Bilberry Health Benefits

If you haven’t heard of bilberry fruit, you shouldn’t be surprised. The plant is extremely difficult to grow, and since it bears small fruit it is seldom cultivated. The fruit that does exist is primarily from wild plants that grow throughout northern and central Europe where they are more plentiful. In fact, it’s often called European blueberry.

For comparison, bilberries are similar to blueberries and huckleberries, but smaller and with a fuller taste. Like most natural foods, there are a number of health benefits associated with this berry, the most notable being an improvement in eye health. British pilots during World War II actually ate bilberry jam before night raids in order to improve their vision.

Bilberry for Natural Eye Health

When you take a closer look at the berry, this bit of war lore is not too surprising. According to the book “100 Super Supplements for a Longer Life,” by Frank Murray, bilberry health benefits include protecting collagen structures found in the eyes. Bilberry can also prevent and treat macular degeneration and retinopathy. The anthocyanosides found in bilberry are known for their ability to help nourish and repair the tiny capillaries within the eye.

Bilberry for Cardiovascular Health

While eye health is a top benefit of bilberry, the benefits don’t stop there. Bilberry is also used to help improve cardiovascular health. According to a paper on bilberry written for the Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research by Dr. Kathi Kemper, bilberry can improve circulation and protect against circulatory-related disease. Dr. Kemper suggests that bilberry can also improve atherosclerosis and varicose veins. In addition, the bilberry bioflavonoids are beneficial to the connective tissue that lines blood vessels and binds ligaments throughout the body.

Bilberry as an Antioxidant

The plant is also an excellent source of antioxidants containing both anthocyanosides and Vitamin C. These antioxidants work to repair and reverse damage to cells from free radicals.

Natural Health Benefits of Bilberry

Historically, the berry has been credited with a number of health benefits including:

  • strengthening blood vessels
  • improving red blood cells
  • stabilizing collagen tissues
  • lowering cholesterol
  • increasing retinal pigments
  • lowering blood pressure
  • improving eyesight
  • improving night vision
  • preventing cataracts
  • anti-aging effects on collagen structures
  • soothing a sore throat
  • lowering blood sugar
  • lowering cholesterol levels
  • anticancer effects
  • blocking tumor growth

Traditionally, the leaves and the berries have been used to help with scurvy, urinary tract issues or challenges, kidney problems, and diarrhea.

How to Use Bilberry

There are a number of ways to consume this plant to take advantage of the many bilberry health benefits. In fact, in Poland, bilberries are put into sweet buns as a filling (such a bun is called a jagodzianka, and it is one of Poland’s most popular bakery products during summer). It can be harvested naturally from forests and eaten fresh in jams or other dishes. The fruit can also be dried, used in tea, or found in pill form.

For those without access to the fruit and looking to supplement, look for an extract standardized to 25% anthocyanins. 120 mg a day should suffice.

Review of Black Cumin for Metabolic Disorders

Black cumin (Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae) seed is popular in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for treating diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. However, clinical evidence is inconclusive. The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the clinical and biochemical effects of black cumin on lipid profiles, glycemic factors, blood pressure, and anthropometric indices (weight, body mass index [BMI], and waist circumference), all of which are parameters of metabolic syndrome.

The following databases were searched from inception through June 2014: PubMed, Google Scholar, Thomson Reuters Web of Science, and Cochrane. The following medical subject headings (MeSH) and title/abstract (tiab) search terms were used: (“Nigella sativa” [MeSH] OR “black seed” [tiab] OR “black cumin” [tiab] OR “Kalonji” [tiab]) AND “Triglycerides” [MeSH] OR “Cholesterol” [MeSH] OR “Lipoproteins, LDL” [MeSH] OR “Lipoproteins, HDL” [MeSH] OR “Blood glucose” [MeSH] OR “Hemoglobin A, Glycosylated” [MeSH] OR “Blood pressure” [MeSH] OR “Body mass index” [MeSH] OR “Waist circumference” [MeSH]). The inclusion criteria were (1) published in English, (2) the effect of black cumin on clinical or biochemical parameters, and (3) clinical trial. The exclusion criteria were (1) animal studies, (2) review studies, (3) the effect of black cumin on unrelated blood or clinical parameters, (4) the effect of black cumin combined with other plants or exercise, and (5) duplicated studies.

