Did you know that Wild Artichoke found on Gozo can improve liver function?
Author of, Weeds For Health On Gozo, Heléna Szöllősy shares everything you need to know about the wild plants that make up Gozo’s unique and diverse flora. Enjoy learning about the healing benefits and many usages of Wild Artichoke which grows on Gozo between March and June.
Cynara cardunculus – L
Botanical Name: Cynara cardunculus - L. Synonyms: Carduus cardunculus, Carduus cynara, Carduus scolymus, Cnicus communis, Cynara communis, Cynara corsica, Cynara esculenta Family Name: Asteraceae or Compositae Maltese Name: Qaqoċċ tax-xewk Common Names: Cardoon, Artichoke thistle, Cardone, Cardoni, Carduni, Cardi Meaning of the Name: Cynara, from Greek kynara or kinara, kynaros akantha, a spiny plant; or Latin cinara, for a kind of artichoke and for a native of the island of Cinara, in the Aegean Sea, now Zinara, cardunculus, from Latin means ‘resembling a small thistle’
Artichoke plants bear large leaves placed alternately on the stems and seldom have barbs. The upper surface of the barbs is usually grey-green in colour, while they are white and woolly underneath.
On Gozo the plant blossoms from March to June and bears flowers that are large and bulbous. The globular flower heads have thorny scales that are purple, green in colour and also purple flowers bearing resemblance to the thistles. The wild cardoon is a stout herbaceous perennial plant growing 80 to 150 cm tall, with deeply lobed and heavily spined green to grey-green tomentose (hairy or downy) leaves up to 50 cm long, with yellow spines up to 3.5 cm long. The flowers are violet-purple, produced in a large, globose massively spined capitulum up to 6 cm in diameter.
- Habitats: Stony or waste places and in dry grassland, usually on clay
- Range: South Europe. It is native to the western and central Mediterranean region
- Status for Malta: Indigenous. Originating from Maltese islands. Common in the wild.
- Parts Used: flowers, leaves, root, stem
- Herbal Actions: Antifungal, Antioxidant, Antirheumatic, Cholagogue, Digestive, Diuretic, Hepatoprotective, Hypo-cholesterolemic, Hypoglycaemic, Lithontripic, Tonic
- Main Active Constituents: antioxidant activity (apigenin-7-rutinoside; narirutin), caffeic acid, caffeoylquinic acids, coumarins, dietary fibre, flavones, flavonoids, lactones, lignans, minerals (potassium, copper, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc), phenolic compounds, saponins, sesquiterpene sterols, triterpenoid, saponins, B-complex vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9), vitamin C
- The cardoon has become important as a medicinal herb in recent years following the discovery of cynarine. It is a safe and reliable herb for all liver disturbances including hepatitis. Artichoke is used to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver. Modern research has shown that 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 this is thought to help reduce the symptoms of heartburn and a hangover.
- It lowers blood cholesterol levels and assists weight reduction and is used for, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), kidney problems, anaemia, fluid retention (oedema), arthritis.
- The leaves are used internally in the treatment of chronic liver and gall bladder diseases, hepatitis, arteriosclerosis, and the early stages of late-onset diabetes in its early stages and as a diuretic as well as a digestive aid.
- Artichoke has chemicals that can reduce nausea and vomiting, spasms, and intestinal gas. Has a high level of potassium so it is good for the muscles and nerves and their functioning, as well as for erectile dysfunctions,
- The wild artichoke can help disperse stones in the internal organs and is believed to be good for rheumatism.
- The leaves should be prepared as a tincture in gin. This has been used in domestic practice in some localities as a remedy for general dropsy. It has produced good results in ascites.
- Flower buds – raw or cooked. A globe artichoke substitute. 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. The flavour is mild and pleasant and is felt by some people to be more delicate than the globe artichoke. The dried flowers are a rennet substitute, used for curdling plant milks.
- Young leaves – raw or cooked. Eaten as a salad by the ancient Romans. Rather bitter.
- Root – cooked like parsnips. Tender, thick and fleshy, with an agreeable flavour.
- Stems – cooked and used as a celery substitute. It is best to earth up the stems as they grow in order to blanch them and reduce their bitterness, these blanched stems can then be eaten cooked or in salads. In Italy raw strips of the stems are dipped into olive oil. We find these stems to be too bitter when eaten raw.
- The plant is said to yield a good yellow dye.
- It can be used in the production of lignocellulosic biomass for the energy – solid biofuel for heating applications or power generation Cardoon has attracted recent attention as a possible source of biodiesel fuel.
- The stalks as well as the hairs and pappi in capitula (filamentous structures, representing 7% of the total plant biomass) could be used as a fibre source (17% lignin) for paper production.
- The flower heads can be cut and dried for use in dried flower arrangements.
PRECAUTIONS: Not recommended in pregnancy and during breast feeding due to lack of sufficient data. Also use cautiously in patients taking anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents or with anyone with bleeding disorders, as artichokes may increase the risk of bleeding.
Make This! Wild Artichoke Salad
- 5-6 cardoon stalks, trimmed and cut as described above
- 1 pint chicken stock
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced
- 4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
- handful coriander or parsley leaves, shredded
- 30 gr pine nuts
- 1 glass white wine
- olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
- Boil the cardoons for 20 minutes in homemade chicken stock.
- Drain and reserve the liquid.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic until the onion is tender.
- Add the mushrooms and pine nuts, stirring to make sure they are coated with the oil.
- Add the white wine and bring to the boil.
- Add the black pepper and allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes, then add the strained cardoons, stir well, and add the reserved liquid.
- Now add the coriander or parsley leaves, and simmer uncovered for a further 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to stand for about 30 minutes before serving.
- Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Author : Heléna Szöllősy. Editor: GITH
Helena is an expert on the medicinal properties of plants having trained in Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy, specialising in Phytotherapy including Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Apitherapy and Bach Flower Therapy.
Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs are provided in this book for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace professional medical care. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. Please also undertake your own research when foraging. Some wild plants are endangered and are protected by law.