Herb: Globe Artichoke

Latin name: Cynara scolymus

Family: Compositae

Medicinal use of Globe Artichoke:

The globe artichoke has become important as a medicinal herb in recent years following the discovery of cynarin. This bitter-tasting compound, which is found in the leaves, improves liver and gall bladder function, stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, especially bile, and lowers blood cholesterol levels. The leaves are anticholesterolemic, antirheumatic, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, hypoglycaemic and lithontripic. They are used internally in the treatment of chronic liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, hepatitis, arteriosclerosis and the early stages of late-onset diabetes. The leaves are best harvested just before the plant flowers, and can be used fresh or dried.

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

August to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Globe Artichoke:

Flower buds - raw or cooked. Used before the flowers open. The flavour is mild and pleasant. Gobe artichokes are considered to be a gourmet food but they are very fiddly to eat. The buds are harvested just before the flowers open, they are then usually boiled before being eaten. Only the base of each bract is eaten, plus the "heart" or base that the petals grow from . Small, or baby artichokes, that are produced on lateral stems can be pickled or used in soups and stews. Plants yield about 5 to 6 main heads per year from their second year onwards. Flowering stems - peeled and eaten raw or cooked. A sweet nutty flavour. Young leaf stems - a celery substitute. They are normally blanched to remove the bitterness and then boiled or eaten raw. We find them too bitter to be enjoyable. Leaves - cooked. A bitter flavour. The dried flowers are a rennet substitute, used for curdling plant milks.

Other uses of the herb:

A dark grey dye is obtained from the leaves.

Propagation of Globe Artichoke:

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. Germination is usually quick and good, prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions during the summer. It would be prudent to give the plants some winter protection in their first year. The seed can also be sown in situ in April. Sow the seed 2cm deep, putting 2 or 3 seeds at each point that you want a plant. Protect the seed from mice. Division of suckers. This is best done in November and the suckers overwintered in a cold frame then planted out in April. Division can also be carried out in March/April with the divisions being planted out straight into their permanent positions, though the plants will be smaller in their first year.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Cynara scolymus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.