A total of 515 articles were located, and 18 studies (with a total of 1531 subjects) met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. The studies were highly heterogeneous: five studies were randomized, double-blind, controlled studies; five studies had no control group, and eight studies were randomized controlled studies. Included patients were aged 18-65 years and had diabetes (n = 5 studies), metabolic syndrome (n = 7 studies), hyperlipidemia (n = 4 studies), hypertension/coronary disease (n = 2 studies), obesity (n = 1 study), or were healthy subjects (n = 4 studies). All treatments were oral and doses ranged from 200 mg/day to 5 g/day of seed extract (n = 2 studies), seed oil (n = 8 studies), or seed powder (n = 13 studies). Treatment duration ranged from two weeks to six months.

Table 1 summarizes the study findings. The authors note significant findings; however, they do not report whether the changes are compared with baseline or control. In Table 1, the column titled “overall effect” indicates which parameters had more evidence in favor of a significant improvement.

Table 1: Summary of Number of Studies with Significant Improvements in Measured Parameters

Number of Studies
Parameters Significant improvement No significant effect Overall effect (Yes/No)
Triglycerides 7 10 No
Total cholesterol 10 4 Yes
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol 11 3 Yes
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol 6 10 No
Fasting blood sugar 13 3 Yes
Glycosylated hemoglobin 4 Yes
Blood pressure 4 5 No
Weight 2 6 No
BMI 2 6 No
Waist circumference 1 5 No

Based on the number of studies demonstrating a significant improvement, the evidence weighs more in favor of black cumin improving total cholesterol, LDL, fasting blood sugar, and glycosylated hemoglobin. Evidence does not support an effect of black cumin on blood pressure or anthropometric indices. A total of 10 studies evaluated safety. Two studies that treated subjects with 5 mL/day black cumin seed oil reported mild nausea that resolved after one week of treatment. Eight studies measured liver and kidney function and reported no adverse effects.

The authors conclude that black cumin should be “a complementary treatment protocol for many diseases, especially metabolic disorders.” However, even though the evidence leans more favorably in the direction of a benefit for some parameters, the heterogeneity of the studies must be taken into consideration. It would have been advantageous if the researchers conducted a meta-analysis to provide more scientific rigor to their analysis and conclusions. Recommendations for the effective dose or preparation cannot be gleaned from this analysis. More research is needed if black cumin is to be recommended as a treatment for patients with symptoms of metabolic syndrome.


Mohtashami A, Entezari MH. Effects of Nigella sativa supplementation on blood parameters and anthropometric indices in adults: A systematic review of clinical trials. J Res Med Sci. 2016;21:3. doi: 10.4103/1735-1995.175154.


Black Chokeberry—Bioactivities of Phenolic-rich Fruit May Contribute to Prevention of Chronic Diseases

Bioactive plant-derived compounds, especially phenolics with high antioxidant activity, are increasingly shown to be beneficial in preventing and treating chronic diseases. Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa, Rosaceae) fruit has high levels of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins in the form of cyanidin derivatives. Black chokeberry fruit also contains other beneficial compounds such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids, pectins, and organic acids, as well as essential minerals (potassium, calcium, and magnesium).

Black chokeberry is native to eastern North America, from the Great Lakes to New England and higher altitudes of the Appalachians. Its fruits were used by Native Americans to treat colds. Introduced to Russia in the early 1900s, black chokeberry soon spread throughout the country, and in the early 20th century was introduced to other European nations, especially in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Several cultivars with larger and sweeter fruit have been developed in Northern and Eastern Europe, of which two, “Viking” and “Nero,” are available in the United States. A high tannin level and astringent taste limit black chokeberry’s popularity as a fresh fruit. It is widely used as a food colorant and flavoring; in teas (infusions), juices, jams, purees, etc.; and as a source of compounds for nutritional supplements. Its pomace is rich in bio-actives.

The authors summarize black chokeberry fruit’s composition and the bioavailability, antioxidant properties, and health-promoting benefits of its compounds in relation to chronic diseases. They do not describe search methods for the information presented.

