Artichokes are one of my favourite vegetables and, as well as tasting delicious, can lower your blood pressure and, as a bonus, can improve your cholesterol balance and glucose control.
How artichoke lowers blood pressure
Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a common feature of the Mediterranean diet, and contributes to the benefits of the blood-pressure lowering DASH diet.
The juice and flesh leaves of artichoke are a rich source of unique antioxidants, such as cynarin and cynaroside. One serving of artichoke provides three times more polyphenol antioxidants than the same weight of blueberries.
These artichoke antioxidants, which are classed as flavonoids, have direct effects on the circulation, increasing the elasticity of artery walls and increasing the release of a powerful blood vessel dilator called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is the substance that gives beetroot and L-arginine their well-known blood-pressure lowering properties.
Artichoke also has beneficial effects on the liver to reduce the production of inflammatory substances, and decrease blood stickiness to improve blood flow.
These beneficial effects of artichoke extracts on blood vessel dilation were originally shown in cell cultures derived from the lining of umbilical blood vessels. These effects have now also been confirmed in a clinical trial involving volunteers with hypertension.
Artichoke extracts for high blood pressure
A total of 98 people with untreated hypertension were asked to take either 50mg artichoke extracts twice a day, 100mg artichoke extracts twice a day, or placebo, for three months.
At the beginning of the trial, their blood pressures were between 140/90 mmHg and 159/99 mmHg, with an overall average of 148.3/95.5 mmHg.
After 12 weeks treatment, there was no significant change in blood pressure for those taking placebo, but average blood pressure reductions of 2.74/2.5 mmHg for those taking 50mg artichoke extract twice a day, and a 2.95/3.02 mmHg reduction in those taking 100mg artichoke extracts twice a day.
Their cholesterol levels also reduced by around 8% and no side effects were reported.
These reductions in blood pressure may not seem like much, but the results from 32 studies involving over 197,000 people, show that even small falls in blood pressure can reduce long-term circulatory damage. For example, the improvement in hypertension seen in this trial (around a 3 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure) could reduce your risk of a fatal stroke by 8% and of a fatal heart attack by 5%.
The dose of artichoke extract used in this study was quite small. Most supplements provide between 360mg and 500mg artichoke extract per tablet and recommend a dose of one to three tablets a day, which is significantly greater. These higher doses are likely to produce even greater benefits on blood pressure.
If you have hypertension and a raised cholesterol, artichoke extracts are certainly a supplement to consider.
For best effects, select an artichoke supplement that provides a known, stated amount of antioxidants (cynarin or caffeoylquinic acids).
It’s also a great idea to include more artichokes in your diet as a natural remedy for high blood pressure.