Cynara scolymus, more commonly known as green artichoke, is a variety of thistle that is consumed as a vegetable. Specifically, artichoke refers to the plant’s flower buds, which can be eaten before they bloom into flowers.
Historically, artichoke has been used as a medicine since the 4th century BCE. Today, it is used in combination with other medicinal plants, such as turmeric (Curcuma longa), peppermint (Mentha piperita) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium), to make medicine for digestive complaints, for promoting bile discharge and for enhancing fat metabolism.
But in a recent study, researchers at Nihon University School of Dentistry in Japan found another good use for artichoke. They focused on one of its active components called cynaropicirin and investigated its effects on human gingival fibroblasts (HGFs) stimulated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS).
LPS is an endotoxin found in the outer membranes of bacteria, which stimulates an immune response.
The researchers reported that cynaropicirin can suppress the production of inflammatory molecules triggered by LPS, thus preventing the development of periodontal (gum) diseases. They discussed their findings in an article published in the Journal of Natural Medicines.
A Compound In Artichoke Can Protect The Gums From Disease
Gum diseases represent a major public health problem affecting over half of the adult population worldwide. LPS produced by the periodontopathic bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis induces the expression of inflammatory cytokines that promote inflammatory bone destruction.
Evidence suggests that periodontal diseases are involved in the onset and progression of several systemic diseases, such as pneumonia and diabetes. Although removing periodontopathic bacteria by brushing is standard practice, it is not effective in all cases. Hence there’s a need for new treatments for gum diseases that can complement or replace brushing.
Cynaropicrin is a sesquiterpene lactone found in artichoke. Research suggests that besides anti-inflammatory effects, the compound may also have anti-osteoclastogenic effects, meaning it can stop the development of osteoclasts from immune cells.
Osteoclasts are bone cells responsible for degrading bones so they can be used to facilitate bone remodeling. Increased osteoclast activity results in generalized bone loss and is a common feature of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis.
In their study, the researchers tested cynaropicrin’s anti-inflammatory and anti-osteoclastogenic effects using RAW264.7 cells (monocytes and macrophages) induced by the receptor activator of NF-kB ligand (RANKL). RANKL is a protein produced by osteoblasts — the cells that build bones — that regulates the formation of osteoclasts.
The researchers found that cynaropicrin inhibited pro-inflammatory interleukin (IL)-8 and IL-6 expression in LPS-stimulated HGFs in a dose-dependent manner. Cynaropicrin also suppressed the P. gingivalis LPS-induced degradation of IkBa, an inhibitor of NF-kB, and the activation of NF-kB.
This suggests that cynaropicrin’s ability to prevent P. gingivalis LPS-induced IL-8 and IL-6 expression is due to the inhibition of the NF-kB pathway. Cynaropicrin also dramatically reduced RANKL-induced osteoclast maturation.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that cynaropicrin from artichoke can prevent periodontal diseases and can be used in the development of more effective treatments for gum problems.
The Health Benefits Of Eating Artichoke
Artichoke is a plant that originated in the Mediterranean region and is known for its medicinal properties. Today, it has gained popularity as a health supplement that helps lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as increases the flow of urine.
Here are some other health benefits associated with artichoke.
- It is loaded with nutrients (e.g., vitamins C and K, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and protein)
- It helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and increases good HDL cholesterol.
- It regulates blood pressure by promoting the widening of blood vessels.
- It improves liver health by increasing bile production.
- It promotes digestive health by providing high amounts of fiber.
- It reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- It lowers blood sugar levels by slowing the breakdown of starch into glucose.
- It contains antioxidant compounds that can stop the growth of cancer.
Artichoke is a nutritious and versatile vegetable that’s easy to add to your diet. You can steam, boil, grill, roast, saute, stuff, or even bake artichoke. When taken as a supplement, artichoke rarely causes any side effects, so you can enjoy the health benefits it provides whichever way works best for you.