Polyphenols are the major bioactive compounds of black chokeberry. These dietary antioxidants can scavenge free radicals, a cause of oxidative stress, which causes chronic inflammation and thereby increases the risk of diseases including atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegenerative conditions. Black chokeberry fruit’s total phenolic (TP) content is in the range of 690-2560 mg gallic acid equivalents (GAE) per 100 g fresh weight. This is higher than for many better-known berry crops, including blueberry (Vaccinium spp., Ericaceae), red raspberry (Rubus idaeus, Rosaceae), red currant (Ribes rubrum, Grossulariaceae), strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa, Rosaceae), “blackberry” (Rubus fruticosus; also a generic common name for an edible fruit produced by many Rubus spp.), and cranberry (V. macrocarpon), and comparable to the TP content of bilberry (V. myrtillus) and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna, Rosaceae) fruit. As in other phenolic-producing plants, black chokeberry’s TP content and levels of specific phenolic compounds vary with cultivar and genotype, growth conditions, maturity at harvest, extraction and/or processing methods, and storage. The highest levels of phenolic compounds are found in the “Hugist” cultivar; the lowest, in “Aron.” The average concentration of phenolics in pomace is about five times that in black chokeberry juice. The most important phenolic compounds in black chokeberry fruits are phenolic acids, especially hydroxycinnamic acids, and flavonoids, including flavonols (epicatechin), flavonols (mainly quercetin glycosides), anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins. While intestinal absorption of black chokeberry polyphenols is very poor, metabolization into other compounds allows for their beneficial effects. Quantities and proportions of individual phenolics vary among cultivars and plant parts and are affected by extraction/processing and storage methods. The relative antioxidant activities of different extracts and products are detailed. Compared with black chokeberry cultivars “Viking” and “Aron,” purple chokeberry (Aronia × prunifolia) dried berries had higher antioxidant activity. It is noted that black chokeberry’s lipophilic antioxidant capacity is quite low. It’s hydrophilic antioxidant capacity, along with black currant (Ribes nigrum) and elderberry (Sambucus spp., Adoxaceae), is among the highest of berry fruits.

Black chokeberry exerts anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, hypotensive, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, and antiplatelet activities, making it especially valuable for cardiovascular health. It also has immunomodulatory, antiviral, and antibacterial effects. Black chokeberry extract decreases the expression of genes for cholesterol synthesis, uptake, and efflux dose-dependently in humans. It is known for its gastroprotective effects, especially against peptic ulcer, and for its antidiabetic effects, improving fasting glucose and lipid profiles. Anthocyanins may help prevent obesity and, by inhibiting α-glucosidase and α-amylase activities, reduce postprandial hyperglycemia. Aronia spp. extracts benefit risk factors related to insulin resistance, modulating multiple associated pathways. Black chokeberry anthocyanins can normalize carbohydrate metabolism. The anticancer effects of black chokeberry also operate through numerous pathways and mechanisms, including induction of detoxication enzymes, induction of cell cycle arrest apoptosis, and changes in cellular signaling. In vitro, it retards or halts the growth of human breast, leukemia, colon, and cervical cancer lines. Black chokeberry may reduce oxidative stress in patients with cancer before and after surgery. Different extracts and polyphenolic compounds may affect different cancer cell lines more or less strongly. Overall, black chokeberry, like other less-utilized berry crops, offers many positive benefits for prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. While some human trials are mentioned, more research is clearly warranted.


Jurikova T, Mlcek J, Skrovankova S, et al. Fruits of black chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa in the prevention of chronic diseases. Molecules. June 7, 2017;22(6):944. doi: 10.3390/molecules22060944.

Supplements could be missing opportunity connected to essential oils, experts say

Herbal product companies may be missing an opportunity in which essential oils and specific dietary supplements could be recommended simultaneously in condition-specific settings, experts say.

Source: Supplements could be missing opportunity connected to essential oils, experts say

Review on the Therapeutic Effects of Aloe spp.

