What is Chicory? Chicory is a blue-flowered herb with a long white root. It contains no caffeine. When roasted and ground properly, it has a chocolate-like flavor that adds flavor and body to cofffee. 100% Chicory can also be brewed alone for a rich and creamy drink, that has no caffeine.
Chicory has been an inexpensive substitute for coffee or as an extender in commercial grade coffee to keep down the cost of blends. However, that is not the case now. Before the turn of the century, it was common to substitute Chicory for coffee. In 1907, the Food and Drug Act became effective, requiring labels to state when fillers were employed; thus the practice of undisclosed substitution began to decline.
Chicory root has become popular as a coffee substitute due to a compound it contains, called inulin that in the roasting process is converted to another compound that has a coffee-like aroma. Unlike coffee, however, it lacks caffeine, as well as the negative side effects that some people experience when ingesting caffeine or coffee. In fact, historically, chicory has been used as a remedy to the stimulant properties of caffeine, although more scientific studies are needed to support and explain this effect. http://www.parentsplace.com/expert/nutritionist/. In 2006 studies have shown that coffee too has medicinal uses, in addition caffeine has some medicinal uses as well.
Medieval monks cultivated chicory and it was introduced into Europe in the 1600's. The Dutch first put chicory in their coffee, although it was the French that expanded the use of chicory greatly. The French influence in New Orleans and the settlement of French Canadians (the Acadians) expanded the use in Louisiana. Thus the drink "Cafe Au Lait": Chicory extracted and milk added for a creamy rich finish.
Other web links for research on the health benefits of Chicory
HOW CAN CHICORY BE USED? Chicory has traditionally been used in folk medicine as a mild tonic, diuretic, and a laxative, as well as a remedy for tachycardia. In recent decades, it has caught on as a coffee substitute due to its similar, somewhat bitter flavor, without the caffeine. Although the term "all natural" is not legally defined, most chicory beverages are made from the plant root, and not from a synthesized material. In many cases, it may even be organically grown.
LOWERS CHOLESTEROL: A new study* reports that chicory reduces cholesterol levels and increases the ratio of HDL (the good stuff) to LDL (the bad stuff) in the blood of tested animals. *Journal of Nutrition, vol. 128, pgs. 1731-6, by Drs. Meehye Kim & Hyun Kyong Shin, Korea Food & Drug Administration and the Dept. of Food Science & Nutrition, Hallym U., Chunchon, Korea.
LOWERS BLOOD SUGAR: Laboratory research by Leroux (Europes largest chicory producer) has shown chicory root extracts to be anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and slightly sedative. It also slows and weakens the pulse and lowers the blood sugar.http://www.leroux.com - click on link to go to Leroux's web site
THERAPEUTIC FOR DIABETES: A 1984 study * demonstrated that daily intake by diabetics of a large amount of the fructo-oligosaccharides and inulin contained in chicory (i) reduces the glucose rate in blood, (ii) decreases serum LDL cholesterol levels, and (iii)does not change the levels of triglycerides or HDL cholesterol. This lessens the disturbances in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism found in diabetes. *Effect of fructo oligosaccharides on blood glucose and serum lipids in diabetic subjects, Nutrition Research, 1984, vol. 4, pp. 961-66, by Yamashita Y, Kawai K, and Itakura M.
CONTRIBUTES TO WEIGHT LOSS AND STIMULATES THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: Chicory contains two ingredients that can contribute to a weight loss program. A report in the July 1999 Journal of Nutrition* (supplement) reveals that these ingredients, inulin and oligofructose, are not digestible by our bodies, and thus have no calories. However, the inulin and oligofructose in chicory are digested by beneficial microscopic plants in the colon and aid "in the treatment of, prevention or alleviation of symptoms of intestinal diseases." These ingredients also participate in the feeding of beneficial bacterial (similar to yogurt) and allow them to compete with and defeat harmful bacteria, stimulate our immune system, and indirectly help promote our own production of B vitamins. Journal of Nutrition, July 1999, by Dr. Marcel B. Roberfroid and associates, Catholic U. of Lovain, Dept. of Pharmaceutical Science, Brussels, Belgium.
*These findings where documented from resources from the internet and although we believe them to be factual, we advise consultation with your personal physician before using chicory as a health food supplement.