Chicory: Benefits and Side Effects
Many dietary and sports nutrition supplements contain such components as chicory or its derivatives: inulin, fructose, etc. In US pharmacies, herbal tea made from crushed dry chicory root is sold, and in supermarkets – coffee surrogates containing it, as well as natural instant sugar-free syrups, pastes, or powders.
But do you know what chicory is, how useful it is, and whether is it safe to take chicory drinks and supplements with it during the day?
Chicory: What is It?
Cichorium intybus (lat.) or chicory is a group of cultivated and wild plant species belonging to the Asteraceae family. Some of them live for 2 years, others – for several years. The homeland of chicory is the Mediterranean. Today, the plant is cultivated and grows naturally in temperate climates on all continents.
Chicory is grown for culinary and medicinal purposes, for the production of a natural dye, and also as a fodder crop for ruminants.
There are several groups of varieties of lettuce chicory: numerous varieties of leaf lettuce Endive and Escariol, the leaves of which can be of different shapes and different shades of green or burgundy.
Cultivated chicory root is used in cooking as a spice, like parsley or parsnip roots. Dried or freeze-dried chicory root is a valuable product for the preparation of a therapeutic diet drink with a bitter woody-nutty flavor and coffee aroma.
In herbal medicine, all parts of Cichorium intybus can be used simultaneously or in various combinations – root, stems, leaves, flowers, dried fruits, and seeds. Depending on the content of the components, the set of therapeutic effects will change.
Chicory Root Benefits
The topic “Benefits and harms of chicory” is devoted to many scientific works, since this plant has long been used by traditional healers, and the healing and dietary properties of chicory are recognized by traditional medicine. New research is being done to confirm many of the old recommendations, but at the same time to reconsider some of the previous conclusions and provide new advice in their place.
Let us immediately clarify that the benefits of chicory depend on the form and what parts of the plant were used. For example, an alcoholic (ethanol) extract of seeds and an aqueous infusion of a dried root are 2 completely different remedies. For example, the first, unlike the second, is able to protect young healthy lymphocytes from ionizing radiation, and liver cells from CCl4-induced fibrosis.
Now let’s consider an in-detail list of what beneficial effects can be expected from the most common form of the product – herbal tea or drink.
- blood thinning;
- lowering blood pressure;
- inhibition of atherosclerosis processes;
- reduced chance of venous thrombosis.
- inhibition of the activity of oral pathogenic bacteria;
- promoting gum health.
- increased secretory activity of the stomach.
Liver and gallbladder:
- antioxidant protection of liver cells;
- increased production of liver enzymes;
- prevention of fatty hepatosis;
- protection of hepatocytes in hepatitis B;
- stimulation of bile synthesis.
- acceleration of digestion and absorption of nutrients;
- increased intestinal peristalsis;
- saturation of feces with water;
- relief of bowel movements for constipation;
- preventing the aggravation of hemorrhoids;
- reduced risk of colon cancer;
- prebiotic-stimulation of intestinal microflora.
- modulation of intestinal immunity;
- regulation of intestinal microflora homeostasis;
- maintaining the barrier function of the microbiota;
- stimulation of T-lymphocytes;
- renewal of dendritic cells of adaptive immunity;
- decreased synthesis of inflammatory markers.
- normalization of metabolism;
- decrease in blood glucose concentration;
- improved glucose metabolism;
- increased concentration of glutathione;
- lowering the level of malodialdehyde;
- decreased production of ghrelin (hunger hormone);
- improvement in type 2 diabetes;
- reduces the risk of complications of type 2 diabetes;
- reduction of oxide stress during MS.
- improvement of the condition of large joints with osteoarthritis;
- relief from gout;
- normalization of calcium concentration in the blood;
- prevention of osteoporosis.
Nervous system and mental activity:
- a positive effect on the cognitive functions of the brain;
- uplifting mood;
- feeling better;
- making it easier to fall asleep.
Secret Behind Usefulness
The above beneficial properties and effects are possible due to the fact that chicory root is a natural vitamin and mineral complex, which contains a significant amount of components:
- vitamins – A, B6, B9, C, E, and K;
- minerals – iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, sodium, selenium, phosphorus, and zinc;
- organic acids;
- endemic substances – cicoreol, cicotubazides, chicory acid.
But the main therapeutic component of chicory root is the inulin group of polysaccharides, consisting of inulin, oligofructose, and fructans, which differ from each other in the length of the molecular chain. Inulin is a storage carbohydrate in plants. In humans, this role is performed by glycogen. Inulin polysaccharides are not digested in either the small or large intestine and are often referred to as insoluble fiber fibers.
Daily intake of inulin – 8 g, stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria, and a 15-gram daily dose provides a mild laxative effect that improves the quality of life of elderly people suffering from senile constipation.