Aloe species’ (Xanthorrhoeaceae) leaf pulp has been used in Iranian traditional medicine (ITM) dating back to the eighth century CE. The genus has 446 species, with aloe vera (Aloe vera, Xanthorrhoeaceae) the most commonly used and studied. Aloe spp. grow wild in tropical regions of the world but only a few species have been commercially cultivated. Aloe spp. are grown for health foods, medicines, cosmetics, and decoration. Products include inner leaf gel and a bitter yellow latex (also called aloe juice) from peripheral bundle sheath cells just under the leaf surface.* Aloe leaf pulp is about 98.5% water but also contains at least 75 other compounds. The majority of these are mannose-based polysaccharides, and to a lesser extent, anthraquinones/anthrones, carbohydrates, chromones, phenolics, enzymes, and water- and fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, proteins, and organic acids. Aloe-emodin, an anthraquinone in Aloe latex, has been well studied. Aloin, aloesin, aloenin, and aloeresin are also unique Aloe compounds. The authors explored ITM texts for references to Aloe spp. and compared uses found there with modern pharmacological studies. They do not describe their literature search.

In the 17 ITM texts reviewed, Aloe spp. are described as hot and dry in temperament; and in most, as strong laxatives (for bile, yellow bile, and phlegm), and drying, fattening, soporific, warming, relaxing, resolving, cleansing, and bitter agents. ITM uses are categorized by the organs or physical systems involved. These include liver- and kidney-protective effects, supported for both aloe vera and candelabra aloe (A. arborescens) by pharmacological studies, with most attention paid to the species’ anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antifibrotic, and lipid-modifying effects. A review of candelabra aloe reported it most active in treating liver diseases, especially cancers. Aloe‘s uses for gastrointestinal (GI) problems are among the most reported in the traditional literature, with preparations prescribed for many stomach ailments and loss of appetite. Powdered Aloe leaf pulp also was mentioned for GI problems. Hemorrhoids, constipation, helminthic infestations, flatulence, and anal fissures were treated with Aloespp. However, Aloe treatment was contraindicated in some cases of hemorrhoids or anal fissures and could cause hemorrhage by relaxing the rectal veins. ITM often used Aloe spp. with other herbs for intestinal diseases to prevent excess dryness. Preclinical studies support the use of aloe vera and its compounds for colitis, intestinal polyps, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach ulcers, among others. An aqueous extract of bitter aloe (A. ferox) was a potent laxative in vivo.

In the upper respiratory tract, ITM used Aloe spp. especially for asthma, via inhalation of burned leaf smoke. They were also used for mouth, nose, tongue, and gum diseases. Polysaccharides and glycoprotein fractions of Aloe are reported to improve peripheral phagocytosis, supporting the traditional use for asthma. Bioaron C® (Phytopharm Klęka S.A.; Nowe Miasto nad Wartą, Poland), an herbal medicine made with an aqueous extract of candelabra aloe, was effective against influenzas A and B and other viruses in vitro. This product also showed significant antimicrobial and antifungal activity in vitro in another study. It is the only commercial product among the many studies of Aloe spp. these authors cite. In mice, an aloe vera gel extract showed promise in modulating tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum, Solanaceae) smoking-induced changes in pulmonary tissue. Extracts of aloe vera and bitter aloe are reported to act against herpes simplex viruses 1 and/or 2 in vitro, supporting ITM use of Aloe spp. for many genitourinary diseases, particularly genital ulcers and lesions.

Most ITM books investigated report Aloe‘s uses in cleansing the brain of waste humors (yellow bile and phlegm) and warming the brain. It was used for depression, schizophrenia, obsession, and headache; to strengthen mental acuity and for insomnia. Pharmacological studies of Aloe spp. and their extracts report hypnotic, peripheral analgesic, and neuroprotective effects. Improvements in memory, learning, cognitive function, and a potential anti-Parkinson’s disease effect also have been reported. A candelabra aloe extract was “a potent agent” in vitro in an Alzheimer’s disease model. Anticonvulsant activity, mitochondrial protection, and a protective effect against cerebral ischemia have all been reported in vitro or in vivo.

Preparations of Aloe spp. are used in ITM for skin problems from infections to allergies, wounds, malignant lesions, ulcers, bruises, and parasitic skin infestations. Aloe is a moisturizing agent, despite its dry nature, slowing evaporation of the skin’s moisture from sun and wind exposure. Skin protective activity seen in vitro and in vivo includes benefits in healing burn wounds (perhaps the best-known folk use for Aloe species globally); anti-infective and anti-allergic effects; and a significant increase in collagen. Raw mucilaginous gel of A. littoralis was reported to be a potential wound-healing and anti-inflammatory agent. Eyes and hair benefited from ITM applications of Aloespp. and extracts, borne out at least in part by preclinical studies. Socotrine aloe (A. perryi) and aloe vera were used in other in vitro and in vivo studies. ITM used Aloe spp. for arthralgia, gout, and other problems of the joints, muscles, and bones; no modern studies have explored these uses. Oddly, 35 clinical studies of Aloe spp. in conditions affecting several organ systems are relegated to a table and not discussed.

