Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Chicory - Cichorium intybus

Family: Asteraceae - Aster

Other Names: Common chicory [E-flora]

Sensitization, Aster-related Allergies, Plant, Inulin, Dye, Insect Repellent, Compost, Laxative, Tonic



Origin Status: Exotic [E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: Blue
USDA Blooming Period: Mid Summer
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall [USDA-E-flora]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

Chicory has a long history of herbal use and is especially of great value for its tonic affect upon the liver and digestive tract[254]. It is little used in modern herbalism, though it is often used as part of the diet. [PFAF]

Various Cultural Usages

In those European countries where it is cultivated, the roots are grown in the open during summer, then dug up when the weather begins turning cold. The roots are then stored in cellars and forced to produce leaf throughout the winter. One method of forcing produces barbe de capucin, the loose, blanched leaves that are considered a delicacy in France. There are other methods of forcing, each of which produces a slightly different quality of leaf (called "witloof" when the tight-clustered crown of leaves is blanched and eaten as a potherb). [Nyerges]


Evidence shows that chicory has been cultivated as a food plant since ancient Greek and Roman times. Considered a European native, it was introduced into the United States in the 19th century. Though it is still an important crop in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany, it is generally treated as a weed in the United States. Most abundant in the eastern United States, it is now found over the entire United States, growing along roadsides, in fields, pastures, waste areas, gardens, vacant lots, and front yards. [Nyerges]

(Cichorium intybus) It was cultivated on the Continent up to World War II, for the root, which is used as a substitute for coffee, and is sometimes mixed with real coffee as an adulterant. It is very bitter, and contains no caffeine or tannin (Sanford). It was introduced as a coffee substitute in the 18th century, but it was actually banned by a law of 1832, repealed in 1840, though it has now virtually died out as a coffee substitute (Brouk). Another use for the foliage, which is edible once the bitter principle is removed by twice boiling, was for a blue dye (Hemphill).[DPL Watts]

It was very much a liver (it was known as “liver’s friend) and jaundice plant (see Gerard, and Thornton). Gypsies use a root decoction for jaundice (VeseyFitzgerald), and chicory flowers were used for liver complaints (Pollock). Distilled water of the flowers has been recommended as a good eyewash (Genders. 1976); this may be a cosmetic, too, for an infusion of the whole plant has long been used as such – applied at bedtime, it will remove blemishes from the skin. There is nothing new about that, for Thomas Hill in 1577 wrote that “Ciccorie cureth scabbed places, causeth a faire skin …”. He went on to claim that “it helpeth … the kings evill, the plague, burning agues … and cureth the shingles”. It has been recommended for easy childbirth (V G Hatfield. 1984), and Lupton quoted Mizaldus in making the extraordinary claim that “if a woman anoint often her dugs or paps with the juice of succory, it will make them little, round and hard; or if they be hanging or bagging, it will draw them together, whereby they shall seem as the dugs of a maid”. Succory, incidentally, is, most probably, another version of chicory. [DPL Watts]


The root and the leaves are appetizer, cholagogue, depurative, digestive, diuretic, hypoglycaemic, laxative and tonic[4, 7, 9, 13, 21, 46, 222]. [PFAF]

Chicory is recognized as a diuretic, laxative, and hepatic by herbalists. [Nyerges]

  • Antibacterial (1; FAD; WO2); [HMH Duke]
  • Antibilious (f; WO2);
  • Antiexudative (1; PHR; PH2);
  • Antiinflammatory (1; APA; FAD; PNC);
  • Antimutagenic (1; APA);
  • Antispermatogenic (1; WO2);
  • Aperitif (1; APA; VAG; VVG);
  • Bifidogenic (1; FNF);
  • Bitter (1; HHB);
  • Bradycardic (1; WO2);
  • Cardiodepressant (1; PNC);
  • Cardiotonic (1; FAD);
  • Carminative (f; WO2);
  • Cholagogue (1; PHR; PH2; VVG; WO2);
  • Choleretic (2; ABA; KOM; PH2; VVG);
  • Demulcent (f; WBB);
  • Depurative (f; HHB; VVG);
  • Digestive (1; APA; WBB; WO2);
  • Diuretic (1; FAD; PNC; VVG; WO2);
  • Emmenagogue (f; WBB; WO2);
  • Hepatoprotective (1; APA; VVG; WO2);
  • Hypocholesterolemic (1; PHR; PH2);
  • Hypoglycemic (1; FAD);
  • Laxative (1; APA; FAD; PNC);
  • Negative Chronotropic (1; PH2);
  • Negative Inotropic (1; PH2);
  • Nervine (f; DEM);
  • Peristaltic (1; WO2);
  • Prebiotic (1; FNF);
  • Sedative (1; APA; FAD);
  • Stomachic (f; HHB; WO2);
  • Tonic (f; APA; PNC; VVG).


