(NaturalNews) This time of year beautiful sky-blue flowers are blooming all along city roadsides, fields and waste areas. Chances are, this gorgeous flower is chicory (Cichorium intybus), and not only is it edible, but it has a long tradition of medicinal use, especially to detoxify the liver.
Chicory is known for the fact that it's blue flowers open and close precisely the same time every day (1) As far back as the Roman empire chicory was used to treat liver ailments, and in the lands of Persia, Arabia and India physicians used it widely to clear heat in the body, to detoxify and to work as a laxative (2).
Similar to dandelion, the leaves can be eaten in early spring but get quite bitter once the plant flowers. The long taproots can be dug, dried and roasted to use as a coffee substitute, and in fact they are commonly used in that respect in commercial teas and coffee substitutes. The roots can also be dug and planted in a dark cellar, and the plant will grow small pale leaf heads: we know this vegetable as Belgian endive; it is the same species as roadside chicory (Cichorium intybus.)
Chicory root is used medicinally as a decoction (strong tea) or tincture (steeped in alcohol) to clear the liver. Eating the chicory leaves or Belgium endive is used to treat Liver fire: bursting headache, thirst, congested face and fever.
Chicory is used to treat all kinds of liver ailments, including jaundice, gall stones (and urinary stones), moodiness, depression, constipation, indigestion, headache and right side pain under the ribs. (3)
The milky sap of the chicory is used similarly to dandelion: to promote lactation in breastfeeding women.
Harvest the chicory root in the fall, when the plant stops flowering.
Clean and chop the roots.
If making a tincture:
Fill a jar with the chicory root and cover with alcohol such as 100 proof vodka.
Label mixture: "Chicory root in 100 proof vodka", with date.
After six weeks, strain chicory out of liquid, saving the liquid: this is your tincture.
Fill 1 oz dropper bottles.
Label clearly and take in standard dose: 20 - 40 drops as necessary to detoxify liver.
Lay the chopped root on a tray and either air dry or put in dehydrator at 95 degrees until dry.
Dried chicory root can be used to simmer into a decoction. (Drink the strong tea made after simmering half hour or more.)
Or roast the root, grind and brew into a coffee substitute. Can also be combined with dried and roasted dandelion root and/or dried and roasted burdock root.
Raw food recipe:
Belgian Endive Wraps
1 avocado, chopped 1 cup walnuts, chopped 1 small clove garlic, crushed 1/2 tsp chili powder 1/2 tsp sea salt drizzle olive oil Belgian Endive Leaves
Mix first six ingredient together, and scoop onto Belgian Endive leaves.
Serve and enjoy.
1. Magic, p.139 2. Holmes, p.624 3. Holmes, p.624
Holmes, Peter. The Energetics of Western Herbs. Volume II. Snow Lotus Press. Boulder, CO. 1994
Magic and Medicine of Plants. Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Pleasantville, NY. 1990
Elias, Thomas and Dykeman, Peter. Edible Wild Plants, A North American Guide. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. New York. 1990.
About the author
Melissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants. Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.