What is Chicory?
Chicory (Chihorium intybus) is an erect perennial herbaceous herb of the daisy family which is native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Chicory is a woody plant that can grow to about 10 to 100 cm tall. Chicory has long, deep taproot that is milky inside. Chicory leaves are stalked, hairy, lanceolate and large, coarsely toothed, growing in clustered formation from plant base in spreading rosette while the upper leaves are small. Chicory flowers bloom in mid to late summer until the first frost. Chicory flower heads are 2 to 4 centimeters wide, and usually bright blue, rarely white or pink.Chicory are prized for its leaves, roots and buds which are edible. Chicory leaves and buds (chicon) are used for salad and other meal preparation, while chicory roots are used as coffee substitute and additive.
Health Benefits of Chicory
Digestive Issues: One of the most common reasons for adding chicory to a diet is to improve various functions of the digestive system. Chicory contains, insulin, which is a powerful probiotic. Probiotics are a classification of bacteria that actually confer benefits on the host, rather than diseases, which is what bacteria is commonly associated with. Insulin is used to combat a number of intestinal and digestive concerns, including acid reflux disease, indigestion, and heartburn because it actively reduces the acidity of the body’s systems.
Reduces Heart Disease: Insulin is not only beneficial for the digestive system, it has also been shown to reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol in the body. This LDL cholesterol is one of the main causes behind atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, because it somewhat blocks the flow of blood when it binds to arteries and veins. It can also contribute to the possibility of heart attacks and strokes. Interestingly enough, the chemical pathway that insulin functions in to reduce the presence of LDL cholesterol is rarely active unless a person consumes a high level of carbohydrates, so this benefit has s slightly smaller range of affect. However, more research is currently being done on how chicory can help heart health in other ways. Chicory is also packed with plant phenols, which have been widely studied as anti-thrombotic and anti-arrhythmic agents. They are considered antioxidants, and studies have shown that chicory-based coffee rather than normal coffee can significantly improve the balance of blood and plasma in the body, which reduces chances of cardiovascular disease.
Reduce Arthritis Pain: Chicory has traditionally been used as a treatment for arthritis, and studies have shown chicory to have significant anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it works to reduce the pain from conditions like osteoarthritis. In a 2010 study, 70% of test subjects who received the chicory treatment reported a noticeable improvement in the pain associated with their osteoarthritic condition. Chicory can also be used as a general anti-inflammatory agent for aches, muscle pains, and joint soreness for this same reason
Weight Loss: Chicory is a good source of oligofructose, and inulin itself is a form of natural dietary fiber, and these help in the management of weight and attempts at weight loss. These both aid in the regulation of ghrelin, which is an amino acid primarily associated with feelings of hunger and food-seeking behavior. By reducing the amount of the ghrelin hormone, chicory can reduce the chances of overeating and promote satiety, or the feeling of fullness. This can help in weight loss efforts!
Constipation: Fiber helps to bulk up bowel movements, promote peristaltic motions, and the secretion of gastric juices. Basically, that means that digestion as a whole is improved, and constipation is greatly reduced. By maintaining a smooth and regulated digestive process, people can reduce the chances of a number of gastrointestinal conditions and diseases, including stomach and colon cancer
Immune System: Chicory has a number of helpful qualities that make it a powerful booster for your immune system. It displays clear antibacterial effects on a number of dangerous strains of bacteria, and we have already mentioned the benefits of the polyphenolic compounds in chicory in terms of the immune system. There are also phytochemicals in chicory that act as antioxidants, further sweeping out free radicals from the blood stream, which reduces the chances of contracting a number of diseases or conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
Anxiety and Stress: Chicory has sedative qualities that can reduce anxiety and soothe the mind, thereby relieving stress and the dangerous effects it can have on the body. Chicory root extract can also be used as a sleep aid due to this sedative quality, and is much healthier than many of the sleeping pills on the conventional market. relieving stress and anxiety can also help reduce your chances of heart disease, hormonal imbalance, insomnia, cognitive decline, and premature aging.
Kidney Health: Chicory root extract is often used as a diuretic, which increases the amount of urination. Consistent and healthy frequency of urination can help to eliminate toxins that the body stores in the liver and kidneys, and preventing the dangerous conditions that can occur when toxins are allowed to remain in the body.
Uses of Chicory
- Chicory is used for loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation, liver and gallbladder disorders, cancer, and rapid heartbeat.
- It is also used as a “tonic,” to increase urine production, to protect the liver, and to balance the stimulant effect of coffee.
- Some people apply a paste of chicory leaves directly to the skin for swelling and inflammation.
- In foods, chicory leaves are often eaten like celery, and the roots and leaf buds are boiled and eaten.
- Chicory is also used as a cooking spice and to flavor foods and beverages. Coffee mixes often include ground chicory to enhance the richness of the coffee.
- It is used or salad