Chicory is familiar to us as a coffee additive. But there’s more to chicory than just that. It is widely believed that chicory is added to coffee for its health benefits–some believe it can nullify the toxic effects of excessive coffee drinking; some others believe that chicory has all the properties of coffee without caffeine, making it a better alternative to coffee. While these claims couldn’t be verified, we could verify that chicory, in fact, has plenty of health properties to brag about.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family. It is also called blue daisy or blue dandelion, thanks to the pretty bright blue flowers it has.
While almost all parts of the chicory plant are used, either as food or as medicine, it is the root that is the most popular. The roots are baked, roasted, then ground for use. The Indian filter coffee, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and the southern United States use ground chicory along with their coffee. The Great Depression of the 1930s, the World War II, the East German Coffee Crisis, all saw the rise of chicory as a coffee additive or, many a time, even a coffee substitute.
Later, studies revealed that this wild plant, especially its roots, had some excellent nutritive value. Studies have also shown that plant polyphenols consumption have protective effects on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Caffeine-free chicory coffee is a rich source of plant phenolics.1 Chicory root is a rich source of inulin. Inulin is similar to starch and is a polysaccharide, that is gaining popularity as a functional food.2
Let’s take a more detailed look at the health benefits of chicory and decide whether we need to add it to our coffee and our regular diets.
1. It Can Kill Worms
Chicory is believed to possess properties that are toxic to internal parasites. The chicory plant, especially the root, contain certain oils that have parasite and worm-killing properties. Studies on deer also show that the condensed tannins and crude sesquiterpene lactones available in chicory effectively inactivate parasites or worms and gastrointestinal larvae.3 It is understood that tannin-rich plants, while acting as a direct antiparasitic, could also indirectly increase host resistance.4
2. It Relieves Stress
If you are a coffee lover, you know by now that coffee increases stress. Studies have shown that repeated consumption of caffeine, especially when you are stressed out, can lead to increased cortisol levels in your body.5 Cortisol increases blood sugar levels in the body, suppresses the immune system, and even decreases bone formation, which can lead to osteoporosis in the long term.6 Since chicory is totally caffeine free, substituting your coffee with chicory or even using it as an additive in coffee is a great way to keep your cortisol levels in check, even when you are stressed out.
3. Keeps Liver Healthy
Studies have shown that chicory is rich in antioxidants and is able to scavenge free radicals.7 This ability, to root out free radicals, can also protect the liver against these harmful toxins. Chicory is understood to boost the immune system while also cleaning up the liver. Apart from this, various animal studies have revealed the ameliorating effect of chicory on oxidative stress and hepatic injuries.8
4. Chicory Against Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious health problem all over the world. Chicory can help with keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Don’t believe us? Here’s proof.
A study examined the effects of chicory root extract on blood glucose, lipid metabolism, and fecal properties in about 50 healthy adults and found that the level of adiponectin, a protein that regulates glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown, significantly improved in those adults who were given the chicory root extract proving that chicory has an effect on blood glucose levels.9
5. Fights Inflammation
As we have seen, chicory is a rich source of polyphenols. Polyphenols have immense capability to help the body fight inflammation.10 Studies have shown that significant response to inflammation took place in people who consumed a caffeine-free chicory coffee for one week.11 This is a noteworthy development in that inflammation, as you know, is the root cause of most diseases. Lowering inflammation in the body can help keep many health problems at bay.
6. Strong, Sturdy Bones
Various research and clinical trials have proved that chicory, due to its anti-inflammatory property, can effectively help with arthritic symptoms, especially osteoarthritis.12 Research on rats revealed that chicory can increase calcium absorption as well as increase whole-body bone mineral density.13
Studies also show that chicory root extract can effectively suppress the production of certain cytokines and enzymes that are involved in inflammation. Studies in the collagen-induced murine arthritis model revealed that chicory worked by reducing joint swelling, probably as much as other medications did. Considering how debilitating this disease can be and how NSAIDs and other medications tend to have severe side effects after prolonged use, chicory, with its long history of regular consumption and good safety profile is an ideal choice to shift to.14
7. Excellent For Gut Health
One of the major components of chicory is oligosaccharide-enriched inulin, which is prebiotic. Prebiotics help promote the growth of probiotics in the digestive system, thus enhancing calcium absorption. Inulin also helps increase bifidobacteria and decrease pathogenic bacterial population in the intestines. It thus exerts beneficial effects on intestinal functions.15
Various intervention studies have revealed how the dietary composition of certain food products can cause changes in the gut, especially changes in the microbiota composition and an increase in bifidobacteria. This can be regarded as a marker of intestinal health.16
Considering the significance of gut health in the overall health of the body, the effect of chicory to boost intestinal health should be given a serious thought.
