Activity: Ten Common Weeds:
The purpose of this section is to provide students with some scientific background, folklore, and economic uses behind common "weeds" they might encounter.
Scientific Name: Cichorium intybus
Common Name: chicory
Range: throughout the United States; found along roadsides, in field borders, in waste lands and barren meadows
Origin: chicory is native to Europe and temperate regions in Asia; it has been naturalized to the United States.
Botanical description: Chicory has a long fleshy root filled with a milky sap, much like that of its sister dandelion. Leaves form a basal rosette along the
ground with a tough branched stem that is hard to break. Upper leaves are small and insignificant; lower leaves are large and toothed. The flowers are
usually blue, although on some rare occasions they are white or pink. They are ray flowers with fringed edges and are about 1½ inches in diameter. They face
toward the rising sun in the morning and by afternoon are faded and withered, to be replaced by a new set of flowers the next morning. Chicory is easily
recognizable during its flowering season by the daisy-like blue flowers that seem to be in constant supply; when the flower is gone, the leaves and
arrangement do resemble dandelion but are distinguishable because they have tiny hairs on them, while dandelion leaves are hairless.
What’s in a name: The origin of chicory’s name is uncertain, but it is suggested that an alternate name for the plant, succory, comes from the Latin
word succorrere, meaning to run under, for the length and depth of chicory’s root. It is also suggested that the name may be a corruption of the Egyptian
word Ctchorium (meaning unavailable). The species name of chicory, intybus, is derived from another name for the plant, Hendibeh, which is a name also
used for endive, the only other member of the genus Cichorium.
All in the family: Chicory is a member of the composite family, a large group of wildflowers that includes dandelions, purple coneflower, daisies, and endive.
Cultural uses: Traditionally, chicory juice was used as part of a remedy for headaches. The Romans used chicory as a vegetable or in salads. The root
was ground and used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. It is still used that way today, and is the special ingredient in Luzianne coffee, a mellow blend of
coffee and chicory that is sold in Louisiana.
A tea made from the flowers and leaves is good for the liver and gall bladder, and is used to treat jaudice, dyspepsia, loss of appetite and mild laxative,
especially good for children. Chicory is also taken for gout and rheumatic conditions.
Active compounds: inulin, sesquiterpene lactones, vitamins, minerals, fat, mannitol and latex
Research: An article in the Journal of Nutrition examined the effect of chicory inulin in a variety of disorders. The results were favorable for the effectiveness
of inulin in reducing risk of heart disease, treating gastrointestinal distress, elevating immune functions, facilitating the metabolism of lipids and reduction of
risk of colonic carcinogenesis. Other research confirmed the cardioactivity of chicory in frog hearts in vitro, ascribing to the plant a digitalis-like property.
This study has not been carried out in humans. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity in rats, but this also has not been tested in humans.
Like many other herbs, chicory must be more thoroughly tested.
In lore, legend and life: Chicory is known as the blue sailor weed in some countries, based on a legend about a young woman who fell in love with a
sailor. The sailor left her for his true love, the sea, and the young woman was left alone. The gods took pity on her and turned her into the beautiful blue flower we know as chicory