Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family, that usually have bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink.

Many varieties of Chicory are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds), or roots, which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive and it is also grown as a forage crop for livestock.

“Chicory” is also the common name in the United States for curly endive; these two closely related species are often confused.

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Names

Common chicory is also known as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffee weed, cornflower, hendibeh , horse weed, ragged sailors, succor , wild bachelor’s buttons, and wild endive.

Common names for varieties of var. foliosum include endive, radicchio, Belgian endive, French endive, red endive, sugarloaf, and witloof (witlof).

Description

When flowering, chicory has a tough, grooved, and more or less hairy stem , from 30 to 100 cm (10 to 40 in) tall with the stalked , lanceolate and unlobed leaves.

These flowers heads are 2 to 4 cm (0.79 to 1.6 in) wide, and usually bright blue, rarely white or pink. From the two rows of  involucral bracts , the inner is longer and erect, the outer is shorter and spreading. This plant  flowers are  from July until October. The achenes have no feathery hairs, but do have toothed scales on top.

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Leaf Chicory

Wild

Wild chicory leaves usually have a bitter taste which appreciated in certain cuisines.

The bitterness is reduced, by cooking and discarding the water, after which the chicory leaves may be sautéed with garlic, anchovies, and other ingredients. In this form, the resulting greens might be combined with pasta or accompany meat dishes.

Cultivated

Chicory may be cultivated for its leaves and usually eaten raw as salad leaves. Cultivated chicory is generally divided into three types, which of  them are many varieties:

  • Radicchio usually has variegated red or red and green leaves. Some only refer to the white-veined red-leaved type as radicchio, that also known as red endive and red chicory whit a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted. It can also be used to add color and zest to salads.
  • Sugar loaf looks rather like cos lettuce, with tightly packed leaves.
  • It has a small head of cream-colored, bitter leaves and it is grown completely underground or indoors in the absence of sunlight in order to prevent the leaves from turning green and opening up .The plant has to be kept just below the soil surface as it grows, only showing the very tip of the leaves. It is often sold wrapped in blue paper to protect it from light and so preserve its pale color and delicate flavor. The smooth, creamy white leaves may be served stuffed, baked, boiled, cut and cooked in a milk sauce, or simply cut raw. The tender leaves are slightly bitter; the whiter the leaf, the less bitter the taste. The harder inner part of the stem at the bottom of the head should be cut out before cooking to prevent bitterness. Belgium exports chicon/witloof to over 40 different countries. The technique for growing blanched endives was accidentally discovered in the 1850s at the Botanical Garden of Brussels in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium. Today France is the largest producer of endive.

The Catalogna chicory includes a whole subfamily of chicory and used throughout Italy .

Although leaf chicory is often called “endive”, true endive is a different species in the genus and should not be confused with Belgian endive.

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Root Chicory

Root chicory has been cultivated in Europe as a coffee substitute. They are baked, ground, and used as an additive, especially in the Mediterranean region where the plant is native. As a coffee additive, it is also mixed in Indian filter coffee, and in parts of  Southeast Asia, South Africa, and southern United States, particularly in New Orleans. It has been more widely used during economic crises such as the Great Depression in the 1930s and during World War II in Continental Europe. Chicory, with sugar beet and rye, was used as an ingredient of the East German Mischkaffee (mixed coffee), introduced during the “East German coffee crisis” of 1976-79.

Around 1970, it was found that the root contains up to 20% inulin, a polysaccharide similar to starch..It is used as a sweetener in the food industry with a sweetening power 1⁄10 that of sucrose and is sometimes added to yogurts as a prebiotic. Inulin is also gaining popularity as a source of soluble dietary fiber and functional food.

Chicory root extract is a dietary supplement or food additive produced by mixing dried, ground chicory root with water, and removing the insoluble fraction by filtration and centrifugation. Other methods may be used to remove pigments and sugars. It is used as a source of soluble fiber.

Agents Responsible for bitterness

The bitter substances are primarily the two sesquiterpene lactones lactucin and lactucopicrin.

Medicinal Use

Root chicory contains volatile oils similar to those found in plants in the related genus which includes Tansy, and is similarly effective at eliminating intestinal worms. All parts of the plant contain these volatile oils, with the majority of the toxic components concentrated in the plant’s root.

Chicory is well known for its toxicity to internal parasites. Studies indicate that ingestion of chicory by farm animals results in reduction of worm burdens, which has prompted its widespread use as a forage supplement.

It is variously used as a tonic and as a treatment for gallstones, gastro-enteritis, sinus problems and cuts and bruises. Chicory contains inulin, which may help humans with weight loss, constipation, improving bowel function and general health.

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Alternative medicine

Chicory has been listed as one of the 38 plants that are used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine. However, according to Cancer Research UK, “there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer”.

