Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Can Artichokes Lower Your Cholesterol?
A tabloid newspaper published an article touting the benefits of artichoke extract that is purported to lower LDL cholesterol. James Duke, the author of "The Green Pharmacy," was quoted as recommending 200-300 mg three times a day. Your opinion?
Answer (Published 3/28/2002)

(Reviewed 1/20/2005)

On the strength of a few small studies, artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymnus) is being heavily promoted as a natural means of lowering cholesterol, reducing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), relieving indigestion and protecting the liver. The study that has generated all the hype comes from Germany. Results, published in 2000, showed that taking 1,800 mg of artichoke extract in 450 mg tablets for six weeks brought about an 18.5 percent decrease in total cholesterol and a 22.9 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) compared to an 8.6 percent decrease in total cholesterol and 6.3 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol among a control group treated with placebo. No adverse effects of the artichoke leaf extract were reported, and the researchers said their findings "could contribute clear evidence" to recommend artichoke leaf extract for treating high cholesterol. There's some speculation that the cholesterol-lowering effect seen is due to cynarin, a compound artichokes contain that boosts production of bile in the liver and the flow of bile from the gallbladder. These actions may help the body excrete cholesterol.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Heart Health - A healthful diet and lifestyle, along with prudent supplementation, can help prevent or lessen the risk of heart disease and related illnesses such as hypertension, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Learn more, and get your free, personalized nutritional supplement and vitamin recommendation today.

Artichoke leaf extract may also help limit synthesis of cholesterol by inhibiting the enzyme HMGCoA-reductase. Statin drugs for lowering cholesterol work by inhibiting this enzyme.

Another study, this one from England, involved patients who were taking artichoke leaf extract for six weeks as part of a post-marketing surveillance study. Analysis of data from this group revealed significant reductions in the severity of symptoms and that 96 percent of those who took it rated artichoke leaf extract as better than or at least equal to other treatments they had tried.

As for the claims that artichoke leaf extract protects the liver, I've seen no studies demonstrating these effects in humans.

My feeling about the cholesterol-lowering effect is that the few studies that have shown any improvements in response to artichoke leaf extract, while promising, have been very small. I'm reluctant to make any recommendation until we have confirmation of the results from more, or larger, studies. Unfortunately, no cholesterol-lowering supplement or food currently marketed in this country is as effective as the prescription drugs used for this purpose. The only dietary supplement I strongly recommended for cholesterol-lowering was Cholestin, a red rice yeast extract that contains statins, the active ingredient in the prescription drugs. Unfortunately, Cholestin can no longer be sold in the United States. I hope it will become available here again one day.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here