Since ancient times, people have been cultivating the chicory plant and often using it in the form of Chicory Root Tea. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians consumed it as a vegetable and medicine. People in Rome and Greece during those times valued common chicory for its appetitive and digestive properties. The Egyptians, on the other hand, ate it to purify the blood and the liver. Ancient empires had collapsed, but the popularity of this plant did not wane. Not only was it valued as food and healing herb, it also symbolized the force of perseverance in Christian martyrdom during the Middle Ages.
Whilst the leaves are always enjoyed as salad leaves, the roots are used as a substitute for coffee. With a taste similar to the latter, these can be roasted, baked, or brewed as refreshing tea without caffeine.
Characteristics of Chicory Root
Cichorium intybus or common chicory which is a native to Europe is a hardy perennial plant with rigid, somewhat hairy stems that contains milky sap, flowers that are usually bright blue in color, and lanceolate leaves that grow 3 to 10 inches long. It is known by many names such as blue sailors, coffee weed, cornflower, succory, or Italian dandelion. As a weed, common chicory can thrive in almost all well-drained soil types. This plant can easily adapt in its surroundings, even in areas with extreme temperatures. No wonder, it has become widely neutralized and can now be found in North America, China, Australia, India, South Africa, and Chile.
Modern Medicinal Value of Chicory Root
Chicory root tea is more than a coffee substitute. It is a healthy drink that can benefit those who are allergic or sensitive to caffeine. A healing tonic which can help in PMS reduction and blood purification, it can also provide the following health and medicinal benefits:
- It can improve digestive health and relieve constipation
Balancing the good and bad gut bacteria by being mindful about the food we eat is essential in keeping the digestive system healthy. Eating a high-sugar or a high-fat diet will allow harmful species to overgrow. Prebiotics are types of fiber that good bacteria can digest. Chicory root is a good source of inulin, a prebiotic which can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and help relieve constipation.
- It helps reduce stress
Caffeine and stress can increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. Whilst it is important for one’s health, because of its role in the body’s stress response and other functions such as inflammation reduction, blood sugar regulation, metabolism regulation, and memory formulation, too much of it can cause unwanted symptoms which include headache, high blood pressure, difficulty in concentrating, irritability, severe fatigue, muscle weakness, flushed face, slow healing, easy bruising, skin-thinning, and acne.
Chicory root tea is caffeine – free. Thus, it does not elevate cortisol levels more than necessary. It is refreshing, relaxing, flavorful, and delicious. Since this drink is full of antioxidants, it protects cells and helps fight oxidative stress. With these benefits, many people consider it to be one of the best substitutes for coffee.
- It helps improve liver health
Oxidative stress happens when there is an excess of free radicals or unstable atoms that can damage cells which can result to liver diseases. Since chicory root is a good source of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, drinking it as a tea can help ensure the overall health of the liver, delay its aging process, and protect it from different kinds of diseases.
- It may delay or prevent diabetes
Inulin, the prebiotic that helps promote good bacteria has a role to play in delaying or preventing diabetes. This dietary fiber may promote healthy blood glucose, improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes, and decrease fat in the livers of the people with prediabetes. Studies also suggest that extract from chicory root can increase the levels of adiponectin, a protein that regulates a number of metabolic processes such as fatty acid oxidation and glucose regulation.
- It can help give relief to patients suffering from osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis which is the most common form of arthritis affects millions of people in Australia. It is a chronic and progressive disease that causes pain and stiffness in the affected joints of the patients who have it. This condition has no cure, but there are treatments that can help reduce pain and ease the suffering. According to a clinical trial conducted by the Rheumatic Diseases Division at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Department of Internal Medicine, extracts coming from the chicory root may contain anti-inflammatory properties that could help treat osteoarthritis.
Chicory root tea is not advisable for nursing mothers or pregnant women. It can possibly lead to miscarriage and may stimulate menstruation.