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Seasonal Medicine


Cynara scolymus

Spring has officially sprung, and with it also comes the application of some of my favorite seasonal remedies such as my friend,  Artichoke. Used primarily as a liver and gallbladder-supportive herb, this bitter plant is a perfect companion for the spring which is the season of the liver in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). The lessons of this ancient healing system teach us the value of honoring different body organs at different times of the year, helping to promote their well-being for the many seasons to come. In spring we honor the liver by eating liver-supportive herbs and foods and making sure to nourish this vital organ.


Liver Support + Artichoke

A key player in both digestion and detoxification, the liver's role in assimilating our nutrients, as well as excreting toxins that are from the body, makes it an integral part of our overall health. To me, the duality of the liver reminds me of an all-knowing gatekeeper - helping us to both nourish and release, assimilating that which serves us, and releasing and which does not. An organ that is associated with the emotion of anger, having a healthy liver (both energetically and physically) helps keep the flow of transformative energy alive and well in the body.

Artichoke leaves are commonly used as a bitter tonic in herbalism, helping to support the digestive process and nourish the liver at the same time. As a hepatic and cholagogue artichoke leaf helps to support the production of bile in the liver as well as the release of bile from the gallbladder, which in turn allows us to digest our fats properly. As a hepatoprotective herbal, artichoke leaf also helps to protect and nourish this vital organ, and is one of the most quintessential liver herbs in Western herbal materia medica.

Artichoke Vs. Artichoke Leaves

While the leaves of this plant are most commonly used for liver support, the tender young blossoms (artichokes) can also be eaten for a gentler version of the leaf's stronger medicine. Also a seasonal plant, spring is the perfect time to enjoy in this culinary favorite.

Bitter Herbs + Spring

While artichoke is one of my favorite springtime bitters, there are many other bitter herbs  (which are found abundantly in the season) that can also help to support the liver and digestion. All bitter herbs help to stimulate the digestive process and act as a support to the liver too. A once very regular part of most cuisines, the bitter flavor has been mostly removed from the ingredient in the American diet. Most traditional cultures still incorporate this important flavor into their flavor profiles, and the societies surrounding most definitely reap the benefits.


Other examples of bitter-flavored foods include dandelion leaf, radicchio, arugula, frisée, bitter melon, chicory, and burdock. To learn more about bitters, check out my blog from last season all about their history and use.


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Brinckmann, Josef, and Marisa Williams. “Artichoke.” Artichoke - American Botanical Council,

“Artichoke, Globe.” A Modern Herbal | Artichoke, Globe,

Conversations with mentor, Dr. William Morris (Ph.D., LAc, DAOM, RH, MSEd) on the teachings of TCM

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Note: The information on this site has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and is for educational, historical, and research purposes, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this site should not be used as medical advice. If you have a medical concern please seek out a qualified healthcare professional, and always consult your physician before adding herbal supplements into your diet, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or on medication.



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