Cynara scolymus (Asteraceae)

  • The plant

Cynara scolymus is a perennial plant of the Asteraceae family. It prefers a light warm soil and an open position in full sun. It requires plenty of moisture in the growing season and a good rich soil. The thick edible scales and bottom parts of the immature flower heads are a culinary delicacy.


  • Pharmacological properties and phytomedicine

The leaves are recognized as herbal medicine for their beneficial effects against liver problems and for their antioxidant properties. Specifically, the leaves extract exhibits a wide array of effects: it lowers blood cholesterol, exerting a potent anticholestatic activity and it shows antioxidant, bile expelling, and hepatoprotective effects. In Europe Cynara scolymus is used for liver and gallbladder disorders. In a number of countries, standardized herbal drugs are manufactured and sold as prescription drugs for high cholesterol, liver disorders and digestion problems.

  • Chemical composition and active constituents

Polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids, phenolic acids and their derivatives are the main chemical constituents of the plant. Among them cynarine found mainly in the leaves is a bitter-tasting compound, which improves liver and gall bladder function, stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, especially bile, and lowers blood cholesterol levels. In resent years many scientific results support the action of cynarine.