While Aloe spp. are generally considered safe, ITM scientists reported that they could harm the liver if overused, a toxicity reflected in a few modern case reports. These effects could be due to preparations and/or dosages used. Some species have toxic compounds, e.g., Yemen tree aloe (A. sabaea). Additional studies are certainly warranted to explore efficacy and dosage for a range of relevant conditions.

* However, beverages containing “aloe juice” contain only the liquefied gel, sometimes mixed with water or some citrus (Citrus spp., Rutaceae) juice, with the latex removed. Apparent differences in the chemical composition of aloe gel and latex are barely touched upon in this review.


Akaberi M, Sobhani Z, Javadi B, Sahebkar A, Emami SA. Therapeutic effects of Aloe spp. in traditional and modern medicine: a review. Biomed Pharmacother. December 2016;84:759-772.

249 Main Street, Wethersfield, CT, Connecticut 06109, Wethersfield real estate, Wethersfield commercial property

249 Main Street, Wethersfield, CT, Connecticut 06109, Wethersfield real estate, Wethersfield commercial property,,

heirloom houseSource: 249 Main Street, Wethersfield, CT, Connecticut 06109, Wethersfield real estate, Wethersfield commercial property

Don’t miss your chance to own a piece of history, located directly next door to Historic Comstock Ferre & Co Seed Company & The Heirloom Market in Weathersfield, CT.  Immerse yourself in Old Wethersfield by owning the Simeon Belden House (circa1767). One of the most important seed related houses in America, it is the home place of the original Wethersfield Seed Gardens.  The Belden House features high-style Georgian facade, gambrel roof, scroll pediment front doorway, and raised garden beds in the backyard. The property is adjacent to historic Comstock Ferre & Co, currently operated by the Heirloom Market offering a full selection of Baker Creek Seeds.

The National Heirloom Expo – SEPTEMBER 5-7 2017, Santa Rosa CA


Help us get the word out about the Heirloom Expo

Event Info at

We are in high gear preparing for our 7th annual National Heirloom Exposition onSeptember 5, 6, 7 in Santa Rosa, California.  We are again seeking volunteers to help us spread the word. We need your help especially if you live on the West Coast and would like to distribute brochures to let people know about the Expo, please email us  Please consider sharing the info with your garden groups, educational organizations, churches, pure food societies, etc.

The National Heirloom Expo features three full days of nationally and internationally acclaimed speakers that include Vandana Shiva, Ronnie Cummins, Jeffrey Smith, Robert Kennedy, Jr., along with much more.  More than 4000 varieties of local produce will by displayed.  Purchase gardening supplies, seeds, sustainable living goods, and so much more from 300 vendors.  The exhibit hall will be home to more than 150 heirloom-related exhibits.

Please email us at and let us know how many brochures you can distribute to let more people know about this exciting event.

SEPTEMBER 5-7 2017, Santa Rosa CA

Source: The National Heirloom Expo – SEPTEMBER 5-7 2017, Santa Rosa CA

Four Power Herbs for Summer – Urban Moonshine

Here are four summer power herbs that are not only in gorgeous bloom, but are also appropriate for the times and can act as everyday medicine.

Source: Four Power Herbs for Summer – Urban Moonshine

Review on the Effectiveness of Aloe Vera for Oral Diseases

The succulent leaves of the aloe vera (Aloe vera, Xanthorrhoeaceae) plant have been used medicinally for hundreds of years. The clear gel, or mucilage, found inside the leaves, is well known for having wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, and analgesic properties. These attributes could potentially help in treating oral ailments. The aim of this systematic review was to accumulate and assess clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of aloe vera preparations in treating various oral diseases.

