The importance of Artichoke Extract (Cynara scolymus L) in Animal Nutrition
The liver plays an important role in animals subjected to high production requirements. The concept of hepatoprotection basically reflects an appreciation of the critical role of this organ in many aspects of metabolism and the importance of improving its function, which implies the necessity of the use of hepatoprotective substances in animal feed. Many studies have shown the therapeutic value that have plant extracts, such as artichoke leaves (Cynara scolymus L.), known for centuries for its hepatoprotective properties.
Cynara scolymus L. is an ancient herbaceous perennial plant, native from the Mediterranean area, which today is widely cultivated all over the world. The botanical name is derived in part from the tradition of fertilizing the plant with ashes (Latin: cinis, cineris), and partly from the Greek skolymos, meaning ‘‘thistle’’ from the spines found on the bracts (leaves) that enclose the flower heads forming the edible portion of the plant. 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 hepato-biliary diseases and as a digestive aid).
Nutritional properties of both artichoke heads and leaves are linked to their special chemical composition, which includes high concentration of biologically active compounds. These compounds include flavonoids, caffeoylquinic acids, caffeoylquinic acid derivatives, luteolin, scolymoside, cynaroside, chlorogenic acid (a potent antioxidant), inulin and cynarin.
Studies have illuminated certain ways in which artichoke leaf extract works. In the gastrointestinal tract, artichoke leaves extracts work as a digestive aid by increasing the production and flow of bile and regenerating damaged liver cells. Bile is produced by the liver and secreted into the small intestine, where it breaks down fats. It is also important to help carry toxic substances out of the liver, dumping them into the intestine where they can be eliminated. Artichoke leaf is thought to lower cholesterol by two specific mechanisms. First, by increasing bile flow and production, it stimulates the breakdown and elimination of cholesterol. Second, it inhibits the production of cholesterol in the liver. Some studies have suggested that chlorogenic acid, cynaroside and luteolin are primarily responsible for the cholesterol-inhibiting effects of artichoke leaf, while cynarin seems to be the compound responsible for the liver cell protective effect and more influential in promoting bile production.
Results of some studies were obtained in tests carried out in commercial establishments, where they saw improvements in the performance of broilers receiving a hepatoprotective product continuously in the feed, the birds medicated showed respect to controls, increased body weight and daily gain with better feed conversion and lower mortality rate. The productivity index in treated birds was significantly higher than controls. These results were awarded to colagoga-cholertic action attributed to the artichoke extract which would lead to more efficient use of the ration.