TRAIL OF CHICORY
Chicory (Cichoriumintybus ) is a herb and root that has been known for its curative benefits since the first century a.d.. It is a member of the Asteraceae family. A scraggly plant with blue flower heads, chicory flourishes in the wild, as well as in gardens all over the world. It may be found in Europe, the Near East, northern and southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and North and South America.
The dried leaves and roots of the chicory plant are collected in autumn for medicinal purposes. When flowering, the whole plant is collected and dried. With a height that may reach up to 5 ft (1.5 m), chicory can be recognized by its oblong leaves that resemble a crosscut saw or slit, with numerous stiff hairs on the underside. Chicory, whose common names include succory, chicory root, chicory herb, blue sailors, wild chicory, or hendibeh, is well known for its bitter taste and use as a coffee substitute.
The ancient Egyptians ate large amounts of chicory because it was believed that the plant could purify the blood and liver, while others have relied on the herb for its power to cure “passions of the heart.” Chicory continues to be a popular herbal remedy due to its healing effects on several ailments.
Chicory is taken internally for the following disorders:
- Spleen problems
- Loss of appetite
- The leaves of chicory may also be used as compresses to be applied externally to ease skin inflammations and swellings.
- According to folklore, chicory was recommended as a laxative for children, and it is also believed to increase the flow of bile. As a mild diuretic, it increases the elimination of fluid from the body, leading to its use as a treatment for rheumatism and gout.
- Women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome(PMS) may find that regular use of chicory root as a bitter and a liver tonic may assist in maintaining hormone balance and lessening the symptoms of PMS. In addition, altering the diet by eating a “bitter” salad that includes fresh dandelion, chicory, and sorrel is believed to strengthen the liver and discourage the growth of candida.
- Chicory also supports the body’s ability to absorb calcium, a nutrient that helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Raftilin inulin and raftiloseoligofructose are fibers extracted from chicory root that cannot be digested by the small intestine. Instead, they are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine, leading to the increased absorption of calcium and other minerals. Oligofructose is an example of a prebiotic, or nondigestible food ingredient that benefits health by supporting the growth of one or several types of bacteria in the colon.
A study published in 2002 indicates that inulin appears to lower the risk of colon cancer. The precise nature of its protective effects is not yet known, however.
In addition to enhancing digestive processes, chicory helps to keep the liver healthy. The inclusion of chicory root supplements in the diet supports the proper metabolism of cholesterol.
While the medicinal uses of chicory are numerous, the plant is also often used as a food additive, as a flavouring agent, and in meals. Inulin can be used to improve the texture of processed foods as well as sweeten them. It can also be used to make biodegradable non-food substances with many industrial applications. This versatility is important to environmentalists because chicory is a renewable natural resource.
Wild and cultivated chicory leaves may be added to salads or sautéed and served alone. Moreover, the roasted and ground root of the plant is a common addition to coffee in Europe and in the United States.
Studies have shown that chicory complements coffee when it is used as a supplement due to its lactucin and lactucopicrin. These two substances are responsible for the bitter taste of chicory, and may serve to counteract the stimulating effects of caffeine. Chicory by itself actually has a sedative action on the central nervous system.
Chicory is available over the counter in bulk as green leaves and dried roots. To prepare the herb as a tea, also known as an infusion, for home use: steep 1 tsp (5 ml) rootstock or dried herb with 0.5 cup (4 floz) water and strain after 10 minutes. To treat jaundice, spleen problems, gallstones, or gastritis, drink 8-12 oz (225-350 ml) of chicory tea per day.
As a dietary supplement, 1 tsp (5 ml) of juice from chicory stems may be squeezed by hand and taken in milk or water three times a day.
Medical 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, inulin, 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. Inulin 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.
Heart Disease: Inulin 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 inulin 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.
Cancer Prevention: Although research is still ongoing in terms of the exact mechanism of prevention, chicory extract has been linked to a reduction in tumor growth in various cancer studies. Early reports indicate that it is due to the fructans within chicory, which have anti-tumor qualities and antioxidant properties. The polyphenols and phytochemicals within chicory also have a positive effect on preventing cancer of various types, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
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: Once again, inulin’s role as a natural fiber comes as a major benefit to chicory eaters! The 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. Also, frequent urination can eliminate excess water weight, and even reduce fat, since 4% of urine is usually fat deposits that would otherwise be stored somewhere else in the body!
Chicory has shown to be safe for a variety of medicinal uses and as a food source. There are no necessary precautions to observe when including the herb in the diet.
There are no known health hazards or side effects when chicory is added to the diet. The only possible minor side effect is skin irritation. If the hands become irritated after handling chicory, it is best to cover them with gloves and treat the affected area as needed.