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Medically reviewed on Apr 2, 2018

Scientific Name(s): Chicorium intybus L. Family: Asteraceae (daisies)

Common Name(s): Blue sailor's succory , chicory , wild succory


Chicory leaves and roots are used as a vegetable. Roasted roots are ground and brewed. Chicory is a sedative with potential cardioactive properties. Chicory's oligosaccharides are probiotic and are beneficial in maintaining healthy GI flora. Inulin type fractions of the plant may help certain conditions including constipation, diarrhea, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Chicory has also been noted as an appetite stimulant and for dyspepsia.


There is no recent published clinical evidence to guide dosage of chickory. Typical doses of the herb in classical use are 3 to 5 g/day.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Documented adverse effects (emmenagogue and abortifacient effects). Avoid use. 1 , 2


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Contact dermatitis and various allergies have been reported. Significant contraceptive activity was observed in female rats orally administered seed extracts and other fractions of chicory. In case of gallstones, consult with a physician before taking chicory.


Toxic contamination with foreign substances or bacteria has been noted.


Chicory is a perennial plant indigenous to Europe, India, and Egypt. It was introduced to the US in the late 19th century. It grows as a weed in temperate climates and is widely cultivated in northern Europe. There are 2 principal types: The Brunswick variety has deeply cut leaves and generally spreads horizontally; the Magdeburg variety has undivided leaves and grows erect. Chicory has bright blue flowers that bloom from July to September. The dried root is the primary part of the plant used.


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, in which case they 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. Chicory is on the FDA Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.


Chicory flowers contain cichoriin, which is 6,7-glucohydroxycoumarin. The roots contain up to 8% inulin (a polysaccharide), a bitter principle consisting of 1 part protocatechuic aldehyde to 3 parts inulin, as well as lactucin and lactucopicrin. 3 Constituents of the greens include chicoric acid (dicaffeoyl tartaric acid), flavonoids, catechol tannins, glycosides, carbohydrates, unsaturated sterols and triterpenoids, sesquiterpene lactones, and tartaric acid. 4 , 5 Leaf proteins from chicory greens have also been reported. 6

The root contains a large number of steam-distillable aromatic compounds. Acetophenone provides the characteristic chicory aroma. Upon roasting, inulin is converted to oxymethylfurfural, a compound with a coffee-like smell. 5 Fructan:fructan 6G-fructosyltransferase (6G-FFT) was found to be an important enzyme in the formation of inulin. According to 1 report, introduction of 6G-FFT from 1 plant into chicory resulted in inulin synthesis. 7 Chicory is the source of the taste-modifier maltol, which is known to intensify the flavor of sugar.

The caffeine content of beverages containing chicory was determined using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). A coffee/chicory mixture substitute contains 3.18 mg/fl oz of caffeine, whereas instant coffee contains 12.61 mg/fl oz of caffeine. 8

In identifying closely related chicory varieties, the use of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by leucine aminopeptidase and esterase staining of bulked seed sample extracts has been developed. 9

Uses and Pharmacology

Animal data

Research reveals no animal data regarding the use of chicory as a probiotic.

Clinical data

The naturally occurring oligosaccharides in chicory are considered “probiotics” entering the large intestine and are substrates for intestinal fermentation. This maintenance of microbial composition in the colon is important for GI tract health. Because of certain bond configurations, these oligosaccharides resist hydrolysis by salivary and intestinal enzymes. In the colon they are fermented by anaerobic bacteria. The most well-known effects of indigestible oligosaccharides is the selective stimulation of bifidobacteria, reducing the growth of other pathogenic bacteria. 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14

Long- vs short-chain fructans from chicory have also been compared in the intestine. Absorption, transit time, fermentation factors, and abdominal symptoms have been studied in a 10-patient, single-blind trial. 15 More human trials are needed.

Animal data

Chicory fructans oligofructose and inulin have also been found to inhibit colon carcinogenesis in rats. 16 , 17 Another study reports weak-to-moderate comutagenic effects using an extract of chicory greens against induced mutagenicity in vitro. 18 Other fruits and vegetables have been studied with respect to induced mutagenic activities. Chicory was shown to have strong-to-moderate antimutagenic activities that remained heat stable. 19

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of chicory as an antimutagenic.

Cardiovascular conditions
Animal data

Experiments with the isolated toad heart show that chicory extracts reduce cardiac rate in a manner similar to quinidine. Although variable from one preparation to another, this effect is evident before and after ganglionic blockade and atropinization. Its potency is increased by heating the extract. These findings suggest chicory constituents may be effective in treatment of disorders involving tachycardia, arrhythmias, and fibrillation. 3

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of chicory for cardiovascular conditions.

