Chicorium Intybus

Chicory, Succory, Blue Sailors, Coffeeweed

Botany 

Chircorium Intybus is a member of the Asteraceae family 1. A blue star shaped flower tops a stem that can grow to 3-5 feet in height 2. Oblong leaves are situated in a spiral pattern around the stem 3.  Well-developed roots grow to a depth of at least 8 inches1 and are yellow-brown with a white colored center 3Chicory is a perennial herb that blooms mid-summer. As it is technically a weed, it grows well under many conditions but does require a high amount of moisture and a soil pH between 6 and 7.5 1.

Chemistry

Chicory’s active ingredients include inulin, lactucin, and lactucopicrin2. Inulin is a β-(2–1)-fructose polymer with terminal glucose that is associated with an improvement of general bowel function and health by increasing stool frequency, weight, and decreasing stool pH3,8. Studies have also reported decreased levels of serum triglycerides and blood cholesterol levels8. Inulin stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria, healthy intestinal bacteria, in the gut8. Inulin has also been linked to increased calcium absorption8.

Fun Fact

 

History

It originated in the Mediterranean and Europe, but was brought to North America and was naturalized in colonial Pennsylvania 4. Egyptians began raising the plant for medicinal purposes (most notably as an ingredient in a headache remedy) over 5,000 years ago5. The uses of chicory, both medicinal and culinary, were first mentioned in the Ebers papyrus (1500 B.C.)6.  Chicory has been cultivated for salad greens throughout Europe for centuries2,4. The leaves and stem are used in winter salads or vegetable dishes and the root has been utilized as a coffee substitute since Napoleon’s continental blockade 4

Uses/Pharmacology

Presently, chicory is often harvested after being grown in the dark and then used in vegetable dishes in fine cuisine 4. Another species, C. endive, which has red leaves, is often used for the same purpose. It is also used as a caffeine-free substitute or flavor additive to coffee 3,4. Medicinal uses include making a decoction for loss of appetite, upset stomach, and to stimulate bile production4,5. In Egypt a chicory decoction the dried and roasted root are ingested to treat tachycardia 2.

Dosing/Recipes

To utilize chicory in a coffee or as a replacement for coffee, roots are washed, cut, and dried. To improve flavor, roots are roasted and then powdered and added to coffee 3. For indigestion, acid reflux, and heartburn, boil 1 handful of chopped chicory root in 2 cups (500mL) of water, strain, and drink7.

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions

Use of chicory, especially in food, appears to have few adverse effects, but patients with gallstones should be highly monitored as adverse side effects may occur5.

References Cited

1. Chichorium intybus l.. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CIIN&photoID=ciin_008_ahp.tif

2. Tyler, V. E. (1987). The new honest herbal. (2 ed., pp. 72-73). Philedelphia, PA: George F. Stickley Company.

3. Bais, H. P. and Ravishankar, G. (2001), Cichorium intybus L – cultivation, processing, utility, value addition and biotechnology, with an emphasis on current status and future prospects. J. Sci. Food Agric., 81: 467–484. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.817

4. Crellin, J. K., & Philpott, J. (1989). Herbal medicine past and present: A reference guide to medicinal plants. (Vol. 2). London: Duke University Press.

5. Chicory (chicorum intybus). (2011). Retrieved from http://www.hironsdrug.com/ns/DisplayMonograph.asp?storeID=000E24633A9F44...

6. Schneider A. & Melichamp, L. (2002). Wild medicinal plants: What to look for, when to harvest, how to use. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

7. Wong, J. (2010). Grow your own drugs: Easy recipes for natural remedies and beauty fixes. HarperCollins UK.

8. Niness, K. (1999). Nutritional and health benefits of inulin and oligofructose. The Journal of Nutrition, 129, 1402S.

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