Chicory is native to Europe and temperate regions in Asia; it has been naturalized to the United States. Chicory was cultivated as early as 5,000 years ago by Egyptians as a medicinal plant. Traditionally, chicory juice was used as part of a remedy for headaches. The Romans used chicory as a vegetable or in salads. The root was ground and used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute.
Chicory is still an important salad vegetable in Europe, especially in France, Belgium, and Holland. In the United States, chicory is also grown as a salad green. Preliminary study has investigated chicory for chronic hepatitis; however, at this time there are no high-quality human trials supporting chicory for any indication.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the use of chicory for chronic hepatitis.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortifacient (induces abortion), antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-malarial, antioxidant, bile flow stimulant, breast cancer, cancer, colon cancer, constipation, diabetes, diuretic, dyspepsia (upset stomach), emmenagogue (promotes menstruation), food additive, gall bladder disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, headache, hypercalcemia (abnormally high calcium in the blood), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), hypertriglyceridemia (excess of fatty acid compounds in the blood), inflammation (eyes), laxative, liver protection, obesity, osteoporosis, sedative, stimulant, swelling, tachycardia (fast heart rate), tonic, weight loss.
There is no proven safe or effective dose for chicory in adults. Common doses that have been traditionally used range from 4-14 grams for treating constipation and hypertriglyceridermia, and for a probiotic effect. Doses as high as 30 grams daily have been taken by mouth to improve bowel function. Chicory tea, prepared by steeping 2-4 grams of the root in 150 milliliters boiling water for 10 minutes and then strained, has also been used. A common dose of chicory is 3-6 grams of root per day.
Children (younger than 18 years):
There is no proven safe or effective dose for chicory in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to chicory or members of the Asteraceae or Compositae family, including ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies. Chicory may cross-react with birch pollen and cause birch pollen-associated allergy syndrome. Occupational asthma has been reported in a chicory grower.
Side Effects and Warnings
There has been long-standing historical use of chicory with few adverse effects noted anecdotally or in the available scientific literature. Chicory appears to be generally well-tolerated, but skin rash and contact dermatitis have been reported with its use. Weight loss, loss of appetite, and myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome) associated with chicory have also been reported. Chicory is likely safe when consumed as a food additive.
Skin rash and contact dermatitis associated with chicory use have been reported. The sesquiterpene lactones of the plant may be the allergens. Also, the caffeic acid derivatives from Cichorium intybus have displayed vasorelaxant activity.
Chicory use should be monitored in patients with gallstones, due to its bile stimulating effect. Fructo-oligosaccharides can cause flatulence (gas), belching, abdominal pains, intestinal sounds and bloating, which occur commonly, but are mild.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Chicory is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. When taken by mouth during pregnancy, chicory may induce menstruation or miscarriage.
Chicory may interact with drugs metabolized by cytochrome P450. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be decreased in the blood, and reduce the intended effects. Patients taking any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Chicory extract (inulin) may marginally increase the absorption of dietary calcium.
Theoretically, chicory may interact with herbs and supplements metabolized by cytochrome P450. As a result, the levels of herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements may possibly have on the P450 system.
Abrams SA, Griffin IJ, Hawthorne KM, et al. A combination of prebiotic short- and long-chain inulin-type fructans enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralization in young adolescents. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82(2):471-476.
Ahmed B, Al Howiriny TA, Siddiqui AB. Antihepatotoxic activity of seeds of Cichorium intybus. J Ethnopharmacol 2003;87(2-3):237-240.
Bischoff TA, Kelley CJ, Karchesy Y, et al. Antimalarial activity of lactucin and lactucopicrin: sesquiterpene lactones isolated from Cichorium intybus L. J Ethnopharmacol 2004;95(2-3):455-457.
Bornet FR, Brouns F, Tashiro Y, et al. Nutritional aspects of short-chain fructooligosaccharides: natural occurrence, chemistry, physiology and health implications. Dig Liver Dis 2002;34 Suppl 2:S111-S120.
Cadot P, Kochuyt AM, van Ree R, et al. Oral allergy syndrome to chicory associated with birch pollen allergy. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2003;131(1):19-24.
Cavin C, Delannoy M, Malnoe A, et al. Inhibition of the expression and activity of cyclooxygenase-2 by chicory extract. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005;327(3):742-749.
Debarbieux-Deleporte M, Delbreil B, Collin T, et al. InsP(3)-mediated calcium release induced by heterologous expression of total chicory Leaf RNA. Biol Cell 2002;94(7-8):545-552.
Delzenne NM, Cani PD, Daubioul C, et al. Impact of inulin and oligofructose on gastrointestinal peptides. Br J Nutr 2005;93 Suppl 1:S157-S161.
Esiyok D, Otles S, Akcicek E. Herbs as a food source in Turkey. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2004;5(3):334-339.
Grieshop CM, Flickinger EA, Bruce KJ, et al. Gastrointestinal and immunological responses of senior dogs to chicory and mannan-oligosaccharides. Arch Anim Nutr 2004;58(6):483-493.
Hazra B, Sarkar R, Bhattacharyya S, et al. Tumour inhibitory activity of chicory root extract against Ehrlich ascites carcinoma in mice. Fitoterapia 2002;73(7-8):730-733.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.