Chicory is one herbaceous plant annual, biennial or perennial that we find in Europe, Asia, boreal Africa and North and South America.
The plant is characterized by the presence of a rhizome which continues with a taproot, tapered root that remains white inside.
The leaves placed lower, carried by short petioles, they are arranged in a rosette, are of variable shape and dry out during the flowering period that occurs in summer. The leaves arranged along the stem are instead devoid of petiole and enveloping the stem which is hollow and thin, even 1.3 m high.
THE flowers are numerous, hermaphrodites, arranged at the axil of the leaves, of a blue-lilac color and have the particularity that they open at dawn and close in the evening (heliotrope plant) losing color (in fact the color is due to an enzyme that is active only in the hot hours of the day) so it has more or less intense colors depending on the time of day.
The fruit it is an achene with the apex provided with pappus.
Chicory contains numerous substances: inulin, substances such as chicorin, a bitter glycoside, mucilage, resins, essential oils and pectins. Other substances present are arsenic, levulin, sugars; terpenes, acetic and stearic acid, mineral salts such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, phosphorus; chlorides, vitamins such as B, C, P, K; amino acids, lipids and proteins.
All these substances make this plant unique in its kind.
Its leaves eaten raw in salads or just blanched they are excellent as a stimulant of the intestine, liver and kidneys so it is purifying, detoxifying, diuretic, hypoglycemic and a bland laxative.
The decoction of the whole plant is great in the case of inapetence and constipation due to liver problems thus carrying out an action of protection against the liver.
The roots are used in cases of anorexia, biliary insufficiency and hyperglycemiaIt also has a strong action antidiabetic as it decreases the blood sugar level. It is known that drinking a chicory infusion quenches the thirst of diabetics and regulates their urinary function.
Chicory uses the leaves, the flowers but above all the root.
The roots are usually harvested in autumn from plants that are at least two years old. After harvesting, they must be cleaned, divided and left to dry in the sun and then stored in cloth bags.
The leaves are instead collected from August to September, drying them in dark, warm and well-ventilated places and then stored in cloth bags.
HOW TO USE IT
The chicory root for external use, as a poultice treats redness, is refreshing and emollient and is effective against boils and abscesses.
For internal use, the decoction of chicory root can be used as a mild laxative, as a purifier of the organism, as a choleretic and antidiabetic and against juvenile acne. As a vinous tincture it is used to digest.
The flower extract has anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties.
Its use in the kitchen is well known.
The use of the infusion of the toasted root has very ancient origins and dates back to 1500, thanks to Prospero Alpino (Italian doctor, botanist and scientist, 1553-1617). It became famous in the Napoleonic period and then during the Second World War as a substitute for coffee with a pleasant taste and without caffeine.
The first mentions of chicory date back to 4000 years ago having been found mentioned in the Ebers papyrus.
In 1300 the German botanist Conrad of Megenberg called it "sponsa solis" or "bride of the sun" due to the fact that its flowers opened and closed with the sun.
WARNINGS ABOUT CHICORY
There are no contraindications reported for the use of chicory.
LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS AND PLANTS
You see: Chicory - The language of flowers and plants.