Family: Asteraceae (Compositae), Cichorium intybus L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Chicory, Cichorium intybus L., is a perennial herb native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, and naturalized in North America. Also known as common chicory, blue-sailor's succory, and witloof, this long-time cultivated plant reaches a height of 1 to 2 meters and has bright blue flowers. Several distinct cultivars of chicory exist, developed from breeding programs designed to meet the different commercial uses of the plant. Centers of chicory production are located in Belgium, Holland, France, and the United States.

The reported life zone of chicory is 6 to 27 degrees centigrade with 0.3 to 4 meters of annual precipitation and a soil pH of-4.5 to 8.3 (4.1-31). The plant does best in cool weather and calcareous soils. Cultivated chicory is planted in the spring and the harvested or harvested and crowns are harvested in autumn. The harvested material is stored until winter and then placed in an environment conducive to "forcing" growth in the off-season. A blanched, highly desirable, creamy-oolored head develops in 2 to 4 weeks.

Chicory is a source of the natural taste modifier maltol, known to intensify the flavor of sugar (11.1-96). The crop is also a potential source of fructose for the flavor industry (5.1-10, 11.1-96). The fresh roots contain large amounts of inulin, vitamins A and C, chicoric acid, esculitin, esculin, chichociim, and several other bitter compounds (1.1-72, 1.1-203, 11.1-136).

Cultivars of chicory developed for use as coffee substitutes have large, thickened roots that are externally yellow and internally white. The roots of these plants are dried, chopped, roasted, and ground for addition to coffee, imparting a strong, bitter flavor. Cultivars of chicory developed for use in salads have more and larger leaves than other cultivars. Salad leaves are often blanched in the field to reduce possible bitterness. Young and tender roots can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Chicory extracts are used in alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

As a medicinal plant, chicory root has been used as a digestive aid, diuretic, laxative, tonic, and mild sedative. The root has also been used against jaundice, inflammations, warts, tumors, and cancer (14.1-13). Chicory was thought to purify the liver and spleen. Extracts from the roots have been shown to affect heart tissue isolated from toad (7.5-96).

Cichorium endive L., commonly called endive, is cultivated as a salad plant.

Chicory is generally recognized as safe for human consumption when used as a plant extract (21 CFR section 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997