Deep-rooted perennial growing to 5 ft (1.5 m). Has a hairy stem, oblong leaves, and blue flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Europe, chicory also grows in North Africa and western Asia. It flourishes along paths and roadsides, and in banks and dry fields. The root is unearthed in spring or autumn.
Root, leaves, flowers.
The root contains up to 58% inulin, caffeic acids, coumarins, flavonoids, polyynes, an essential oil including sesquiterpene lactones, and vitamins and minerals. There is now significant evidence to show that chicory root protects the liver from damage.
History & Folklore
According to Pliny (23–79 CE), chicory juice was mixed with rose oil and vinegar as a remedy for headaches. The roasted root is commonly used as a coffee substitute. The young root can be boiled and eaten like parsnips.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Chicory is an excellent mild bitter tonic for the liver and digestive tract. The root is therapeutically similar to dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), supporting the action of the stomach and liver and cleansing the urinary tract. Chicory is also taken for rheumatic conditions and gout, and as a mild laxative, one particularly appropriate for children. An infusion of the leaves and flowers also aids digestion.
The endive (C. endiva) has similar though milder effects.