Herbal Profile: Common Chicory

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a slightly woody perennial plant that is native to Europe and Asia, but has naturalized to North America, Australia and Northern Africa.

Its lovely blue flowers are edible, as are the leaves. Many farmers are planting chicory as a forage plant for their livestock as the tannins it contains help control parasitic worms, and the roots are wonderful fodder in the winter months.

The leaves, stalks and flowers can be dried in a dehydrator or tied together and hung to dry in a well-ventilated and dark room.

The rootstock of root chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum) a variant of common chicory is dried, roasted and used as a coffee substitute commercially. It is a great source of inulin and plant tannins.

Chicory FlowersThe Properties of Chicory: (See the Herbal Terminology Post for Definitions)
Bitter Tonic, Laxative, Diuretic, Choleretic, Cholagogue, Carminitive, Appetizer

Uses for Chicory include:

Medicinal: Helps with loss of appetite, dyspepsia, rheumatism, gout, jaundice, spleen, liver and gallbladder problems.

Energetic and Spiritual: Chicory is an herb belonging to the element of Air and is in tune with the planetary energies of the Sun. It is used to remove obstacles from one’s life. It is said that if one gathers chicory at either noon or midnight on the Summer Solstice in total silence with a golden knife the flowers will open locks when they are pressed against them.

It is also carried to promote frugality or obtain favors.

Culinary: Roasted chicory root is a great substitute for coffee if you are looking to switch to a non-caffeinated alternative. The taste is very similar and the medicinal properties of the root remain intact. The inulin of the root is a soluble fiber which aids digestion and acts as food for the friendly bacteria in our intestines.

The leaves can be added to salads and offer a bitter crunch. They can also be boiled, drained and sauteed in butter to reduce the bitter taste. They can then be mixed into pasta dishes or served as a side for meats.

This plant is a slightly more bitter cousin to endive and radicchio and has similar culinary uses.

Chicory LeavesApplications of Chicory:

Infusion: Steep 40 grams of dried herb and flowers in 1 liter of boiling water for 7-10 minutes. About half a cup or less is taken three times a day for three days. This preparation is helpful for loss of appetite, dyspepsia, rheumatism, gout, jaundice, and spleen, liver and gallbladder problems.

Poultice: Boil the leaves until wilted then drain and cool to body temperature. Apply them to areas of inflammation.

Contraindications:

There are none known, but use with extreme caution during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Always check with a healthcare practitioner before beginning herbal treatments.

Information Pulled from:

The Herb Book by John Lust

Medicinal Plants of the World by Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants by Susan Gregg

Notes taken on an herb walk in Boulder, CO with herbalist Cat Pantaleo

Images from Google.com