Cichorium intybus

Another entry today that was written by Taisha prior to her departure. She wrote:

Thank you to Mats Ellting (aka Mellting@Flickr) for today’s image of Cichorium intybus, or chicory. Mats uploaded the image to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

Cichorium intybus is a member of the Asteraceae or sunflower/aster family. The species is considered to be native to a wide swath of Eurasia (USDA GRIN), but it has also naturalized in other areas of the world where it has been introduced. Since this species has been cultivated globally for centuries for medicinal and culinary uses, its native range may be smaller than suggested by the Germplasm Resources Information Network (they do note, “exact native range obscure”). It was first transported to North America in the sixteenth century. The species can now be found in much of North America growing abundantly along roadsides, lawns, pastures, fields, and waste places. In some places (like British Columbia), Cichorium intybus is considered a noxious weed.

It is presumed that the ancient Egyptians were the first to cultivate this species, using it for medicinal purposes, a type of coffee, a vegetable crop, and occasionally for animal forage. Since then, it has been cultivated for many additional applications, and can be divided into types according to their use: “industrial” or “root” chicory is grown for the taproot to produce a coffee substitute or for inulin and fructans; “Brussels” or “witloof” chicory is grown in such a way that the roots are used for the production of etiolated buds or chicons by forcing; “leaf” chicory is used as a fresh or cooked vegetable; and “forage” chicory has been used since the 1970s to increase herbage availability in perennial pastures for livestock (see: Street, R., et al. 2013. Cichorium intybus: Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology. Evid. Based Complement Alternat. Med.. doi: 10.1155/2013/579319 ).

Cichorium intybus varieties have important medicinal uses. Different parts of the plant have been used medicinally for a variety of complaints such as surface wounds, swelling and inflammation, stomach ailments, and diabetes. Nonetheless, many of this species’ constituents have not been studied for pharmacological potential. Chicory is reputed to have a long history of traditional therapeutic use in areas where it has been naturalized. According to Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman, the Cherokee made a tonic infused with the roots to treat nerves, and the Iroquois used a root decoction as a wash and poultice applied to chancres and fever sores.

Cichorium intybus

7 responses to “Cichorium intybus”

  1. James Singer

    This is my favorite roadside attraction. Bright blue eyes in the morning; asleep by noon.

  2. Bonnie

    This is growing in my yard! Very cool to spot a picture of a plant I know, by sight if not name!

  3. Joe Schmitt

    It’s known as Ragged Sailors where I grew up.

  4. michael aman

    Noxious weed, maybe (I do pull it out if it shows up in my garden because it is tenacious). But along the roadsides in summer it cheers me to no end. As James says above, “bright blue eyes in the morning.”

  5. Pierre Crozat

    I once tried to roast the roots of chicory that I painfully pulled from the garden. It was a lot of work and the result was horrible! I guess I’ll have to try again…

  6. E Newman

    I love the way the blooms look like they have little shiny stars on the top

  7. Robin Day

    That was new to me that the chicory is used in pasture in Egypt. Makes sense as the root is deep and can tap lower soil levels. Good ideas here. Alfalfa has very deep roots as well, a perennial.

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