Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Chicory grows wild in many places in Europe, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. The plant has a long taproot, and a crown of leaves similar to a dandelion with an almost fluffy underside to the leaves. The stalks bloom with bright blue flowers that are about the size of dandelion flowers. Being almost a weed like plant it can be grown in just about any type of soil as long as the soil is nutrient rich and well drained.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Chicory is similar to dandelion in its herbal effects. It is a good tonic, a good laxative, is gentle enough for children and is good for the digestion. In Egypt today, it is still used as a folk remedy for tachycardia (fast heartbeat). In Pakistani folk medicine the root is used to heal liver disease. It cleanses and detoxifies the urinary tract, and makes a good remedy for children with constipation or digestive problems.
A decoction from tender young leaves can aid sensitive intestinal tracts. It also cleanses the blood and detoxifies the gall bladder. This decoction has also been used to treat jaundice. The roasted root can be used in some diabetic therapies and to correct water retention. Some herbalists believe that chicory is a mild sedative and that it has strong cardiac potential. It stimulates the appetite.
Externally Chicory leaves, when bruised, make a good poultice for skin ailments. They relieve inflammation and swelling. An infusion can be useful for gout-related skin eruptions.
Other Uses Chicory is used in livestock feed in Europe. It is effective in ridding animals of intestinal worms, and it has been added to feed for a long time. The root of the plant is also roasted and added to coffee or used as a coffee substitute. The leaves can be eaten raw in salads when young, or cooked like spinach. The bitter chicory stimulates the digestion as well as being full of nutrients. The leaves can be used to create a blue dye.
Roots, leaves, flowers The roots can be roasted and ground, leaves can be either eaten or used for an infusion, flowers are used either dried or as a food.
Pregnant and nursing women should avoid this herb, as there is some evidence that it may cause bleeding. If you have allergies to the daisy family, be cautious in its use. You may notice a rash in response to ingesting it. In animal tests, there has been some infertility due to ingestion.
When used too much, it can cause a feeling of congestion in the digestive tract.
Preparation and Dosage
Chicory has not been studied extensively for dosage, so you need to rely on a knowledgeable herbalist for the proper amount. If you are eating the greens, eat like any other green vegetable.