  • 11(S),13-DIHYDROLACTUCIN Root: DUKE1992A
  • ALPHA-LINOLENIC-ACID Leaf 60 - 1,224 ppm DUKE1992A Root 130 - 650 ppm DUKE1992A
  • ARGININE Leaf 730 - 14,892 ppm DUKE1992A
  • ASCORBIC-ACID Leaf 100 - 2,040 ppm DUKE1992A Root 50 - 250 ppm DUKE1992A
  • ASH Leaf 6,000 - 180,000 ppm DUKE1992A Root 8,900 - 44,500 ppm DUKE1992A
  • BETA-CAROTENE Leaf 228 ppm; DUKE1992A
  • BETAINE Root: DUKE1992A
  • BORON Root 20 ppm; DUKE1992A
  • CAFFEIC-ACID Leaf 767 ppm; DUKE1992A
  • CALCIUM Leaf 790 - 18,900 ppm DUKE1992A Root 410 - 2,050 ppm DUKE1992A
  • CARBOHYDRATES Leaf 32,000 - 654,000 ppm DUKE1992A Root 175,100 - 875,500 ppm DUKE1992A
  • CHOLINE Root: DUKE1992A
  • CICHORIIN Flower 1,000 - 2,000 ppm DUKE1992A
  • ESCULETIN Flower: DUKE1992A
  • ESCULIN Flower: DUKE1992A
  • FAT Leaf 1,000 - 29,000 ppm DUKE1992A Root 2,000 - 10,000 ppm DUKE1992A
  • FIBER Plant 9,000 - 153,000 ppm DUKE1992A Root 19,500 - 97,500 ppm DUKE1992A
  • FRUCTOSE Root 45,000 - 220,000 ppm DUKE1992A
  • GLUCOSE Root 11,000 ppm; DUKE1992A
  • HARMAN Root: DUKE1992A
  • HISTIDINE Leaf 170 - 3,468 ppm DUKE1992A
  • INOSITOL Root: DUKE1992A
  • INULIN Root 110,000 - 580,000 ppm DUKE1992A
  • IRON Leaf 5 - 246 ppm DUKE1992A Root 8 - 40 ppm DUKE1992A
  • ISOLEUCINE Leaf 600 - 12,240 ppm DUKE1992A
  • LACTUCIN Latex Exudate: DUKE1992A
  • LEUCINE Leaf 440 - 8,976 ppm DUKE1992A
  • LINOLEIC-ACID Leaf 370 - 7,548 ppm DUKE1992A Root 750 - 3,750 ppm DUKE1992A
  • LYSINE Leaf 390 - 7,956 ppm DUKE1992A
  • MAGNESIUM Leaf 130 - 2,652 ppm DUKE1992A Root 220 - 1,100 ppm DUKE1992A
  • MANNAN Root: DUKE1992A
  • MANNITOL Plant: DUKE1992A
  • MANNOSE Root: DUKE1992A
  • METHIONINE Leaf 60 - 1,224 ppm DUKE1992A
  • MYRISTIC-ACID Leaf 10 - 204 ppm DUKE1992A Root 30 - 150 ppm DUKE1992A
  • NIACIN Leaf 5 - 102 ppm DUKE1992A Root 4 - 20 ppm DUKE1992A
  • OLEIC-ACID Leaf 20 - 408 ppm DUKE1992A Root 40 - 200 ppm DUKE1992A
  • PALMITIC-ACID Leaf 210 - 4,284 ppm DUKE1992A Root 410 - 2,050 ppm DUKE1992A
  • PALMITOLEIC-ACID Root 750 - 3,750 ppm DUKE1992A
  • PECTIN Root: DUKE1992A
  • PENTOSANE Root 47,000 - 65,000 ppm DUKE1992A
  • PHENYLALANINE Leaf 240 - 4,896 ppm DUKE1992A
  • PHOSPHORUS Leaf 210 - 4,284 ppm DUKE1992A Root 610 - 3,050 ppm DUKE1992A
  • POTASSIUM Leaf 1,820 - 37,128 ppm DUKE1992A Root 2,900 - 14,500 ppm DUKE1992A
  • PROTEIN Leaf 10,000 - 246,000 ppm DUKE1992A Root 14,000 - 70,000 ppm DUKE1992A
  • QUERCETIN Plant: DUKE1992A
  • RIBOFLAVIN Leaf 1 - 29 ppm DUKE1992A Root 2 ppm; DUKE1992A
  • SCOPOLETIN Flower: DUKE1992A
  • SODIUM Leaf 70 - 1,428 ppm DUKE1992A Root 500 - 2,500 ppm DUKE1992A
  • STEARIC-ACID Leaf 10 - 204 ppm DUKE1992A Root 20 - 100 ppm DUKE1992A
  • TANNIN Plant: DUKE1992A
  • THIAMIN Leaf 1 - 14 ppm DUKE1992A Root 2 ppm; DUKE1992A
  • THREONINE Leaf 280 - 5,712 ppm DUKE1992A
  • TRYPTOPHAN Leaf 180 - 3,672 ppm DUKE1992A
  • VALINE Leaf 450 - 9,180 ppm DUKE1992A
  • VANILLIC-ACID Leaf 0.5 ppm; DUKE1992A
  • WATER Leaf 931,000 - 951,000 ppm DUKE1992A Root 777,000 - 800,000 ppm DUKE1992A