Chicory: Benefits for Men and Women Aiming to Lose Weight
A drink made from chicory root will help you get rid of abdominal fat faster. The inulin group of chicory polysaccharides also helps to quickly remove uric acid and its metabolites from the body, which helps the muscles recover faster and not experience too much muscle strength after physical exertion. Therefore, chicory root extract or inulin isolated from it is used in fat-burning supplements, proteins, and dietary supplements to improve digestion.
In the online stores, you can find a complex based on chicory root oligofructose (Universal Nutrition Greens Powder, for instance). A cocktail made from it, drunk in the morning, will provide the body with the necessary minerals and trace elements, relieve hunger, provide the necessary food for the intestinal microflora, cleanse the body of toxins, speed up metabolism, help get rid of excess fat and depression, improve mood and will invigorate.
Chicory Side Effects
Provided there are no contraindications, which will be listed below, and taken correctly, it is impossible to get harm. The only “but” is a food allergy, which can occur at any time, regardless of the duration of the intake period. It is possible to recognize the resulting inadequate reaction of the immune system to one of the substances of chicory by the following symptomatic picture, where the combination and strength of the symptoms may be different:
- discomfort in different parts of the abdominal cavity, diarrhea;
- itching, rash;
- difficulty with exhalation, sore throat, cough;
- copious tears and thin snot.
Taking too much chicory per day can cause disturbances in the functioning of the digestive system and the balance of the intestinal microflora, which will manifest as discomfort or pain in the stomach and/or intestines, and can cause diarrhea. The total daily dose of brewed chicory root, depending on age, should not exceed 18-53 grams.
In pharmacy instructions, there is a warning about the possible individual intolerance of certain substances from chicory. It also contains carbohydrates at its root, which are responsible for the increasingly common FODMAP intolerance.
Doctors and nutritionists warn that drinking a chicory root drink on a regular basis is…
- renal failure, urolithiasis;
- acute hemorrhoids;
- peptic ulcer of the stomach and duodenum.
Possible, but infrequently, with caution and only after the permission of the doctor:
- with varicose veins;
- gastritis with high acidity;
- problems with the formation of bile;
- pregnant and breastfeeding.
More recently, US doctors allowed teenagers (from the age of 12) to take a drink from chicory root. Today, the restriction has been “rejuvenated”. US nutritionists and EU doctors can recommend this product from 3 years of age.
How to Choose Chicory
The question “Which chicory is better?” is often asked on the Internet, and it refers to a drink from the root of this plant.
Most similar to coffee is the granular or powdered form. This similarity is achieved by a combination of slight bitterness and the smell of hydroxymethylfurfural. This aromatic substance is found in coffee beans and is also released when inulin comes into contact with boiling water. The dissolved liquid or pasty form of the drink and herbal tea from brewed pieces of the sublimated root have a less pronounced coffee aroma and tonic effect.
At the same time, you can get the invigorating effect of coffee and the benefits of chicory root from coffee drinks, where chicory powder or granules are mixed with ground beans, and instant/granulated coffee.
How to Take Chicory
The doctor or healer who prescribed the drug should tell you how to take chicory. In this article, we will clarify the nuances of taking a drink from chicory:
- When is it better to drink chicory in the morning or in the evening? The drink from the root can be drunk in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. Taken on an empty stomach or before meals in combination with cream/milk, it blunts hunger and reduces appetite. If you drink it after a meal and in its pure form, then the absorption of food will improve.
- Is it possible to drink chicory at night? Not only is it possible. Those who have trouble falling asleep should. The composition of chicory root does not contain caffeine and tannin, and a slightly hypnotic effect that occurs after 30-45 minutes has been proven by both time and science.
- Will the Chicory drink invigorate just like a cup of natural coffee? No, the invigorating effect of chicory is due to the placebo expectation of such an action, which is reinforced by the characteristic coffee smell. But a teaspoon of chicory powder – 3 g, added to coffee, will not only enhance the aroma and add taste, but without reducing the tonic effect, it will reduce the heart rate, in comparison with an increase in heart rate after “pure” coffee.
For those who are losing weight, in addition to including salad types of chicory in the diet and using chicory root as a spice in the preparation of first and second courses, it is recommended to take a drink. It will help normalize carbohydrate metabolism and improve digestive processes.
To do this, you need 1 tsp. crushed root, bought at a pharmacy, pour 250 ml of boiled water cooled to room temperature and leave in a boiling water bath for half an hour. After cooling, decant, and divide into 3 portions to be drunk 20 minutes before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Bottom Line
The benefits of chicory are undoubted, multifaceted, confirmed by centuries of experience in folk healing, and proven by modern medical science for all age categories, starting from the age of 3. But in order not to harm your health, you need to know the pathologies in which chicory drink is contraindicated or you can take it, but a little and with caution.
Those who drink fat burners, protein and prebiotic complex supplements, and several cups of pure chicory and/or surrogate coffee drink per day should pay attention to the total daily dose of inulin. This will help to get not harm, but the maximum benefit.
Source – rxlist.com
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