encyclopedia

Chicory Root

Scientific Names:    

Cichorium intybus L. [Fam. Compositae]    
     

Forms:    

Infusion made from fresh or dried leaves and root of Cichorium intybus L.    
    
 
Traditional Usage:    

– Allergies
– Anti-inflammatory
– Appetite loss
– Bile Deficiency
– Constipation
– Digestive Problems
– Diuretic
– Eyesight Problems
– Fever
– Headache
– Indigestion
– Gallbladder Problems
– Laxative
– Liver Health Maintenance
– Poultice
– Rheumatism
– Skin Disorders
– Sore Eyes
– Sore mouth and throat
– Sugar Control
– Swellings
– Tonic     
     
    
Overview:    

Chicory, Cichorium intybus L. [Fam. Compositae], is a perennial plant native to Europe. The medicinal properties of chicory can be found in its leaves and large taproot, which act as a tonic, diuretic, and laxative. Like burdock and dandelion (related Compositae plants), chicory root stimulates the biliary tract, and thereby improves digestion. Traditionally, chicory root has been given for liver health maintenance, skin eruptions, rheumatism, gallstones, constipation, malaria, and fever. The dried, roasted and ground root is popular as a coffee substitute. In Asian medicine, chicory is believed to relieve headache, inflammation, sore throat, and skin allergies. Chicory leaves can be used externally as a poultice and applied to swellings, inflammations and sore eyes. The young leaves can also be eaten and are most often used in salads much like the garden endive. Chicory roots contain at least thirty percent inulin and other fructo-oligo-saccharides. A recent critical review examined the composition and physiological effects of inulin and oligofructose from chicory root. Inulin and oligofructose, unlike sugars and starches, are not digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract and they do not affect blood sugar or insulin levels. Inulin and oligofructose are fermented by beneficial colonic bifidobacteria and selectively stimulate their growth. Researchers conclude that inulin and oligofructose are valid forms of dietary fiber, that is, saccharides of plant origin showing resistance to digestion and absorption in the small intestine, and fermentation in the colon to produce short-chain fatty acids that are absorbed and metabolized in various parts of the body. They also induce a bulking effect characteristic of dietary fibers. Based on scientific studies, inulin increases mineral absorption during digestion, boosts bifidobacteria within the digestive tract and eliminates pathogens. Inulin also stimulates the immune system, suppresses abnormal growths, is beneficial for kidney health, improves blood sugar control and reduces serum cholesterol.    
     
    
Active Ingredients:    

Chicory root contains more than one-third inulin (C12H20O10).  Inulin has been defined as a polydisperse carbohydrate material consisting mainly, if not exclusively, of beta (2-1) fructosyl-fructose links ranging from 2 to 60 units long. Native chicory inulin has an average degree of polymerization (DP) of 10 to 20, whereas oligofructose contains chains of DP 2 to 10, with an average DP of 4. Chicory root also contains a bitter glucoside (C32H34O19); sugar; pectin; and a bitter principle not yet isolated. The leaves yield a bitter substances; albuminoids; sugar; and salts.    
     
    
Suggested Amount:    

Chicory root can be eaten as a food (Belgian endive root) or roasted and used as a coffee or tea substitute. For medicinal purposes, the recommended dose of chopped chicory root is 3-5 grams taken once to several times daily. To make an infusion of chicory root, pour boiling water on 2-4 grams (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon) of cut and dried chicory root, steep for 10 minutes, then strain. The recommended daily dosage for refined inulin is 10 grams daily (2 teaspoonfuls).    
     
    
Drug Interactions:    

None known.    
     
    
Contraindications:    

None known.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

None known. Direct skin contact may cause irritation in sensitive people.    
     
    
References:    

Flamm G, Glinsmann W, Kritchevsky D, Prosky L, Roberfroid M. Inulin and oligofructose as dietary fiber: a review of the evidence. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2001 Jul; 41(5): 353-62.
 
Kim TW, Yang KS. Antioxidative effects of Cichorium intybus root extract on LDL (low density lipoprotein) oxidation. Arch Pharm Res. 2001 Oct; 24(5): 431-6.
 
Potterton, D. (ed.) 1983. Culpeper's Color Herbal. Copyright W. Foulsham and Co. Ltd. 1983. Publ. by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., Two Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10016. Pp. 186.
 
Stevens CV, Meriggi A, Booten K. Chemical modification of inulin, a valuable renewable resource, and its industrial applications. Biomacromolecules. 2001 Spring; 2(1): 1-16.
 
Zafar R, Mujahid Ali S. Anti-hepatotoxic effects of root and root callus extracts of Cichorium intybus L. J Ethnopharmacol. 1998 Dec; 63(3): 227-31.