You’re likely familiar with the artichoke whose bulb is available in the produce section of your grocery store. Yet it might come as a surprise that from this common vegetable a powerful all-natural nootropic is made.
Artichoke extract is a supplement that is gaining popularity in the nootropic community thanks to its impressive abilities to enhance emotional wellbeing and boost cognition.
While there are many compounds in artichoke extract that provide beneficial effects, there are two that are primarily responsible for positively impacting mood and enhancing brain function: luteolin and inulin.
Inulin is a prebiotic fiber which plays a role in encouraging growth of the good bacteria in our gut.1 Research has found a surprising link between the health of our guts and that of our cognitive function, mood, and ability to cope with stress.
Luteolin is a flavonoid, or a secondary metabolite of an artichoke. Artichoke extract and other substances rich in luteolin have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat various diseases.2 Read on to learn more about artichoke extract and how it may help you to realize your fullest potential.
Artichoke Extract History
Artichokes have been a common food source for thousands of years all across the world. This healthful vegetable is exceptionally rich sources of prebiotic fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Artichoke extract is an extract taken from the leaf, stem, and root of the Cynara scolymus or Cynara cardunculus plants. While artichoke extract has been used for many years as a digestive aid, recent uses have expanded to include overall health and wellbeing, liver health, weight loss, and bacterial and fungal infections.3
There are two compounds that are largely credited with the nootropic benefits of this supplement: luteolin and inulin, although there are countless other phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins that play a role.4
How Artichoke Extract Works
Inulin: A Powerful Prebiotic
Inside each of our digestive tracts lives a community of trillions of commensal bacteria and other microorganisms known as our gut microbiome. The more common term for commensal bacteria are probiotics, which you can also take in supplemental form.5
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Prebiotics are components of certain plant foods that feed these bacteria, promoting the benefits that they confer for our health. Artichoke extract is rich in inulin, an indigestible starch which has demonstrated strong prebiotic action.
When your commensal bacteria are suffering and pathogenic bacteria (bacteria not good for your health) take over, you may experience things like brain fog, moodiness, stress, fatigue, difficulties focusing, memory troubles, and weight gain.
But when you support a healthy digestive tract through promoting your commensal bacteria you enhance the health of your gut microbiome. One way of doing this is by consuming prebiotics, such as inulin, that allows the population of the healthy bacteria in our guts to grow. When you enhance the number of good bacteria in your gut, you can experience improvements in energy level, brain fog, mood, and much more.
These benefits occur largely because the bacteria in your gut are able to make chemical compounds similar to the neurotransmitters that are created in your brain. For example, the bacteria in your gut produce more serotonin than your brain (roughly 90% of the serotonin in your body is produced in your digestive tract), and this can help you feel happy and optimistic.7
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One way to boost the health of your gut microbiome is by eating prebiotic foods and taking prebiotic supplements, as they allow the good bacteria to thrive.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties of Luteolin
Luteolin is a flavonoid found in artichokes that is thought to be one of the main compounds responsible for the variety of health benefits that artichokes offer. Research suggests that it helps to fight inflammation throughout the body especially in the brain thanks largely to its potent antioxidant properties.8
Neuroinflammation is known to play a role in age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders. It may even play a part in difficulties with thinking or brain fog. By reducing inflammation in the brain, luteolin may help to support its health and overall function.9
Additionally, certain inflammatory compounds are linked to a reduction in neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells) in the hippocampus, or the region or the brain largely responsible for memory and learning abilities. By protecting against neuroinflammation, luteolin is believed to help protect neurogenesis, exhibiting neuroprotective benefits.10
Protects Against Heavy-Metal Toxicity
The accumulation of heavy metals is implicated in troubles with memory, mood, and overall cognitive function.11 Drinking water, medicines, pots and pans, and more are common examples of ways we are exposed to heavy metals on a daily basis. It is important to consume foods and supplements that help to remove these heavy metals from our bodies.
Research studies have found that artichoke extract can protect against lead-toxicity.12 This study suggests that artichoke extract has chelating properties, or the ability to bind and remove heavy metals from the body.
Nootropic Uses and Benefits
Boosts Memory and Learning
Artichoke extract may help to enhance memory and learning abilities thanks to its high levels of inulin and luteolin.
In one double-blind, placebo-controlled human study of 47 participants, the impact of inulin on memory was examined. 5 grams of either inulin or placebo was given to participants on two tests days separated by two weeks. It was found that inulin led to improved episodic memory performance and recall performance when compared to placebo.13
In animal studies, luteolin has demonstrated impressive anti-inflammatory benefits. In these studies, a reduction in neuroinflammation thanks to luteolin was associated with improved memory and learning in aged mice and healthy mice. It’s possible that these benefits may extend to humans, but more research is needed.14
Much of the benefits for mood that come from artichoke extract are due to its prebiotic content. Prebiotic foods and supplements have demonstrated an ability to alter our emotional wellbeing, so it is not surprising that artichoke extract may help to enhance how we feel.
In the same study as discussed above regarding inulin and memory, inulin was found to improve how happy participants felt on the day that they took cognitive laboratory tests when compared to placebo.
While more research is needed to further our understanding of how this nootropic can help mood, there is abundant research that a healthy gut microbiome is tied to less stress and a more positive mood. As inulin can help to promote a healthy bacterial community in the digestive tract, it may have even further-reaching benefits for emotional wellbeing.
Dosage, Safety, and Precautions
While artichoke contains a large amount of nutritious value, artichoke extract has the same nutrients in a more concentrated form.
Besides taking artichoke extract for its nootropic benefits, it can also help lower cholesterol. There is no recommended dosage for using artichoke extract for its nootropic purposes, however 320-640 mg three times per day has been used in studies for indigestion, and 250-960 mg twice daily for high cholesterol.15
Artichoke extract is considered safe, with the most common side effects including:
- Upset stomach
Some individuals will want to be cautious when adding artichoke extract into their nootropic stack. If you are following a low FODMAP diet (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) you will want to be careful when taking this supplement as it is a FODMAP food. Additionally, those with bile duct occlusion or gallstones should be cautious because artichoke extract can increase bile production.16
Studies have only examined the effects for up to 23 months, so the safety of longer use is unknown.
Through its antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and heavy-metal chelating properties, studies have demonstrated that artichoke extract and the compounds that it contains can help to protect the brain from damage.
By encouraging optimal brain health, users may experience an overall increase in how well their brains function in a wide variety of tasks. You may notice an increased resistance to stress, an enhanced sense of well-being, boosted memory, and learning abilities.
If you experience any indigestion, the most common symptom, simply decrease your dosage until you find that dosage that’s right for you.
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