Scientific Name(s): Cichorium intybus L.
Common Name(s): Blue sailor's succory, Chicory, Coffeeweed, Sugarloaf, Wild succory, Witloof
C. intybus is a perennial plant indigenous to Europe, India, and Egypt. It grows as a weed in temperate climates and is widely cultivated in northern Europe. It was introduced to the United States in the late 19th century. Chicory has bright blue iridescent flowers that bloom from July to September. The dried root is the primary part used. When flowering, chicory has a tough, grooved, slightly hairy stem and stands 30 to 100 cm (10 to 40 in) tall. A milky exudate is found in the stems and leaves as well as in the root. C. intybus L. var. foliosum is grown primarily for its leaves, and var. sativum is used for its roots. Cichorium endivia is a closely related species in the genus.PLANTS 2012, Pirson 2009, Blumenthal 2000
In cultivation, chicory roots are "forced" during the fall and winter to produce 2 types of leaves used as greens: Barbe de capucin and witloof (or French endive). The leaves of young plants are used as potherbs, which are cooked like spinach. Leaves of older plants, when blanched, are used like celery. Chicory roots are boiled and eaten with butter. They are also roasted and used to add a bitter, mellow taste to coffee and tea or used as a substitute for coffee. In Indian texts, whole plant chicory is used as a heart, digestive, stomach, and liver tonic, as well as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory agent. Use of chicory for dyspepsia and as an appetite stimulant is recognized by the German Commission E.Blumenthal 2000, Kimari 2012
The roots contain large amounts of the polylsaccharide fructan inulin, a bitter principle consisting of 1 part protocatechuic aldehyde to 3 parts inulin, as well as lactucin and lactucopicrin. In addition, the root contains a large number of steam-distillable aromatic compounds. Cichoriosides, ixerisoside, magnolialide, eudesmanolides, sesquiterpene lactones, caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids, coumarins, polyphenols, and other compounds have been identified.
Acetophenone provides the characteristic chicory aroma. Upon roasting, inulin is converted to oxymethylfurfural, a compound with a coffee-like smell.
Constituents of the greens include chicoric acid (dicaffeoyl tartaric acid), flavonoids, catechol tannins, glycosides, carbohydrates, unsaturated sterols and triterpenoids, sesquiterpene lactones, and tartaric acid.
Uses and Pharmacology
Clinical trials are generally lacking, and evidence from animals studies conducted in the 1980s and '90s has not been pursued.
A pilot study of 40 individuals older than 50 years found limited efficacy (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index scale) in osteoarthritis of the knee and hip at the highest of 3 doses tested (600 to 1,800 mg/day in divided doses for 1 month). Further trials are required.Olsen 2010
Radical scavenging activity and antioxidant effects have been demonstrated and may be due to the phenolic content of the roots or to the constituent beta-sitosterol.Suntar 2012, Lante 2011 This antioxidant activity may be responsible for observed hepatoprotective effects.Nassirian 2008, Atta 2010, Abd El-Mageed 2011, Minaiyan 2012, Zafar 1998
A study in 27 healthy adults demonstrated decreased whole blood and plasma viscosity following daily consumption of 300 mL chicory coffee (caffeine free) over 1 week. Effects on platelet aggregation were mixed. Chicory is rich in phenolics, such as caffeic acid, that have demonstrated inhibition of platelet aggregation in vitro.Schumacher 2011 In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 54 adults with type 2 diabetes, significant improvements were observed in systolic blood pressure (P=0.01) and diastolic blood pressure (P=0.03) after 2 months of chicory inulin (10 g enriched with oligofructose).Farhangi 2016
Improvement in skin barrier protection was observed with 28-day application of 3% chicory root extract gel cream in 50 healthy mature adults. Prevention of transepidermal water loss and improvement in skin microrelief were significant with the chicory root extract plus ultraviolet formulation compared to controls.Maia Campos 2017
No association of diabetes with chicory consumption was observed in the evaluation, prediction, or intervention in a control cohort of French women.Sartorelli 2010 Significant improvements were, however, observed in fasting serum glucose (P=0.029) and HbA1c (P=0.01) with 2-month administration of 10 g chicory inulin enriched with oligofructose in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 54 adults with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, significant improvements were observed in the treatment group in calcium (P=0.02), alkaline phosphatase (P=0.001), systolic blood pressure (P=0.01), and diastolic blood pressure (P=0.03).Farhangi, 2016
Mood and cognition
The acute effects of chicory inulin (enriched with oligofructose) on mood, well-being, and cognitive performance was investigated in 47 healthy young adult volunteers enrolled in a placebo-controlled cross-over study. Approximately 3 hours after administration of chicory inulin (5 mg), improvements in happiness, indigestion, and several memory tasks were noticed. However, it was unclear from the data if all measurements were correlated to baseline on the 2 test days.Smith 2015
A commercially available product of chicory oligofructose plus long-chain inulin enriched with oligofructose or placebo was taken for 6 weeks in a double-blind, randomized, crossover trial in 15 women at least 10 years postmenopause. The effects of calcium and magnesium absorption as well as bone turnover were measured. Compared with placebo and baseline, the chicory product resulted in a significant increase in calcium and magnesium absorption (P<0.05 each); however, no significant differences were observed in markers of bone turnover. A strong correlation was noted between baseline bone turnover and treatment-induced magnesium absorption (r=0.777; P<0.001). Additionally, the bone mineral density of the lumbar spine was associated with responders versus non-responders.Holloway, 2007
Chicory forage and roots added to the diet of pigs influenced the GI microbacteria.Liu 2012
Inulin derived from chicory is a soluble dietary fiber that resists digestive hydrolysis and is not absorbed in the small intestine but is fermented by colonic bacteria and is thus, by definition, a prebiotic. Inulin is used as a replacement for fat in snack bars and cakes. Studies have shown daily inulin intake increases stool frequency and flatulence (Micka 2017). Effects on GI bacteria largely show an increase in bifidobacteria, with some studies also demonstrating changes in Lactobacillus and Clostridium species in healthy volunteers.Bonnema 2010, Kleesen 2007, Ripoll 2010, Slavin 2011, Kelly 2008, Rodríguez-García 2012 Inulin-rich soluble chicory extract was somewhat effective in relieving constipation in elderly patientsMarteau 2011 as well in healthy adults.Micka 2017 Doses of about 10 g/day appear to be well-tolerated, though nausea, bloating, and flatulence increase as the dosage increases.Bonnema 2010, Ripoll 2010, Marteau 2011 Use of chicory for dyspepsia and as an appetite stimulant is recognized by the German Commission E; however, robust clinical studies appear to be lacking to support this use.Blumenthal 2000
There is no recent published clinical evidence to guide dosage of chicory. Typical doses in traditional use are 3 to 5 g/day.Blumenthal 2000 Native inulin up to 10 g/day is well tolerated in healthy adults.Bonnema 2010
Pregnancy / Lactation
Documented emmenagogue and abortifacient effects. Avoid use.Ernst 2002 Low levels of phytoestrogens have been identified in the milk of cows fed C. intybus.Andersen 2009 Contraceptive activity was observed in female rats in an older study.Keshri 1998
None well documented.
Contact urticaria, occupational allergy, asthma, and anaphylaxis have been reported.Pirson 2009, Willi 2009 A high intake of inulin has been reported to cause flatulence, bloating, and loose stools. Native inulin up to 10 g/day was well tolerated in healthy adults.Bonnema 2010 Case reports are lacking; however, traditional texts suggest caution in the presence of gallstones.Blumenthal 2000
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