It is well known that water-soluble extracts of artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) leaves exert choleresis. When studying this effect in vitro using primary cultured rat hepatocytes and cholephilic fluorescent compounds, it was noticed that the artichoke leaf extracts not only stimulated biliary secretion, but that they also reestablished it when secretion was inhibited by addition of taurolithocholate to the culture medium. Furthermore, taurolithocholate-induced bizarre bile canalicular membrane distortions detectable by electron microscopy could be prevented by artichoke leaf extracts in a dose-dependent manner when added simultaneously with the bile acid. These effects were exerted by the flavonol luteolin and, to a lesser extent, by luteolin-7-O-glucoside, while chlorogenic acid and 1.5-dicaffeoyl quinic acid were almost ineffective. Surprisingly, metabolites produced by the cultured hepatocytes were able to stimulate biliary secretion substantially as well as prevent canalicular membrane deformation. These results demonstrate that artichoke leaf extracts exert a potent anticholestatic action at least in the case of taurolithocholate-induced cholestasis. Flavonoids and their metabolites may contribute significantly to this effect.