Chicory Benefits And Side Effects

Chicory Benefits And Side Effects


Chicory is a perennial plant. It is best known for being a coffee substitute. The roots of this plant are roasted and added to tea or coffee, to give them a bitter taste. Those trying to reduce their caffeine intake sometimes add chicory in boiling water instead of coffee. 


However, there is much more to the chicory plant than the coffee-like taste of its roots. Ayurvedic medicine considers chicory a liver tonic. The leaves of this plant are eaten as a vegetable and this plant is considered a purifier in some parts of the world.


Chicory plant is loaded with antioxidants and is hence considered to be highly beneficial for the management of various ailments.


Did you know? 


The cultivated variety of chicory is sweeter than its wild variety.


Some basic facts about chicory:


Botanical name: Cichorium intybus

Common name: Chicory, Kasni (Sanskrit/Hindi)

Family: Asteraceae

Parts used: Root, flowers, seeds, leaves

Native region and geographical distribution: Chicory is a native of temperate regions in the world. It grows in Europe, Africa and the USA. In India, the chicory plant grows wild in Punjab and Andhra and is cultivated in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar.

  • Chicory nutrition facts
  • Chicory health benefits
  • How to use chicory
  • Chicory side effects


Chicory nutrition facts

Chicory contains a good amount of fibre and is low in energy and fats. It is loaded with minerals and folic acid (folate). As per the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following are the nutrients present in 100 g of raw chicory greens:


Nutrient Value per 100 g

Energy 23 Kcal

Water 92 g

Carbohydrates 4.7 g

Proteins 1.7 g

Fats 0.3 g

Fibre 4 g

Minerals  

Potassium 420 mg

Calcium 100 mg

Phosphorus 47 mg

Sodium 45 mg

Magnesium 30 mg

Iron 0.9 mg

Zinc 0.42 mg

Vitamins  

Vitamin C 24 mg

Vitamin E 2.26 mg

Vitamin A 286 µg

Folate 110 µg


Chicory health benefits

Chicory has been used as a medicinal plant since ancient Egypt. This plant contains a lot of bioactive compounds that have proven therapeutic effects on humans. A lot of the traditional medicinal uses of chicory are now also backed by scientific research. 


Let us have a look at some of the traditional and science-backed benefits of the chicory plant.


  • Chicory benefits for liver health
  • Chicory benefits for digestion
  • Chicory benefits for diabetic patients
  • Chicory benefits for arthritis
  • Chicory for malaria
  • Chicory for caries
  • Chicory for skin problems
  • Chicory against cancer
  • Other benefits of chicory

Chicory benefits for liver health

Chicory is traditionally known to be a liver tonic. Various parts of the chicory plant—leaves, root and seeds—are used to treat liver disorders (jaundice, for example). In fact, chicory is an important component of the liver tonic Liv-52 and another polyherbal formulation called jigrine known for its hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) properties. The latter contains chicory leaves only. 


Clinical studies show that Liv-52 can improve liver health in cirrhosis patients and those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, in a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial done on 80 patients with alcoholic fatty liver disease, the formulation was deemed ineffective.


In animal studies, chicory root and seed extracts have been shown to have hepatoprotective effects. One such study attributed these benefits to the antioxidant effects of the phenolic compound esculetin. 


Finally, chicory contains inulin, a type of dietary fibre known as fructans which have been shown to be helpful in the management of blood cholesterol levels and reduce the strain on the liver by removing excess toxins from the body. 


Chicory benefits for digestion

Traditionally, chicory root decoction is used to improve the secretion of bile juice in the gut and to improve digestion. It is also known to improve appetite and is considered to be a laxative.


According to a placebo-controlled trial done in Spain, the inulin present in chicory roots can help promote the growth of intestinal bacteria and improve gut function. It was also found to reduce stomach gas. Additionally, inulin acts as a soluble fibre and relieve constipation. 


In another study done on 45 people, consumption of roasted chicory extracts was found to improve bowel movement. 


Needless to say, if you are adding more fibre to your diet, it is best to optimise your water intake since excess fibre without water can lead to constipation.


Chicory benefits for diabetic patients

Crushed fresh leaves of the chicory plant are traditionally known to have a hypoglycemic effect, meaning they can reduce blood sugar.


In both lab and animal studies, chicory inulin has been shown to improve glucose and lipid metabolism in case of type 2 diabetes. Inulin has also found to be beneficial in improving insulin resistance in prediabetics.


Animal studies suggest that chicory extracts contain certain bioactive compounds and antioxidants that can help control diabetes in both long and short term. 


A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial including 49 women with type 2 diabetes indicated that inulin supplementation improved fasting blood glucose levels.


However, more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of chicory in diabetes.


Chicory benefits for arthritis

In Italy, chicory roots and leaves are traditionally used to treat arthritis. 


