Chicory is best known as an alternative to coffee – the substitute is made from the root, which is dried and roasted until brown. When ground it can be brewed just like coffee, though it lacks its volatile oils, aromatic flavor, caffeine and tannic acid that help make java such a popular beverage. Adding chicory to coffee gives it a bitter taste as well as counteracting the stimulant effect of caffeine.
This woody, herbaceous plant grows well in a variety of conditions, and is commonly spotted on European roadsides, where it originated, though it can now be widely found in the Americas as well. Chicory offers a wide range of health benefits and has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy for many different conditions.
In addition to easing digestive issues, it can help prevent heartburn, decrease the pain of arthritis, detoxify the liver and gallbladder, prevent bacterial infections, boost the immune system and reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s a natural sedative, and can even aid weight loss efforts.
Chicory is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron folic acid and potassium, as well as vitamins A, B6, C, E and K. Studies, including research from the University of Pécs, Hungary Medical School, found that chicory’s high phenolic content, a type of antioxidant, offers protective effects on the cardiovascular system.
One of chicory’s main attributes as a food source is a high content of inulin, which is a type of soluble fiber. It’s not affected by the digestive enzymes of the stomach, therefore passing to the colon where it’s metabolized by bacteria, stimulating their growth.
The long-time use of chicory root as a laxative and diuretic is believed to be due to its high inulin content – the herb is even approved for use as a treatment for a variety of digestive disorders in Germany, including heartburn, bloating and loss of appetite.
Inulin is also considered to be a powerful probiotic. It is used to battle a wide range of intestinal and digestive concerns, including indigestion, constipation, heartburn and acid reflux as it is able to reduce acidity in the body.
It’s important not to consume too much, as it can have the opposite effect similar to consuming an excess of any fiber, such as gas/bloating, stomach cramping, constipation or diarrhea. Renowned physician Dr. Weil suggests drinking a cup of chicory “coffee” per day, made from two to four grams of the root in about ⅔ cup of boiling water, steeped for ten minutes and then strained.
-The Alternative Daily