Traditional Uses, Therapeutic Benefits and Claims of Chicory
Active Ingredients and Substances: The root of chicory contains large amounts of inulin. 12 to 15% in the fresh root from wild plants (50-60% in the dried root of the cultivated variety).

The plant also contains sugars (including fructose), pectin, choline, fixed oils (nonvolatile oils) and few bitter substances like sesquiterpene lactones consisting of lactucin and lactucopicrin also know as intybin.
Other constituents found in the herb are tannins, mineral salts, vitamins B, C, K and P, coumarins (umbelliferone, cichoriin), phenolic acids (caffeine acid and ferulin acid, and esters of quinine acid), various flavonoids, essential oil, resin and other substances.

Anthocyanin pigments are present in the flowers and are responsible for the blue color.

Uses in the Past
Chicory is a very old crop plant that has through the centuries been used both as food and medicine. It is still an important crop plant in many countries in Europe

The root was once widely used as a stomach-controlling agent, and many ancient medical books recommended it as a protection against dropsy and as medicine for diseases related to the liver and spleen.
The plant juice was used traditionally as an herbal remedy for diarrhea, and the leaves and flowers were applied as a patch on boils and infected wounds, as well as a treatment for gout.

In Scandinavia, chicory is mentioned in herbal medicine writings from the 1400s, as a medicinal herb that increases appetite and enhances digestion.

Modern Day Medicinal Uses
In today’s herbal medicine chicory is considered to be of particularly great value as a tonic for the liver and gastrointestinal tract.

The medicinal properties of the herb are similar to those found in dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).
Chicory is viewed as an excellent bitter agent that increases the secretion of bile which in turn stimulates the appetite and aids in digestion. The herb has also the reputation for having a calming and soothing effect.

Chicory is regarded to be effective as a natural treatment for gallstones and kidney stones, and the herb is well known as a remedy for jaundice, hepatomegaly (enlargement of the liver), inflammation of the liver and the urinary tract, and problems with the spleen.

Some of the herb’s constituents have laxative properties. The herb is considered to be safe and mild enough to be used as a laxative for children.

The bitter substances found in chicory are harmless so that it can also be used to treat ulcers, ulcers on the duodenum and minor internal bleeding.
The bitter substances sesquiterpene lactones are believed to stop inflammation from developing and also halt an already developed inflammation.

The substance lactucin and lactucopicrin have been tested against malaria. It was discovered that both substances were fatal to the malaria parasite, but lactucin was more effective since it was needed at a lower concentration than lactucopicrin.

Just as dandelion, chicory has mild diuretic properties, and since it also promotes the excretion of uric acid it can be used for the treatment of rheumatic disorders, like arthritis and gout.

Extract of the root has been shown to expand the walls of the blood vessels and could, therefore, have some antihypertensive properties.

Chicory also lowers the levels of blood sugar. The herb might be a good choice for those suffering from diabetes due to the substance inulin, a polysaccharide present in high amount in the root. In the body, inulin is converted by hydrolysis to fructose.

Today, inulin is used in many herbal remedies and it is thought to beneficial to the vital bacteria in the intestines by providing nutrition.

Inulin is also believed to slow down the absorption of fast acting carbohydrates and also reduce the need for them, but currently, there is no clinical evidence that supports this.

Externally the fresh leaves have been used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain and the plant juice has been used to remove warts.

Other Uses
Chicory is an excellent herb to use in cooking. The succulent leaves and flowers can be added to salads and the young shoots can be used in pickle making.
The young roots can be boiled like parsnips and served with a sauce or in soups.

Chicory counteracts the stimulant effects of caffeine in coffee. Throughout the ages it has been used either as a substitute for coffee or as an addition to it, to make it last longer.