Following a small trial with 40 osteoarthritis patients, the researchers reported symptomatic improvement with regular consumption of chicory root extract.


Animal studies show that chicory root has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, it may help manage the pain and swelling associated with inflammatory arthritis. The anti-inflammatory effects of chicory root are attributed to the reduction of oxidative stress and the inhibition of cytokines (inflammatory molecules) in the body.


However, more studies are needed to confirm the beneficial effects of chicory in arthritis.


Chicory for malaria

Malaria is a vector-borne disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It spreads through the bite of the female anopheles mosquito and is caused due to a parasite Plasmodium. 


In Afghanistan, chicory root extracts are traditionally used to treat malaria. Lab studies show that two compounds—lactucin and lactucopicrin—present in chicory plant have potent antimalarial activity.


Experts have also found that chicory extracts can kill mosquito larvae. Chicory could hence be an effective herb to reduce the spread of malaria. 


Chicory for caries

Dental caries or cavities occur when certain bacteria in the oral cavity start to produce acid that erodes the tooth surface. This acid slowly leads to the formation of cavities in the teeth, which can be painful and distressing.


Chicory has proven effects as an antimicrobial agent. In a lab study, chicory extract was shown to suppress the growth of various caries-causing bacteria including Streptococcus mutans and Actinomyces naeslundii.


As per the study, the various organic acids (like oxalic acid and succinic acid) present in chicory root can reduce the adhesion of bacteria to teeth surfaces and hence the formation of biofilms (thin films of bacteria) which are responsible for causing caries.


Chicory for skin problems

According to a clinical study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, topical application of chicory root extract can improve skin barrier function. The outermost layer of skin is known as the skin barrier. This layer protects the skin from infectious agents, dust and water loss. 


Chicory is loaded with antioxidants, especially vitamin C, which is known to improve skin structure and elasticity and delay the signs of ageing.


The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of chicory plant may be helpful in the management of various skin conditions including acne. It is also believed to be beneficial in reducing eczema symptoms. However, there is no proof of the anti-eczema effects of chicory. In fact, chicory plant is known to cause skin irritation when handled directly.


If you want to use chicory as a remedy for common skin problems, it is best to do a patch test—just apply the plant on a small area of your skin and see if it shows a reaction. Those with eczema should talk to their doctor before using chicory for the management of the condition.


Chicory against cancer

Chicory juice is considered to be a traditional remedy for certain forms of cancers/tumours. Chicory root extracts have shown antitumor effects in mice. 


Chicory leaves have also been shown to reduce the proliferation of melanoma (a type of skin cancer) cells in in-vivo (animal-based) studies. 


According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, magnolialide, a biological compound present in chicory plant, suppress various tumour lines. The amount of this compound is seen to be the highest in chicory leaves. 


However, it is best to talk to a nutritionist or a doctor to better understand the effects or any benefits of chicory plant in cancer.


Other benefits of chicory

The following are some other health benefits of the chicory plant:


Chicory extracts have been found to be helpful in the management of anaphylactic reactions in animal models, by reducing histamine levels in the body. Histamine is a chemical compound present in the body that is responsible for itching and other symptoms of allergy. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

Lactucopicrin, a compound present in chicory has been found to have an analgesic (painkilling) effect in mice.

Chicory has traditionally been used for the treatment of gastric ulcers in Turkey. However, the anti-ulcer activity of chicory root extract has been observed in animal models only.

Chicory is believed to be a diuretic; it can help in the elimination of toxins from your body by making you pee more. (Read more: Home remedies to purify blood)

According to a study published in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, chicory improves kidney function and reduces serum uric acid levels. (Read more: High uric acid levels in blood)

A study done in Iran suggested that chicory extract has potent antifungal activity and hence can be used as a substitute for nystatin.

Chicory flowers are traditionally used to treat gastroenteritis, sinusitis, cuts and bruises.

How to use chicory

Chicory is most commonly used as a brew, either alone or along with some coffee powder. Though, it is also used in salads, soups and stir-fried vegetables.


Here is a recipe to make chicory coffee:


What you will need:


1 teaspoon roasted chicory root 

One cup water

How to make:


Boil the chicory root in a cup of water.

Add sugar to taste.

Strain and drink hot.

You can add 1 teaspoon of coffee or some cocoa powder in the mix if you don’t like plain chicory coffee. 


Alternatively, you can boil a cup of milk and mix ground chicory root powder in it along with some cocoa powder and sugar to make your chicory coffee.


Chicory side effects

The following are some of the side effects of chicory:


Some people are allergic to chicory. Chicory allergy causes swelling and pain in the mouth.

Chicory is shown to increase menstrual bleeding and cause miscarriage. So, pregnant women should avoid the consumption of this plant.

Chicory has hypoglycemic effects on the body. If you normally have low blood glucose levels or take blood glucose-lowering medications, it is best that you talk to your doctor to know about the safety and dosage of chicory for you.

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