Studies on aloe vera were eligible if they were randomized, controlled, single- or double-blind, cross-sectional, or case-controlled trials published as full papers in English. PubMed (Medline), Scopus, Cochrane Database, Embase, and ScienceDirect were searched from July 1998 to December 2015. Search terms included “herbs,” “Ayurveda,” and “oral mucosa.” The Jadad scale (a scale ranging from 0 to 5, where the higher number indicates higher trial quality) was used to assess quality.

In total, 15 articles met the inclusion criteria. Only six trials achieved a Jadad score of 4/5; the rest scored between 0 and 3. Most studies were carried out in hospital clinics in countries such as Iran, Spain, India, the United States, and Saudi Arabia. Study populations ranged from 20 to 110 patients with clinically diagnosed oral mucosal lesions. Five of the 15 studies focused on patients with oral lichen planus (OLP). Two studies examined efficacy on oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF) in patients. The remaining studies investigated the effects of aloe vera on burning mouth syndrome, radiation-induced mucositis, Candida-associated denture stomatitis, xerostomia, and minor recurrent aphthous/stomatitis. All studies demonstrated a low risk of bias using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool. Blinding bias was low among all studies except one on Candida-associated denture stomatitis. Randomization sequence bias was high in seven studies.

Most studies showed statistically significant results for efficacy of aloe vera in treatment of oral lesions. There were no withdrawals due to adverse effects of aloe vera in any of the clinical trials. This review found aloe vera was most beneficial in patients with OLP. All five studies in patients with OLP demonstrated a low risk of bias and proved aloe vera effectively reduced lesion-associated pain and burning sensation, leading to partial or complete remission of symptoms. Studies conducted in patients with OSMF showed aloe vera to be effective in all stages of OSMF, particularly mild-stage OSMF clinically and early-stage OSMF histopathologically. Pain and burning sensations were significantly reduced in OSMF studies, and other outcome measures (mouth opening, cheek flexibility, tongue protrusion) were promising. The overall quality of OSMF studies was good with low risk of bias. Four trials in patients with aphthous stomatitis were reviewed, consisting of 319 patients. The overall quality of these studies was good. Lesion healing improved and there was significant remission of pain, erythema, and lesion size. Aloe vera was found to be less beneficial in patients with radiation-induced mucositis, as it was not effective in improving tolerance to head and neck radiotherapy, decreasing mucositis, or decreasing soreness; however, quality-of-life measures were improved in the patients receiving aloe vera. In the single Candida study reviewed, aloe vera had an anticandidal oral effect surpassed by that of Triphala, an Ayurvedic combination remedy.

Lack of randomization, lack of double-blinding, and a lack of description for withdrawals, dropouts, and methods to generate the sequence of randomization were all prevalent limitations that excluded trials from this review. The studies included demonstrated aloe vera has a wide spectrum of properties and uses and is a promising agent in treating oral lesions. However, based on this review, aloe vera may be better suited to OLP, OSMF, and aphthous stomatitis lesions versus those induced by radiation or Candida. For aloe vera to be more seriously considered for clinical treatment of oral lesions, future clinical trials should strive to meet more rigorous standards.


Nair GR, Naidu GS, Jain S, Nagi R, Makkad RS, Jha A. Clinical effectiveness of aloe vera in the management of oral mucosal diseases – A systematic review. J Clin Diagn Res. August 1, 2016;10(8): ZE01-ZE07. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2016/18142.8222.


Artichoke Leaf Extract Shows a Potential Mild Benefit to Those with Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of abnormalities such as hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, and obesity, and may lead to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. This condition is also associated with excess reactive oxygen species (ROS), and this redox imbalance is thought to correlate with further problems in metabolic syndrome. Artichoke (Cynara scolymus, Asteraceae) is consumed as a food and used medicinally for gastrointestinal problems. Artichoke leaf extract (ALE) has been shown to have beneficial effects for certain aspects of metabolic syndrome and is reported to have elevated antioxidant capacity. This double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, clinical trial investigated the potential effects of ALE intake on the oxidative stress and diet of patients with metabolic syndrome.