ppm = parts per million
tr = trace

Inulin and oligofructan, polysaccharides found in chicory, were reported in several studies to pass through the stomach and undergo fermentation in the colon. This leads to the selective stimulation of the healthy bifidobacteria population. The health consequences of this include the reduction of colonic diseases and diabetes. Inulin and oligofructan also have a significant effect on cholesterol levels, especially in reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol. In addition, other improvements in lipid metabolism, which may be signs of “blood purification” in the traditional herbal terminology, are induced by consuming chicory, along with a clearing out of body fat, bile, and cholesterol through fecal excretion. These changes may support general health and disease prevention. [Ramzan PESR]


Regarding its nutritional value, chicory is a rich source of folate, containing 110mg of folate per half cup of chopped raw chicory. Therefore, an increased consumption of chicory might explain its reported properties in cases of folate‐ deficiency‐related anemia in Greco‐Arab and Islamic medicine. As for studies on its digestive properties, chicory is described to be bitter in taste and bitter plants have been used to treat digestive tract disturbances among various traditional systems, relieving gastrointestinal pains. Several sesquiterpene lactones found in chicory confer the bitter taste to the plant. The laxative effect of chicory can be explained by its high content of dietary fiber, having 3–6 g of dietary fiber per half cup of chopped raw chicory. Moreover, inulin, an indigestible carbohydrate, is found to some extent in the stalk of the plant. Inulin, like other dietary fibers, increases bowel movement and is thus responsible for the laxative and digestive‐stimulant properties. Other reports of hepatoprotective activity and hypoglycemic effects of chicory are well supported by previous scientific literature [1–3, 64–66].[Ramzan PESR]

  • Diabetic Food: "The root is said to be an ideal food for diabetics because of its inulin content[9]. Inulin is a starch that cannot be digested by humans, it tends to pass straight through the digestive system and is therefore unlikely to be of use to a diabetic[K]. However, the inulin can be used to make a sweetener that is suitable for diabetics to use[K]. Chicory-root is free of harmful ingredients, and is essentially a concentrated combination of three sugars (pentose, levulose and dextrose) along with taraxarcine (the bitter principle of dandelion)[269]. It is especially important as source of levulose[269]." [PFAF]

ChicoryCichorium intybus [218 - PFAF]

Part:LeavesPer 100 g dry weight
Food Energy (Kcal)290Ash (g)13Potassium (mg)-
Water (g)0Thiamine (mg)1.01Magnesium (mg)-
Protein (g)24.6Riboflavin (mg)1.74Calcium (mg)1145
Fat (g)2.9Niacin (mg)5.8Phosphorus (mg)-
Carbohydrate (g)59.4Vitamin C (mg)159Sodium (mg)-
Fiber (g)13Vitamin A (mg)23Iron (mg)24.6
Zinc (mg)-Manganese (mg)-Copper (mg)-

ChicoryCichorium intybus [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Part:LeavesPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)24Ash (g)1.3Potassium (mg)420
Water (g)93Thiamine (mg)0.05Magnesium (mg)-
Protein (g)1.8Riboflavin (mg)0.1Calcium (mg)86
Fat (g)0.3Niacin (mg)0.5Phosphorus (mg)40
Carbohydrate (g)3.8Vitamin C (mg)28.6Sodium (mg)-
Crude Fiber (g)0.8Vitamin A (RE)400Iron (mg)0.9
Zinc (mg)-Manganese (mg)-Copper (mg)-

Analysis of 100 grams of raw chicory greens shows that it contains 86 milligrams of calcium, 40 milligrams of phosphorus, 420 milligrams of potassium, 22 milligrams of vitamin C, and approximately 4,000 international units of vitamin A. [Nyerges]