Native American use

The Cherokee use an infusion of the root as a tonic for nerves.The Iroquois use a decoction of the roots a wash and apply a poultice of it chancres and fever sores.

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History

The chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: In 1766, Frederick the Great banned the importation of coffee into Prussia leading to the development of a coffee-substitute by Brunswick innkeeper Christian Gottlieb Förster (died 1801), who gained a concession in 1769/70 to manufacture it in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795 there were 22 to 24 factories of  this type in Brunswick. Lord Monboddo describes the plant in 1779 as the “chicoree”, which the French cultivated as a pot herb. In Napoleonic Era France, chicory frequently appeared as either an adulterant in coffee, or as a coffee substitute. Chicory was also adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and has become common in the United States. It was also used in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, where Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence, has been on sale since 1885.

The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time. Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink.

In the United States chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in prisons. By the 1840s, the port of New Orleans was the second largest importer of coffee (after New York). Louisianans began to add chicory root to their coffee when Union naval blockades during the American Civil War cut off the port of New Orleans, thereby creating a long-standing tradition.

A common meal in Rome, puntarelle, is made with chicory sprouts.The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that Chicory is a native plant of western Asia, North Africa and Europe.

Chicory is also mentioned in certain sericulture (silk-growing) texts. It is said that the primary caretaker of the silkworms, the “silkworm mother”, should not eat or even touch it.

The chicory flower is often seen as inspiration for the Romantic concept of the Blue Flower . It could open locked doors, according to European folklore.

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Benefits of Chicory

Chicory is one of the effective Pharmaceutical plants that have several kinds in the nature. All of its elements have got many advantages for the human body, if it is used in a balanced manner. Chicory hasgot a specific place among Iranians from long time ago. All grandmothers have maintained a small glass of Chicory among their perfumes and spices in their kitchens, beside to Carboy, Shutter, Borage and Mint.

Apothecary and Pundits specialized in Medicinal Plants and Traditional medicine have classified Chicory as a plant with cool Nature, which its  benefits are  removing fever and inflammation of body,feeling of lethargy,whey-faced,yellow face, and specially laziness of Liver, and if we use it continuously and carefully, thenwe can see and feel its effectiveness inour body.

From the past in Iran people have lots of information about Chicory advantages and use several parts of Chicory plus its water for
filtering the blood and Cleansing the liver. Chicory has 2 kinds of outdoor or wild and the cultivated by farmers. The wild kind can be found near the rivers and meadows, at the beginning of spring.

Harvest time of Chicory is in the middle of May that takes about one month.

Adding Chicory to Sekanjabin syrup is very common in Iran and people use it to come along with lettuce as an afternoon snack.

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Benefits of Chicory for Livre

Chicory with its effects on the liver provides such a condition that cause sexcretion of  bile and icterus from the body and makes our liver fresh, so it is known asan effective sedative for fever.

Liver is a detoxification organ in the body which has got more than 500 vital functions, like separation of nutrients from waste, detoxification, chemical decomposition, destruction of microbes, regulation of hormones, the metabolism of fats, proteins, and sugars, and urea excretion.

Everything we eat, drink, breath or touch with our skin, finally effects on our liver, thus any dysfunction in our liver leads to many problems for the body and its side-effects spread through the whole body. Pale of the skin, fatigue, inflammation, thirst, elevation of blood lipids and etc.are the signs which show there is a problem with liver.

From the other benefits of Chicory are being laxative and diuretic. Having removed poison from the body, it eliminates the bilious fevers, jaundice, and pale caused by warm nature foods. It cleans gallstones , also the stones from kidney and bladder. It also heals gastritis and stimulates our stomach and boosts our appetite.

The more bitter chicory is, the more it is useful for healing the liver diseases.

The other benefits of Chicory

Chicory is good for the people who have Gout and Hepatitis.

Immunization against infectious diseases is another benefit of Chicory.

Chicory is rich in Vitamin C, whichits wild type has got herbal phosphorous and iron.

Chicory is good for skin and by strengthening the liver, makes the skin color brighter,heals chronic skin diseases, especially eczema, urinary sediment and rashes caused by warmed nature foods.

Chicory is the best medicine to boost sex power. This is one of the specific properties of Chicory for men.

Out of the other benefits of Chicory, as it is good for Liver, it can increase the fertility of hormones and sperms, also it affects and regulates themale and female chromosomes and divides them proportionately.

Using chicory is good for the treatment of high blood pressure, strengthening the stomach, liver, kidney, treatment of neurasthenia and also a resolver for thirst.

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Chicory Harms

In view of the chicory benefits, it has got some disadvantages either.

Long-term consumption of chicory causes the destruction of retinal vessels, drop of blood pressure and increase of discharges .

In view of the fact that the consumption of chicory may cause uterine muscles contraction, so its usage during pregnancy might leads to preterm delivery.


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