Artichoke, in addition to being an edible plant, is a mild bitter herb. Extracts of artichoke have been repeatedly shown in double-blind research to be beneficial for people with indigestion, heartburn and low stomach acidity. Artichoke is particularly useful when the problem is lack of bile production by the liver. Extracts providing 500–1,000 mg per day of cynarin, the main active constituent of artichoke, are recommended by doctors.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production. These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.