Perennial - Compositae
Common names: Succory, Wild Succory, Hendibeh
Range: Most of Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Middle East, North America
History: Chicory is a prolific plant that makes itself known in difficult places where nothing else will grow. Some consider it a weedy nuisance, while others appreciate its stately beauty and culinary virtue. The flowers are of particular interest because they open and close according to the sun and region. In fact, Linnaeus considered chicory to be one of the flowers in his "floral clock" at Upsala University due to the flowers opening precisely at 5am in the morning and closing at 10am each day in that latitude.
Some linguists maintain that the name Succory, which translates in Latin to mean "to run under," was applied to chicory due to the fact that the plant's roots run to great depths and it is very difficult pull up. Chicory is one of only two species that comprise the genus Cichorium; endive is the other.
The roots are commonly dried and ground to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute, alone or in combination with other herbs and spices to offset the bitter flavor. The young leaves are sometimes used in salads or eaten as a vegetable, as the ancient Romans once did. In Europe, it is often grown as fodder for livestock. The flowers can be added to salads and baked goods as garnish.
Medicinally, chicory has been used to treat skin disorders, gout, jaundice and to reduce an enlarged liver. As a poultice, chicory was thought to improve inflammations, swellings, bruises and eye disorders. In India, the plant is often used by herbalists to treat dyspepsia, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and skin allergies. The German Commission E has approved its use to improve a poor appetite and dyspepsia. Animal studies have revealed that chicory preparations can lower pulse rate and cholesterol levels in rat liver and plasma.
Constituents: sesquiterpene lactones, tartaric acid, hyperoside, hydroxycoumarins (umbelliferone).
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