This study took place in Khoy, Iran, from November 2014 to May 2015. Metabolic syndrome was defined for this study as having 3 or more of the following: fasting blood sugar ≥ 100 mg/dL; triglyceride (TG) concentrations ≥ 150 mg/dL; blood pressure ≥ 130/85 mmHg; high-density lipoprotein cholesterol < 40 mg/dL for men or < 50 mg/dL for women; and waist circumference ≥ 95 cm (both men and women). Patients who wished to be in the study and were 20-50 years old were included. Those with systemic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, or Crohn’s disease, or those who, within the past 3 months, were consuming fish oil or antioxidant supplements, were taking pharmaceuticals for lipids or blood pressure or taking corticosteroids, were excluded. Also, those who smoked, were actively trying to lose weight, or had an allergy to artichoke, as well as women who were pregnant, lactating, or menopausal, were excluded.

The primary outcome of the study was any alteration in oxidative stress, with food consumption changes serving as the secondary outcome. The treatment and placebo were provided in tablet form by Dineh Pharmaceutical Company; Qazvin, Iran. ALE was prepared as a water-alcohol extract of leaves, standardized to contain 450 mg of a hydroalcoholic extract of artichoke leaf, with at least 4-5% chlorogenic acid. Placebo tablets contained corn (Zea mays, Poaceae) starch, lactose, and Avicel® (microcrystalline cellulose). Daily dosage was 4 tablets of either ALE (1,800 mg total) or placebo, with 1 tablet taken before breakfast and dinner, and 2 tablets taken before lunch. The total treatment duration was 12 weeks. Unused tablets served as a gauge of compliance. Patients were told not to alter their diet or exercise regimens and to report any adverse side effects.

Physical parameters (body mass index [BMI], weight, and waist circumference) and blood pressure were taken both at baseline and endpoint of the study. Physical activity was measured using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire, with results reported as high, moderate, and low, and dietary information was gathered using the software Nutritionist IV (First DataBank; San Bruno, California). Fasting blood was used for quantifying blood parameters; glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase, both antioxidant enzymes, were measured in red blood cells, while total antioxidant capacity, TG, oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL), and malondialdehyde concentrations, the latter both markers of oxidative stress, were measured in serum.

From 256 patients with metabolic syndrome, 80 were randomly assigned, with 40 patients in each group. In the ALE group, 7 patients were dropped from the study due to hypothyroidism or protocol violations, and 5 were dropped from the placebo group due to stopping the treatment or protocol violations; 33 patients in the ALE group and 35 in the placebo group finished the study. At baseline, no differences were seen between groups in any of the parameters, with 2 exceptions—in the placebo group, BMI was lower (P = 0.051) and diastolic blood pressure was significantly less (P = 0.030). Ox-LDL concentrations decreased significantly in those consuming ALE as compared with baseline (5,647.42 ± 1,031.93 ng/L vs. 5,914.28 ± 965.28 ng/L, P = 0.030). The decrease in ox-LDL across the study in the ALE group was also significantly greater as compared with that in the placebo group (−4.5% vs. −2.3%, P = 0.033). No other changes or differences in oxidative stress markers or enzymes were noted. No adverse side effects were observed.

The consumption of vitamin E and zinc significantly declined at the end of the study in the placebo group (P < 0.05 for both), and the amount of decrease in zinc consumption in the placebo group was significantly greater than that of the ALE group across the study (P = 0.019). In the ALE group, vitamin C consumption decreased, bordering significance (P = 0.061). Also, the percent decrease in TG concentrations was greater at the end of the study in the ALE group as compared with the placebo group (−17.74% vs. −5.02%, P = 0.010). No other parameters, including physical activity, were different from the study.

In conclusion, ALE consumption reduced ox-LDL as well as TG concentrations, indicating a potentially mild benefit to those with metabolic syndrome. As antioxidant status was unaffected in this study, oxidant status may have been acute or the oxidant stress too moderate to be detected. The authors suggest that the bioactivity observed may be due to compounds in ALE. There were some uneven physical parameters at baseline that may have influenced the outcomes reported here. Other discussed limitations include a short study duration and high amount of tablet consumption. Ideally, future studies will investigate the utility of ALE ingestion as an adjuvant for those with metabolic syndrome. The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Rezazadeh K, Aliashrafi S, Asghari-Jafarabadi M, Ebrahimi-Mameghani M. Antioxidant response to artichoke leaf extract supplementation in metabolic syndrome: a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Clin Nutr. March 23, 2017; [epub ahead of print]. pii: S0261-5614(17)30108-5. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2017.03.017.