8. It Relieves Constipation
The inulin in chicory is also responsible for relieving constipation, especially in the elderly. Studies showed that daily consumption of chicory resulted in increased satisfaction with regard to digestion and reduced defecation difficulties. It is understood that chicory supplementation increases stool frequency and fecal bulking.17
9. Antibacterial And Antifungal
Apart from all the properties mentioned, chicory is also an antimicrobial. Studies have shown that it has more of a bacteriostatic effect, causing bacteria to stop reproducing. It is also an antifungal and also possesses free radical scavenging properties.18
Enough material to convince you to either add chicory to your coffee or opt to drink a caffeine-free chicory brew regularly, right?
|↑1||Schumacher, Edit, Éva Vigh, Valéria Molnár, Péter Kenyeres, Gergely Fehér, Gábor Késmárky, Kálmán Tóth, and János Garai. “Thrombosis preventive potential of chicory coffee consumption: a clinical study.” Phytotherapy Research 25, no. 5 (2011): 744-748.|
|↑2||Roberfroid, Marcel B. “Chicory fructooligosaccharides and the gastrointestinal tract.” (2000): 677-679.|
|↑3||Molan, Abdul L., Adrian J. Duncan, Tom N. Barry, and Warren C. McNabb. “Effects of condensed tannins and crude sesquiterpene lactones extracted from chicory on the motility of larvae of deer lungworm and gastrointestinal nematodes.” Parasitology International 52, no. 3 (2003): 209-218.|
|↑4||Hoste, Hervé, Frank Jackson, Spiridoula Athanasiadou, Stig M. Thamsborg, and Simone O. Hoskin. “The effects of tannin-rich plants on parasitic nematodes in ruminants.” Trends in parasitology 22, no. 6 (2006): 253-261.|
|↑5||Lovallo, William R., Noha H. Farag, Andrea S. Vincent, Terrie L. Thomas, and Michael F. Wilson. “Cortisol responses to mental stress, exercise, and meals following caffeine intake in men and women.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 83, no. 3 (2006): 441-447|
|↑6||Cortisol. Society for Endocrinology.|
|↑7||Llorach, Rafael, Francisco A. Tomás-Barberán, and Federico Ferreres. “Lettuce and chicory byproducts as a source of antioxidant phenolic extracts.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 52, no. 16 (2004): 5109-5116.|
|↑8||Hassan, Hanaa A., and Mokhtar I. Yousef. “Ameliorating effect of chicory (Cichorium intybus L.)-supplemented diet against nitrosamine precursors-induced liver injury and oxidative stress in male rats.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 48, no. 8 (2010): 2163-2169.|
|↑9||Nishimura, Mie, Tatsuya Ohkawara, Toshiyuki Kanayama, Kazuya Kitagawa, Hiroyuki Nishimura, and Jun Nishihira. “Effects of the extract from roasted chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) root containing inulin-type fructans on blood glucose, lipid metabolism, and fecal properties.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine 5, no. 3 (2015): 161-167.|
|↑10||Sarkar, Souvik, Somnath Mazumder, Shubhra J Saha, and Uday Bandyopadhyay. “Management of inflammation by natural polyphenols: a comprehensive mechanistic update.” Current medicinal chemistry 23, no. 16 (2016): 1657-1695.|
|↑11||Cavin, C., M. Delannoy, A. Malnoe, E. Debefve, A. Touche, D. Courtois, and B. Schilter. “Inhibition of the expression and activity of cyclooxygenase-2 by chicory extract.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 327, no. 3 (2005): 742-749.|
|↑12||Cavin, C., M. Delannoy, A. Malnoe, E. Debefve, A. Touche, D. Courtois, and B. Schilter. “Inhibition of the expression and activity of cyclooxygenase-2 by chicory extract.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 327, no. 3 (2005): 742-749.|
|↑13||Roberfroid, Marcel B., Jean Cumps, and Jean-Pierre Devogelaer. “Dietary chicory inulin increases whole-body bone mineral density in growing male rats.” The Journal of nutrition 132, no. 12 (2002): 3599-3602.|
|↑14||Olsen, Nancy J., Valerie K. Branch, Geetha Jonnala, Mira Seskar, and Melisa Cooper. “Phase 1, placebo-controlled, dose escalation trial of chicory root extract in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee.” BMC musculoskeletal disorders 11, no. 1 (2010): 156.|
|↑15||Menne, Evelyne, and Nicolas Guggenbuhl. “Fn-type chicory inulin hydrolysate has a prebiotic effect in humans.” The Journal of nutrition 130, no. 5 (2000): 1197-1199.|
|↑16||Roberfroid, Marcel, Glenn R. Gibson, Lesley Hoyles, Anne L. McCartney, Robert Rastall, Ian Rowland, Danielle Wolvers et al. “Prebiotic effects: metabolic and health benefits.” British Journal of Nutrition 104, no. S2 (2010): S1-S63.|
|↑17||Den Hond, Elly, Benny Geypens, and Yvo Ghoos. “Effect of high performance chicory inulin on constipation.” Nutrition Research20, no. 5 (2000): 731-736.|
|↑18||Koner, Atanu, Subhabrata Ghosh, and Pranab Roy. “Isolation of antimicrobial compounds from chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) root.” International Journal of Research in Pure and Applied Microbiology 1, no. 2 (2011): 13-18.|