"Prefers a sunny position in any moderately fertile well-drained moisture retentive soil[1, 14, 52]. Prefers a pH 5.5 to 7[200]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 to 8.3. Chicory grows on any type of soil but, when cultivated, grows best on mellow, deeply tilled, fertile soil or sandy loam[269].. A cool weather crop, it tolerates only moderate summer temperatures and requires well-distributed rainfall, with good drainage, or some irrigation in drier areas[269]. Chicory roots deeply in relatively short time; soil too wet for beans and small grains is not suitable[269]. To insure proper root-growth, apply lime or marl to acid soil to neutralize acidity[269]. Chicory is reported to tolerate a pH in the range of 4.5 to 8.3, an annual rainfall of 30 to 400 cm and an annual mean biotemperature of 6o to 27oC[269]. Chicory is an excellent winter salad. It is often cultivated, especially in Europe, for its edible leaves and for its roots which are used to make a coffee substitute. There are many named varieties[46, 132, 183] and, by careful selection of cultivars and sowing times, fresh leaves can be obtained all year round. There are three main types of chicory grown for their leaves, there are many cultivars of each form:- A bitter-tasting loose-leafed form is grown as a green winter vegetable, especially in southern Italy. A narrow-leafed, witloof or Belgian form has a compact elongate head (chicon) which is blanched for use in salads or cooked dishes. A broad-leaved (usually red) form produces cabbage-like hearts, these are generally less bitter than the other forms and are eaten raw or cooked. These forms are often used as a winter salad crop[K]. Although a perennial, chicory is usually cultivated as an annual crop, especially when being grown as a winter salad. The winter salad cultivars are usually sown in early summer to make sure that they do not flower in their first year of growth. By late autumn they have formed an overwintering rosette of leaves rather like a cabbage. These leaves can be harvested as required during the winter and the plants will then usually make some new growth (as long as the winter is not too cold) that can be harvested in late winter or early spring. The plants run to flower in the following summer and fail to make an overwintering rosette of leaves for that winter[K]. Chicory can be grown successfully in a meadow or even in a lawn so long as the grass is not cut too short nor too often[K]. It often self-sows freely when well-sited, especially if it is growing in a dry alkaline soil[238]. A good bee plant[24, 108]. A very ornamental plant[1]. The flowers open in the early morning (about 6 - 7 o'clock in Britain) and close around midday[4]." [PFAF]

Winter Chicory Crop: You can make your own winter chicory garden as follows: dig several chicory roots late in the fall and plant them in a deep wooden box using sandy soil or just sand. [Coffee] Make sure that their crowns are just showing on the surface. Cover with a layer of damp sawdust or peat and keep in a dark, cool place such as a cellar or heated garage with a temperature of about 12oC. Water from time to time. The young crisp sprouts will make an appearance above the sawdust four to six weeks from the time of planting, and can be harvested in two or three successive crops. [Coffee]

Days to Maturity: 21
When to Plant: For this winter delicacy - tender, pale salad hearts or chicons - sow seeds right in the garden row about two weeks before your last frost.
How to Plant: Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Deeply worked soil will encourage strong roots. Thin seedlings to stand 4 to 6 inches apart in rows a foot or more apart.
Growing Conditions: Keep the weeds down, water in a drought, and in the fall let a frost or two nip the plant. Then dig up the roots, cut off all but 1 inch of the leafy top, and replant the roots, sanding up, in buckets of soil, sand, or hardwood sawdust. (A new variety, Zoom, may be forced in several inches of water). Keep the buckets in a cold place and bring them, one at a time, to a cool room to sprout 500F to 650F (100C to 180C). Water the plants and cover them with a carton or paper bag to exclude light, so the chicory that sprouts from the roots will be creamy white and mild flavored.[NSSH bubel]


"Seed - sow the wild form or cultivars being grown for their roots in May or June in situ. Cultivars being grown for their edible leaves can be sown in April for a summer crop or in June/July for a winter crop. Sow them in situ or in pots and then plant them out as soon as they are large enough." [PFAF]


Perennial herb [annual, biennial]; sap milky. Stem: 3–10+ dm, branched. Leaf: basal and cauline; proximal 1–2 dm, toothed or pinnately lobed, wing-petioled; middle sessile, sometimes clasping; distal greatly reduced. Inflorescence: heads liguliflorous, showy, terminal and axillary, lateral sessile; involucre ± cylindric; phyllaries in 2 series, hardened in basal 1/2, outer short, spreading, inner elongate, erect; receptacle ± flat, epaleate, minutely scaly. Flower: 10–25; ligules blue to purple, readily withering. Fruit: oblong, glabrous, 5-angled; pappus of minute blunt scales.
6 species: Europe, Mediterranean, Africa. (Old Arabic name) [Strother 2006 FNANM 19:221–222] Cichorium endivia L. a waif in California. [Jepson2012]

Local Species


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