Botanical Name: Chichorium Intybus
Indian Name: Kasni
Origin, Distribution and Composition
Chicory, or endive, is a perennial herb with a long tap root. It has condensed, round stems, numerous light or dark green leaves and pale blue flowers. The leaves have a bitter taste; flowers open at sunrise and close at dusk.
Chicory is native to the Mediterranean region or, possibly, eastern India. It was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans and was cultivated in Egypt over 2000 years ago. The ancient physicians employed the plant in the treatment of several ailments. Classical writers like Horace, Virgil, Ovid and Pliny mentioned its use as a vegetable and a salad ingredient. Some scholars thought that the name succory came from the latin succurrene -which means to run under-because of the deep roots!. Another suggestion is that succory may be a corruption of chicory, or cichorium, a word of Egyptian origin. Chicory has been mentioned as a special skin nourisher by ancient herbalists. A tea made from the pale blue flowers of this plant was said to give glowing skin.
An analysis of chicory or endive leaves shows them to consist of 93.0 per cent moisture, 1.7 per cent protein, 0.1 per cent fat, 0.9 per cent fibre and 4.3 per cent carbohydrate per 100 grams. Its mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. Its calorific value is 20.
Chicory flowers contain a glucoside chichorin and bitter substances, lactucin and intbin. Seeds contain a bland oil and roots contain nitrate and sulphate of potash, mucilage and some bitter principle.
Healing Power and Curative Properties.
Chicory is a tonic herb when taken in moderate quantitites. It increases the secretion and discharge of urine. It is also astimulant and a mild laxative. This herb helps the functions of the liver and gall bladder.
Chicory contains food elements which are constantly needed by the optic system. It is one of the richest sources of vitamin A which is very useful for the eyes. The addition of juices of carrot, celery and parsley to chicory juice makes it a highly nourishing food for the optic nerve and the muscular system. It can bring amazing results in correcting eye defects. Half a litre to one litre daily of this combination has frequently corrected eye troubles within a few months, to the extent that normal vision was regained, making the use of glasses unnecessary.
The herb is a natural laxative. It is, therefore, beneficial in the treatment of chronic constipation.
The herb, in combination with celery and parsley, is very helpful in anaemia. It is an effective blood tonic.
Liver and Gall Bladder Dysfunctions
Chicory flowers, seeds and roots are medicinally used in the treatment of liver disorders. About 30 to 60 ml of decoction of the flowers, seeds or roots can be used three times daily, with beneficial results, in the treatment of torpidity or sluggishness of the liver, biliary stasis or, stoppage of bile, jaundice and enlargement of the spleen. Endive or chicory juice, in almost any combination, promotes the secretion of bile and is, therefore, very good for both liver and gall bladder dysfunctions.
The combined juices of chicory, carrot and celery are most helpful in asthma and hay fever, provided milk and food containing concentrated starches and sugars such as white rice, white flours, macaroni, sweets, pastries and cakes are eliminated from the diet. Powder of the dry root in doses of half a teaspoon, mixed with honey if taken thrice daily, is a good expectorant in chronic bronchitis.
A decoction of chicory seeds is useful in treating obstructed menstruation.
The young leaves, preferably blanched, are eaten in salads. They may be mixed with other greens to minimise their strong flavour. The mature green leaves are sometimes used as a cooked vegetable. The root, when roasted and ground, is often used as an ingredient to mix with coffee, or is taken as a beverage on its own.