Artichokes are unusual-looking vegetables commonly eaten in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. They need to be cooked to make the flesh soft enough to eat and digest. Like most plants, artichokes contain phytonutrients, plant compounds that may trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. If you commonly experience allergies from plants and vegetables, ask your doctor if artichokes are safe for you to eat.
Artichokes are indigenous to southern Europe and regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and their cultivation dates back thousands of years. Artichokes are actually the flowers of a variety of related plants that produce edible buds. They grow between 3 and 6 inches in diameter and are covered in numerous triangular scales. The edible portions of the buds are the lower sections, which are fleshy and known as the artichoke heart. Artichokes are nutritious vegetables, with the leaves, stem and roots used to make medicinal extracts.
Artichokes have traditionally treated many health ailments. They are exceptionally rich in plant compounds that act as powerful antioxidants, eliminating potentially harmful free radicals from your body. Furthermore, a compound called cynarin stimulates bile flow from the gallbladder and liver, so artichokes help with digestion and combat heartburn, according to the book “Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine.” Artichokes may also combat high cholesterol, kidney and liver problems, edema and arthritis, although more scientific research is needed to support these medical claims. Artichokes are not commonly used to combat allergy symptoms, and in fact may induce allergic reactions in some people.
Artichokes and artichoke extracts are considered safe in moderate amounts, although some people are allergic to plant compounds in artichokes and related species. People with the greatest risk of allergic reactions to artichokes are those who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae and Compositae families, including ragweed, arnica, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies, according to the book “Herbs that Heal: Prescription for Herbal Healing.”
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to artichokes include a skin rash, hives, severe itching, swelling around the mouth and throat, trouble breathing and difficulty swallowing. A severe allergic reaction can become a medical emergency if it leads to anaphylaxis and shock, so take caution if you have allergies to other plants. Other potential negative reactions to artichokes, although not considered allergic, include intestinal gas, abdominal pain and aggravation of gallstone symptoms due to increased bile flow.