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Artichoke represents an important component of the Mediterranean diet. It is a rich source of bioactive phenolic compounds, of inulin, fibre and minerals. Artichoke leaf extracts have long been used in folk medicine, particularly for liver complaints: therapeutic properties often ascribed to the cynarin content. In various pharmacological test, artichoke leaf extracts have exhibited hepatoprotective, anticarcinogenic, antioxidative, antibacterial, anti-HIV, bile-expelling, and urinative activities as well as the ability to inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis and LDL oxidation.
All these therapeutic indications cannot be ascribed to a single, but to several active compounds that together generate additive or synergistic pharmacologic effects (mono- and di- caffeoylquinic acids, flavonoids such as luteolin etc).

As explained by Lattanzio, Kroon, Linsalata and Cardinali, over the last few years a renewed and growing interest in the artichoke, an old plant with new uses in functional foods, has been observed. Artichoke, Cynara cardunculus is an ancient herbaceous perennial plant, originating from the Mediterranean area, today widely cultivated all over the world. The botanical name is derived from the tradition of fertilizing the plant with ashes (Latin: cinis, cineris) and from the Greek skolymos, thistle, from the spines found on the bracts that enclose the flower heads forming the edible part of the plant.
Artichoke is a species belonging to the Asteraceae family, which has been known since the 4th century B.C. as a food and remedy: this plant has been appreciated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, who used it both as a food and as a medicine (for their beneficial effects against hepatobiliary diseases and as a digestive aid).

Nutritional and pharmaceutical properties of artichoke heads and leaves are linked to their special chemical composition, which includes high levels of polyphenolic compounds and inulin. Caffeic acid derivatives are the main phenolic compounds in artichoke heads and leaves.