What is chicory root? Chicory is a vibrant blue flower from the dandelion family. You might recognize the root as the main ingredient in alternative coffee beverages, providing that familiar bitter taste. It even smells a bit like coffee too! However, there is more to this root than just helping combat a coffee addiction as it is packed with prebiotics that feed healthy gut bacteria.
Let's take a look at the history, benefits, and science of this powerful root.
Chicory is native to Europe and Asia, with the word chicory derived from the French word “chickoree.” It has been cultivated since ancient Egypt, and French settlements brought the herb to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Civil War, coffee bean shortages forced coffee consumers to mix chicory with coffee beans to extend the supply. Following the war, traditional coffee consumption returned however, chicory made a lasting impact in New Orleans. Today, the chicory root remains a local flavor to New Orleans coffee.
The Benefits and Science
Chicory root is full of inulin, a soluble fiber. This fiber helps improve bowel regularity. The herb overall is gentle, supporting a bowel movement, instead of merely forcing one. Chicory root is known to have a mild laxative effect and decrease swelling from any backed-up stool.
A review of two randomized double-blind clinical studies found chicory root supplementation to increase the stool frequency and consistency. This research, published three years ago, had participants with constipation take either a placebo or 10 grams chicory root inulin per day for 5 weeks. In one of the studies, each inulin participant experienced an increase in almost 5 bowel movements per week. That change is substantially relieving!
An earlier study in 2017 placed 44 healthy volunteers with constipation into a group receiving a placebo or a group receiving chicory root insulin. The inulin group received 4 grams of chicory inulin three times a day for 4 weeks. The researchers found the chicory inulin to substantially increase stool frequency compared to placebo. While increases in stool frequency are beneficial, many laxatives hold potential to push an individual towards diarrhea. However, chicory root’s gentle actions avoid that result.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder.