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The artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) grows in Mediterranean countries and is cultivated in temperate regions throughout the world. It is known in its wild form since ancient times by the Greeks and Romans. From historical documents, it seems that starting from the first century, the domestication of the artichoke (Cynara scolymus) from its wild progenitor (Cynara cardunculus) took place in Sicily. The plant is part of the Composite family, it can reach up to 1.5 meters in height. The stem is robust, cylindrical and fleshy, longitudinally streaked. The leaves are large, often spiny, very segmented and green-gray in color on the upper part and green-blue in the lower part. The inflorescences are blue-purple instead, surrounded by bracts (modified leaves), at the base of which is the edible part. The parts that are used are the leaves of the plant, the stem, the inflorescences (artichokes) and the root. The artichoke prefers a mild and dry climate. It can also be adapted to relatively cold climates but is sensitive to frost and temperature changes, so that in these areas young plants need protection.
Active principles of the artichoke
The active ingredients of the artichoke are concentrated mainly in the leaves, they are the canarina (bitter principle) and some flavonoids derived from lutein. The plant is also rich in enzymes, inulin (carbon hydrate very well tolerated by diabetics), potassium and manganese. Despite the true artichoke, that is the inflorescence, it possesses some beneficial effects, the phytotherapeutic and medicinal use mainly involves the use of the leaves, the stem and / or the roots of the plant. The artichoke produces choleretic effects, (increases the secretion of bile) and hepatoprotectors (antitoxic), it is recommended in case of dyspepsia or biliary colic and liver failure and is very indicated in case of hepatitis. It is lipid-lowering because it reduces the concentration of cholesterol and other lipids in the blood and therefore it is highly recommended in case of arteriosclerosis. It has hypoglycemic properties, which is why the artichoke is a food suitable for diabetics, as it promotes the reduction of blood sugar. It is diuretic, purifying because stimulating diuresis, it is very useful in case of albuminuria and renal insufficiency. The artichoke has a low calorie content, (100 grams contains just 22 calories), which makes it a food indicated in slimming diets. It is a vegetable rich in fiber and mineral salts such as potassium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, manganese and folic acid. There are also vitamins of group B, C, K.
Preparation of the artichoke
The artichoke is used in the kitchen for the preparation of delicious dishes but in this space we leave out the culinary aspect to show the curative image of the plant. The artichoke in phytotherapy is used both for external use and for internal use. For each medicinal plant there are some optimal methods of preparation and use. It is useful to know them and to know how to apply them appropriately so as to be able to take full advantage of the properties of each plant or its individual parts. The method of preparing the artichoke is the decoction. The decoction of artichoke It is used in particular to detoxify the liver and lower the cholesterol level. Decoction is used to prepare herbal teas with the hard parts of the plants such as roots, rhizomes, bark and seeds that need prolonged boiling to release the active ingredients, some of which, precisely because of the prolonged action of heat, can lose part of the their property. Generally the decoction of artichoke It is characterized by the use of leaves, available dried in herbalist's shops. Preparing a decoction is not difficult. To execute the decoction it is necessary to place in a suitable container the artichoke leaves select, adding the appropriate amount of water. Boil the whole from 3 to 20 minutes over low heat, then let it rest for a few minutes and then strain through a sieve. Thanks to boiling, the decoctions, especially if kept in the refrigerator and at a constant temperature, are preserved longer than infusions. They can therefore be used for several days, although it is not advisable to exceed the deadline of a week.
Benefits of the artichoke
For the treatment of gout or to hinder arthritis, the decoction of the artichoke roots is indicated. It involves boiling twenty grams of artichoke root in 10 ml of water. The administration of the "drink" should not exceed three weeks to avoid unpleasant side effects such as tingling and dizziness. If you want to detoxify the body freeing it from toxins and excess fluids, it is necessary to boil 20 grams of artichoke leaves in 500 ml of water for 5/10 minutes and then filter. To take effect, the decoction must be drunk several times a day, in small quantities. The artichoke decoction is also used for external use. It is indicated to restore a natural color to the skin or to eliminate unsightly pimples that particularly affect hepatic subjects. The artichoke is also beneficial against cholesterol. It fights the HDL molecules (negative cholesterol that goes to obstruct the arteries), while it increases the levels of the positive LDL cholesterol that has the task to free the arteries from the plaques. It is advisable to drink a cup of decoction thirty minutes before starting a meal. To make the decoction more pleasant and to soften the bitter taste, you can add a hint of honey, but do not overdo it. As previously stated, the artichoke is rich in fiber, which is why, in addition to supporting the body, it is a panacea for the gastrointestinal tract, reducing problems of constipation, diarrhea and heartburn. A decoction based on artichoke has a purifying effect on the liver, regularizes bile, stimulates diuresis and lowers the level of triglycerides present in the blood. After a hearty meal to facilitate digestion and remove the sense of heaviness that one feels when leaving the table, a cup of decoction with artichoke runs to aid the digestive system. The treatment based on artichoke decoction can be followed for a month and then resumed after a short interval, or in a more concentrated quantity it can be consumed in a few days in small sips, after meals. The decoction should not be ingested in large quantities, but sipped during the day so that it can act more effectively on the entire organism.