Herein we describe a water-based protocol that generates Au nanoparticles (AuNPs) by mixing aqueous solutions of HAuCl4 and cynarin (a natural product extract from artichoke leaf). Based on the observations from H-1 NMR spectrum of AuNPs, a polyol oxidation mechanism by metal ions which eventually results in AuNPs formation, is proposed. Basically, the aromatic alcohol groups (1,2-benzenediol) of cynarin are oxidized to alpha-hydroxy ketone intermediate product, and then further oxidized to the vicinal diketone final product while the Au3+ ions are reduced to its atomic form (Au-0) which leads the generation of Au nanoparticles. This new protocol has also been employed to prepare multiply twinned Pd nanoparticles and Ag cubical aggregates. Due to exclusion of organic solvent, surfactant, or stabilizer for all these synthesis, this protocol may provide a simple, versatile, and environmentally benign route to fabricate noble-metal nanoparticles having various compositions and morphologies. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.