Root, leaves, flowers.
Remedies made from the chicory are a very effective and mild bitter tonic to alleviate problems affecting the digestive tract or the liver. In terms of therapeutic value, the chicory root remedy has a similar action to that made from the root of the dandelion herb - botanical name Taraxacum officinale. The chicory herbal remedy boosts the functioning of the stomach and the liver, while cleansing and detoxifying the urinary tract at the same time. In herbal therapy, the remedies made from the chicory are used to treat various rheumatic complaints and disorders such as gout. The chicory also acts as a mild laxative herb, and is especially suited for treated children affected by constipation and other digestive disorders. Digestion is also aided by the infusion made from the leaves and flowers of the chicory.
Chicory is indigenous to Europe and originally grew only on that continent. Today, the chicory is also found in parts of North Africa and Western Asian countries. The preferred site of the chicory is along foot paths and on roadsides, on river banks, and along dry fields or fallow land. Chicory roots are dug up and collected during the fall or in the spring. While the chicory plant is a hardy plant, it grows best in sites with good exposure to sunlight. The chicory grows well in most moderately fertile and well drained soils that can retain some moisture. The pH range that is tolerated by the chicory is from an acidic 4.5 to an alkaline 8.3. In the wild, the chicory grows well on any type of soil; however, the plant may be more demanding when cultivated. Cultivated chicory plants are best grown on mellow and deeply tilled soils - soils should ideally be fertile or composed mainly of sandy loam to get a good crop. The chicory is a cool weather plant, and is capable of tolerating moderately high temperatures in the summer. The plant also requires a well distributed rainfall pattern to grow well - harsh tropical rains can destroy crops. The soil must also have good drainage or alternately, be given some irrigation in drier sites. Once sown in a suitable site, the chicory gives off deep roots in a relatively short period of time. Chicory cannot be grown on soils that are too wet for beans and small grains - soils that are not suitable for these plants will also not be suitable to grow the chicory. Proper root growth can be ensured by the application of lime or marl to acidic soils, this mineral addition will neutralize the acidity. The plant also grows best in areas with an annual rainfall range of 30 to 400 cm and an annual mean bio-temperature of 6� to 27�C. The leaves of the chicory can be used to prepare a delicious winter salad. In Europe, the main reason for the cultivation of the chicory is to get the edible leaves and for the roots - dried, roasted and powdered chicory root is made into a coffee substitute. Chicory comes in many named varieties - each variety has particular characteristics. Fresh chicory leaves can be obtained for the kitchen year round by carefully choosing cultivars and sowing times in a year. Three main varieties of the chicory are grown especially for their leaves, and each of these varieties has many cultivar forms. In Europe, a bitter tasting and loose leafed form is grown for use as a green winter vegetable, this variety is particularly preferred in Southern Italy. The narrow leafed, witloof or Belgian form has a peculiar compact and elongated head or "chicon," this is usually blanched and used in preparing green salads or cooked as a dish. The normally red colored broad leaved form bears cabbage like hearts, this plant is normally less bitter in taste compared to the other forms and is consumed cooked or eaten raw. These three cultivars are often grown as a winter crop as they are mainly used in preparing winter salads. While the chicory plant is perennial, it is common practice to cultivate plants as an annual crop, particularly when they are only being grown for use in preparing winter salads and other dishes. The cultivars are normally sown in early summer if they are intended as a winter salad crop. Sowing in the early summer ensures that the plants will not flower in the first year of growth and will be fully mature at the time of the winter harvest. The sown plants usually form an over wintering rosette of leaves resembling a head of cabbage by late fall. The leaves in the rosette may be collected if needed during the first winter and most of the plants will usually give off some new growth - provided the winter is not extremely cold - which can eventually be harvested late in the winter or in the early spring of the new year. In the summer of the new year, these plants will normally run to flower and most will fail to produce an over wintering rosette of leaves for the following winter - all the plants must be harvested at this point. The chicory is not a fussy plant and can be successfully grown in a meadow. The chicory can also be grown on a lawn as long as the grass in the lawn is only trimmed occasionally and not too short. When the conditions at a site are ideal, the chicory will often self sow freely, this is especially likely to occur in plants grown in a dry alkaline soil. The chicory is attractive to bees and the plant is valuable to apiarist. The chicory is also used as an ornamental plant. Chicory flowers open up early in the morning and close up around noon. The chicory is propagated using the seeds stored from previous crops. These seeds can be sown directly on prepared seed beds or grown in situ as cultivars for their roots which appear in summer - usually around May or June of the planting year. When the cultivars are grown mainly to harvest the edible leaves - they may be sown during the month of April to get a summer crop or they can be sown around June-July to get a winter crop. Cultivars of chicory can be sow in situ or in pots - once the cultivars grow large enough, they must be planted out in the permanent site.
The root contains up to 58% intilin and sesquiterpene lactones, as well as vitamins and minerals.
A delicious green salad can be made from the tender young chicory leaves. The tender leaves can also be made into a herbal decoction, used in the treatment of sensitive intestines. This decoction also helps in cleansing the blood and in detoxifying the gallbladder - this decoction can also be used in treating cases of jaundice as well. The beneficial compounds and most of the active principles are contained in the roots of the chicory plant. An herbal decoction is prepared from the fresh roots. The roots are also dried or roasted and used in treating diabetes and problems such as water retention in the body - this remedy is prepared by mixing one teaspoon of the powdered root in 250 ml water. A hybrid variety of the chicory Cichorium endivia - is cultivated for its roots which are forced to produce endives. The endives so obtained can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked as a dish. The endives possess a rather bitter taste; they also have a watery consistency and are for this reason quite potent as a diuretic herbal medicine.