better than any other treatment they had previously tried. (1,2)
  • A study conducted at the University of Essen in Germany studied the effects of ALE on “functional dyspepsia“. In this experiment were 247 subjects treated with either ALE or placebo for 6 weeks. Administered dose was 320 mg tablet twice daily. All of the patients self-reported their level of dyspepsic symptoms on a weekly basis and also took the NDI test before and after the test. The authors of the study concluded that “the ALE preparation was significantly better than placebo in relieving symptoms and improving disease-specific quality of life in patients with functional dyspepsia.” (3) ALE Another study, published in the journal Phytomedicine, including 516 patients with dyspepsia and reported a 40% reduction in “global dyspepsia score” (4)
  • Two recent studies provide possible explanations for how EFA helps to improve digestion and reduce intestinal complaints. The first trial found an antispasmodic effect in a study in guinea pigs. Antispasmodics to help prevent muscle cramps. (5) A second animal study reported increased bile flow in rats ALE. This is important because bile plays an important role in the breakdown of dietary fats. (6)

ALE and Cholesterol

A study published in September 2008 showed that ALE-cholesterol levels in a group of 75 participants with mild to moderately reduce high cholesterol. The dosage used in this study was double the normal dose, 1280 mg. A modest reduction in total cholesterol was found (4.2%). The authors speculate that the reduction would have been greater in those with higher cholesterol levels. (7) This theory is supported by at least two previous studies that greater cholesterol-lowering effect (up to 23%) was observed in those drinking juice from artichoke leaves or tablets with ALE. An improvement of endothelial function was also observed in the experiment artichoke juice. (8.9) In addition, several laboratory experiments provide mechanisms by which ALE could lower cholesterol and triglycerides in a safer manner than conventional prescribed medicines. (10,11,12,13)

IBS prevalence by country

Source: Business Insights – 2001

It is also reassuring to know that ALE consistent protection against hepatotoxicity (liver damage) shows in various laboratory experiments. One of the biggest concerns about cholesterol-lowering medication is the possibility of severe liver injury complications. It seems that a broad spectrum of antioxidants may be responsible for the ability of EFA’s to the liver to foreclose. When scientists tried to individual components of ALE to see if they would have the same protection of health of the liver to isolate, they failed to successfully do so. In this case, and in many other, a whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. (14,15,16)

Artichoke extract is not one of the most popular supplements on the market. That’s part of why I wanted to share this information today. Digestive dysfunction is very common today, and I’m all for an attempt to address the cause. But if you are unable to find a reason, maybe you should consider ALE before resorting to the battery from over-the-counter and prescriptive drugs on the market.

Be good!

Posted in Alternative Therapies, nutrition.