It is not easy to determine the origins of the imposing, regal 'Globe Artichoke', a plant that grows to an impressive height of about 2m tall! The huge, oversized flowerhead makes a bold statement: the sharp, armoured with prickly leaves protects its inner treasure. Most likely Globe Artichoke is a cultivated variety of the wild 'carduus', a similar, but more prickly species, which has featured on Mediterranean menus since the classical era. The ancients mention them both, as food and as medicine. By the 9th century the Globe artichoke was grown in Italy and it is believed to have been introduced to France by Catherine de Medici, when she married Henry II in 1533, at the age of 14. Catherine was said to have been very fond of this strange vegetable flower - perhaps not least because of its alluring reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Artichoke is a perennial vegetable plant closely related to Milkthistle with which it shares many of its medicinal properties. Traditionally, it has been used to aid digestion, to break down fats and to stimulate the flow of bile, which is vital for helping the body to detox. Studies have shown that artichoke can lower cholesterol and has a beneficial effect on heart health and blood sugar levels. Artichoke is approved by the German commission E and many exciting studies are underway, including some that focus on anti-cancer properties associated with the anti-oxidant constituents of this plant. The signature of this plant is clear: it is an herb of Jupiter and Mars. As such it is an ideal choice for clearing the toxins of anger and resentment. It can wash those old blockages away and helps the user to rise above and find his or her own power again, unbound by lingering negative feelings about the past, which prevent the individual from moving forward.
While most of the historic sources hold artichoke in high esteem for its various beneficial properties and aphrodisiac powers, Gerard thought otherwise: 'which way so ever they be drest and eaten, they stirre and cause a filthy loathsom stinking winde within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented and are a meat more fit for swine.'