The Health Benefits of Chicory Root

Coffee Alternative That Helps With Regularity and Blood Sugar

chicory root

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a plant that is widely grown in northwestern Europe. Chicory roots are a rich source of a water-soluble fiber called inulin.

Chicory inulin is not digestible and can be used to replace dietary fat or sugar in some processed and functional foods. Using inulin instead of sugar or fat can result in a lower-calorie food.

Chicory root is also commonly used in the preparation of a bitter coffee substitute in France and Japan. Chicory root coffee is becoming more popular in certain areas of the U.S.

Health Benefits

While chicory root inulin may have a significant value as a fat-replacer in foods, it can also increase the added fiber content of foods and help promote healthy digestion.

Functional foods with inulin like chicory root can not only increase daily fiber intake to boost regularity but because these foods may also have a lower calorie and fat content than comparable foods without inulin, they may also help decrease overall calorie intake. The prebiotic qualities of chicory root (i.e., feeding the good bacteria in your gut) add to its health benefits.

Research studies investigating the inulin in chicory root have found other benefits as well. One study tested the effects of chicory root extract on blood sugar, fat metabolism, and bowel movements.

Study authors concluded that chicory had no effect on fat metabolism, but it could delay or prevent the early onset of diabetes and improve the regularity of bowel movements. Another study explored the science behind different chicory root uses including chicory root juice for uterine cancer prevention and tumors, chicory tea for jaundice, and chicory tea as a tonic and purifying medicine for infants.

Additionally, an animal study indicated that chicory root may have anti-inflammatory qualities, which could be helpful for reducing pain and treating or preventing cancer. Chicory root also contains manganese and vitamin B6, which both play a role in brain health.

Researchers conclude that even though some biological studies support some health benefits of chicory, more high-quality studies on humans are needed to confirm the full range of benefits provided by chicory.

Topically, people also use chicory for swelling, inflammation, and osteoarthritis. An industry-funded study demonstrated that taking a chicory supplement may have a potential role in the management of osteoarthritis, but more evidence is needed to confirm this benefit.

Possible Side Effects

In the United States, inulin has attained Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status by the FDA. Chicory is likely safe when consumed in amounts typically present in foods.

However, larger amounts may result in side effects, including the possibility of emmenagogue (increased menstrual flow) and abortifacient actions (leading to miscarriage); it is therefore not recommended for pregnant women. Additionally, if you have allergies to ragweed, marigolds, or daisies, chicory root may cause allergy-type symptoms.

According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, chicory root is generally well tolerated when consumed by mouth. However, some people may experience symptoms including flatulence, belching, abdominal pains, intestinal sounds, and bloating.

Dosage and Preparation

When consumed as a food, chicory roots can be boiled and the leaves (endive), buds, and roots can be eaten like a vegetable.

Some also roast the root or buy roasted ground chicory root to use in coffee or alone as a coffee substitute. Most product labels advise dissolving two tablespoons of ground chicory coffee substitute in a cup of hot water or adding a smaller amount of chicory to your coffee. Chicory root has an "earthy" or "woody" taste somewhat similar to coffee and contains no caffeine.

It's the beverage of choice for some people who are trying to eliminate or reduce their coffee intake.

You can purchase ground chicory coffee online or in grocery stores. You may see coffee/chicory combinations or pure ground chicory. Both are prepared the same way that you would prepare ground coffee.

What to Look For

Most people are more likely to consume chicory root (inulin) in processed foods as an added fiber. Because it can add to the feeling of satiety, common foods like protein powders, low-sugar cereals, and snack-replacement bars frequently contain chicory.

Chicory root in its whole form is not commonly found in U.S. supermarkets. However, you are likely to find salad chicory (endive) in the produce sections of many grocery stores. Endive and its cousins, radicchio, frisée, and escarole, are bitter greens that many people enjoy in recipes.

Other Questions

Does chicory root have stimulating effects?

Chicory does not contain caffeine or other stimulants. Its widespread use as a coffee substitute arises from the taste, not the effects.

Will chicory root cause gas?

Yes, it could. Because it is fibrous and acts as a prebiotic in your gut, chicory root can cause gas, bloating, and stomach pain. People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may have more problems with gas and indigestion when consuming chicory root and it is not recommended for people following a low FODMAP diet to manage their symptoms.

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  2. Yacoubou, J. Oligofructose and fructooligosaccharides (FOS): derived mostly from chicory root or cane sugar. The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog. Published October 22, 2012.

  3. Street RA, Sidana J, Prinsloo G. Cichorium intybus: Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:579319. doi:10.1155/2013/579319

  4. Rizvi W, Fayazuddin M, Shariq S, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of roots of Cichorium intybus due to its inhibitory effect on various cytokines and antioxidant activityAnc Sci Life. 2014;34(1):44-49. doi:10.4103/0257-7941.150780

  5. Olsen NJ, Branch VK, Jonnala G, Seskar M, Cooper M. Phase 1, placebo-controlled, dose escalation trial of chicory root extract in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010;11:156. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-156

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