Other uses

The water-soluble fraction of chicory has a sedative effect and antagonizes the stimulating effects of coffee and tea via a CNS mechanism. Lactucin and related compounds may be in part responsible for the plant's sedative effects.

Root callus extract of chicory demonstrated liver protectant effects against carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatocellular damage. 20 Alcoholic extracts of the root also have anti-inflammatory activity. 21

Contraceptive activity was observed in female rats orally administered (days 1 to 10 postcoital) seed extracts of chicory, as well as certain other plant fractions. 22 Chicory has also been noted as an appetite stimulant and for dyspepsia. 23

Studies conducted on rats show that inulin from chicory seems very effective in promoting propionic fermentation and enhances the calcium content of the large intestines. 24 A reduction in intestinal absorption of glucose was observed in another report in rats administered chicory extract. 25 Improved lipid metabolism was demonstrated in rats fed inulin-containing chicory extract, as well. This effect possibly was due to changes in absorption or synthesis of cholesterol. 26 Chicory's inulin type fructans may have potential to benefit many conditions or disease states including constipation, infectious diarrhea, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. 27 , 28


There is no recent published clinical evidence to guide dosage of chickory. Typical doses of the herb in classical use are 3 to 5 g/day.


Documented adverse effects (emmenagogue and abortifacient effects). Avoid use. 1 , 2


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Handling of chicory has been reported to cause occupational contact dermatitis. This effect may be caused by the presence of sesquiterpene lactones. 29 , 30 Other allergies to chicory include case reports or letters of occupational asthma in a chicory grower, 31 occupational and ingestive allergy to the plant, 32 food allergy, 33 and other allergies. 34 , 35 A recent report investigates chicory extract on mast cell-mediated immediate type allergic reactions. It was demonstrated that the extract inhibits this type of reaction in vivo and in vitro. 36

High levels of inulin (greater than 10%) from chicory in the diet may affect growth in rats and lead to acidic (pH 5.65) cecal fermentation. 24

In case of gallstones, consult with a physician before taking chicory. 23


A study of contamination showed that chicory absorbs the fungicide quintozene through the roots, which may present a toxic hazard. 37 In a study of 64 vegetable samples, 92.5% of the 654 bacterial lines isolated were Enterobacteriaceae , with the more contaminated being celery, fennel, onion, and chicory. These vegetables are a source of contamination and colonization of Enterobacteriaceae , especially in hospitals. 38

Chicory sold commercially has, in some instances, been contaminated with crushed cashew shells that can cause an allergic toxicity similar to that observed with poison ivy. 39


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11. Roberfroid, M. Health benefits of non-digestible oligosaccharides. Adv Exp Med Biol 1997;427:211-19. Review.
12. Roberfroid M, et al. The bifidogenic nature of chicory inulin and its hydrolysis products. J Nutr 1998;128(1):11-19. Review.
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18. Tang X, et al. Inhibition of the mutagenicity of 2-nitrofluorene, 3-nitrofluoranthene and 1-nitropyrene by vitamins, porphyrins and related compounds, and vegetable and fruit juices and solvent extracts. Food Chem Toxicol 1997;35(3-4):373-78.
19. Edenharder R, et al. In vitro effect of vegetable and fruit juices on the mutagenicity of 2-amino-methylimidazo-[4,5-f]quinoline, 2-amino-3,4-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline and 2-amino-3,8-dimethlimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline. Food Chem Toxicol 1994;32(5):443-59.
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21. Benoit P, et al. Biological and phytochemical evaluation of plants. 14. Anti-inflammatory evaluation of 163 species of plants. Lloydia 1976;39:160-71.
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25. Kim M, et al. The water-soluble extract of chicory reduces glucose uptake from the perfused jejunum in rats. J Nutr 1996;126(9):2236-242.
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33. Helbling A, et al. Food allergy to Belgian endive (chicory). J Allergy Clin Immunol 1997;99(6 Pt. 1):854-56.
34. Symons, M. Strange allergy to chicory. Lancet 1988;2(8618):1027.
35. Escudero A, et al. Lettuce and chicory sensitization. Allergy 1999;54(2):183-84.
36. Kim H, et al. Inhibitory effect of mast cell-mediated immediate-type allergic reactions by Chicorium intybus . Pharmacol Res 1999;40(1):61-65.
37. Dejonckheere W, et al. Residues of quintozene, its contaminants and metabolites in soil, lettuce and witloof-chicory, Belgium-1969-74. Pestic Monit J 1976;10(2):68-73.
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