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Chicory is a weed that grows through most of the United States. It has pretty blue flowers throughout the summer. As a cousin to the dandelion, the entire plant is edible. But the magic is in the roots! Chicory root is medicinal. Let’s talk about the many benefits of chicory root.
Medicinal Benefits of Chicory Root
The root is the main medicinal part of the plant. It is detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and laxative. It has many benefits to the liver, colon, and kidneys.
Healthy coffee substitute
Chicory root is becoming quite popular as a beneficial coffee substitute. When it is roasted and made into a tea, it has a rich, slightly bitter flavor that is reminiscent of coffee. It is caffeine-free, so is good for people who are sensitive to caffeinated drinks.
If you are looking to reduce your caffeine intake, chicory root can help you do that in a healthy way.
Chicory root has a prebiotic, water-soluble fiber known as inulin. This helps improve digestion. It helps gently stimulate more regular bowel movements. The prebiotic benefits of chicory root help feed the good bacteria in your gut. And a healthier gut means a healthier you!
The inulin in chicory root benefits digestion by stimulating the growth of bifidobacteria in the large intestines. Chicory root also helps remove some of the buildup of toxins in the digestive tract.
Chicory root is a wonderful addition to a homemade bitters recipe. Bitters are an herbal preparation that help stimulate proper digestion.
However, you shouldn’t use chicory if you have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). The extra fiber could cause excess gas and indigestion.
Chicory root is a good herb for controlling inflammation. As such, it is helpful for chronic pain and swelling. This anti-inflammatory effect is noted especially in colon cells.
People with osteoarthritis and similar afflictions can use chicory topically. It has lots of anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a valuable ingredient in a salve.
Protects the liver
Chicory root is considered a hepatoprotective herb. That means that it protects the liver (hepato means liver in Latin). Since chicory root is related to the dandelion, it has significant detox properties. This helps remove some of the oxidative stress that the liver takes on. The antioxidant effects of chicory root also protects the liver from free radicals.
Regulates blood sugar
The inulin in chicory root has shown significance in delaying the onset of diabetes. Chicory root actually reduces the amount of glucose that is absorbed through the small intestines.
Decreases hemoglobin A1C levels
Hemoglobin A1C is a marker used to identify glucose levels in the blood over a 3 month period. This shows promise in helping those with Type 2 Diabetes to control high blood sugar levels.
Helps improve cholesterol levels
Chicory root helps raise HDL cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol is a “good” cholesterol, as it captures cholesterol in the blood and carries it to the liver for removal. This type of cholesterol is imperative in controlling high cholesterol.
Chicory root also helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is considered a “bad” cholesterol. It can build up in the arteries and cause plaque. This plaque causes clogged arteries, which can then result in strokes or heart attacks.
May help with weight loss
The fiber in chicory root can actually help stimulate weight loss in some individuals. Fiber makes you naturally feel full, so it may reduce the amount of food that you eat. Try adding chicory root powder to yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal.
Chicory Root Roasted Granules – $10.17
from: Starwest Botanicals Inc.
Nutritional benefits of chicory root
Chicory root is high in vitamins and minerals. Most notably, it has manganese and Vitamin B6, which are important for brain health. It is also powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect the body from damage by free radicals. This antioxidant action help prevent damage to the liver.
Chicory leaves are high in thiamin, zinc, and niacin. They are also a good source of vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Since it is high in fiber, it can be a great aid in weight loss. It will make you feel full faster, and also blocks the amount of glucose absorbed by the intestines.
Chicory is easiest to identify in the summer, when it has pretty little blue flowers. But it’s traditionally foraged in the fall. So if you’re lucky enough to find some chicory in the summer, make a note of where it is. That way you can find it easily in the fall when it’s a little harder to identify.
Chicory is a scraggly looking plant. It has a woody stem that branches out from the base. The leaves at the base look like dandelion leaves. Those leaves are alternately spaced up the branches. The leaves get progressively smaller toward the top of the plant. Chicory usually grows to 3-4 feet tall.
Chicory flowers are light, bright blue. The petals are somewhat squared off at the top, with a jagged edge. Typically up to about an inch in diameter, these flowers only open on sunny days.
Chicory normally grows in open areas in somewhat poor soils. It is a common sight in weedy fields and pastures, though you may also find them on the roadside.
Roots are best foraged in the fall, as that is where the energy of the plant goes in autumn. The “rules” of foraging are to gather the part that the energy is going to at that particular time. I have a very detailed post on it if you’d like to learn the basics of foraging.
In the spring, the plant focuses its energy on growing leaves and getting taller. In the summer, it goes to the flowers. Then in the fall, chicory focuses its energy on the roots. This is to protect it for the harsh winter ahead.
Making chicory root “coffee”
After harvesting the chicory root, wash and dry them thoroughly. Using a sharp knife, cut the root into 1-inch sections. Place the root pieces on a cookie sheet and place in a 350 degree oven. You want to roast these root pieces until they are a golden brown.
When your chicory root pieces are your preferred brown color, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once fully cooled, place them in a coffee grinder and pulse. Store in an airtight container.
Some people like to mix chicory with their normal store-bought coffee. This will help you create a rich, flavorful drink with less caffeine and more benefits. If you are trying to cut down on caffeine, try mixing at least half chicory and half coffee. As you adjust to the caffeine reduction, you can use even more chicory and less coffee.
Other people like their chicory “coffee” straight. This drink is similar to coffee, but 100% caffeine-free. However you decide to use the chicory is entirely up to you and your taste buds.
To make your chicory “coffee”, you can prepare the same way you do normal coffee. Or you can make it more like a tea. To do this, place a teaspoon or two full of chicory grounds into a coffee mug. Add hot water and stir. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then strain the “coffee” into another mug. Enjoy your “coffee”!
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