Discovering Herbs: Jerusalem Artichoke
What’s in a name?
Not necessarily anything straightforward in the way of information. From the name of this plant, you’d think it was an artichoke from Jerusalem. Not only is it not from Jerusalem, it’s not even from nearby – it hails from North America. Neither is it an artichoke, but a member of the sunflower family. There is some notion that it got its Jerusalem nomenclature from its Italian name, which is ‘girasola’. This translates as ‘rotate towards the sun’ and relates to its habit of following the sun through its orbit. A distortion of ‘girasola’ probably landed the plant with ‘Jerusalem’ as a name.
Jerusalem Artichoke (JA) should equally not be confused with Globe artichoke, which is used for managing cholesterol and lipids in the blood. Jerusalem artichoke can also help with weight control, not through better metabolism of fats but through better management of sugars. The tuber of JA contains inulin, which is an oligosaccharide – there’s a name for you. Oligosaccharides are dietary fibres and have sweetening properties, but despite their sweetness they don’t need the pancreas to produce insulin to deal with them, so they don’t have an adverse effect on blood sugar levels like most sugars do.
It is wobbly blood sugar levels that trigger sugar cravings, causing people to feel hunger pangs that drive them towards sweet foods. If your blood sugar levels are more stable, you will experience fewer cravings and less need to snack frequently. Just what you need when on a diet.
So what else does this American Jerusalem sunflower artichoke do? Remember the inulin? Due to its status as a dietary fibre, it shares the actions of other fibrous substances that swell in the colon to move everything in the right direction. This means that more waste products leave the body and there is less unnecessary weight hanging around in the gut – another bonus for those wanting to lose weight. Having a happily working gut is one of the best ways of feeling energised and active, so exercising is less likely to be a drag.
The other benefit of the ‘bulking’ action is that it creates a feeling of fullness, which helps to decrease the urge to go and eat your entire larder.
There are no drawbacks to using this herb, although those with a sensitive digestive tract may find that the bulking action is too strong and they need to decrease the dose if they experience intestinal discomfort.
Overall, then, this particular member of the sunflower family could potentially bring not a little sunshine into your life, as it helps you to control sugar cravings, regulate your eating habits and feel more active.