Home Herbal Monograph Chicory, Succory, Wild Endive
History

This plant has been in use as a pot herb from an early period. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used it. Dioscorides mentions two kinds, the wild and the cultivated. The Romans called the plant Intubus or Intubum, and the plural of the latter word has furnished the Arabs with their name Hinduba. Phing called the wild plant Cichorium, Chreston (useful), Pancration (all powerful) and Ambubara or Ambubeia. It was supposed to be a panacea and to have the property of fixing the affections. The Syrian dancing girls, whom Cneius Manlius first brought to Rome, were also called Ambubaia on account of their attractive allurements. Ambubaia is a Syrian term, but the component parts of it, 'Ambui'- 'odor' and 'Baia'- 'full', occur in old Persia. Together they signify ' full of odours', i.e. allurements.

According to a German legend, the plant is supposed to have once been a beautiful princess who, having been deserted by (or lost) her husband (or lover), was at her own request changed into this plant. It is much valued by the Indian Hakims as a resolvent and cooling medicine and is prescribed in bilious complaints. Chicory root dried, roasted and reduced to powder is very extensively used in Europe as a substitute for coffee and for adulterating that article.

Habitat

It is native to the temperate parts of the Old World and is found wild in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. It is cultivated in Bihar, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Morphology Description (Habit)

An erect perennial herb, with a fleshy tap root; the leaves are broadly oblong, oblanceolate or lanceolate, crowded at the base and arranged spirally on the stem; the flowers are blue fading to white, in homogamous heads; the fruits are achenes which are smooth, 5-angled, pale brown to black, crowned with a ring of pappus scales.

Principal Constituents

The seeds contain 4.7 per cent of an oil. The presence of tannin phlobaphenes and reducing sugars is also reported in the seeds1.

Pharmacology

An alcoholic extract of the plant was found to be effective against chlorpromazine-induced hepatic damage in adult albino rats. It also exhibited resorptive activity. The alcoholic aqueous extract of chicory shows cholagogue activity which may be attributed to polyphenols. In New Zealand, the plant is being considered as a possible energy crop2
The alcoholic extract of the seeds has been reported to cause bradycardia in normal and hypodynamic hearts of frogs, and to elicit a fall in the blood pressure in dogs3

The seeds were extracted successively with chloroform, methanol and water. All the extracts were subjected to preliminary phytochemical & hepatoprotective screenings in rats against CCl4 and paracetamol toxicity. The fractions obtained were tested for their activity of three components separated using chromatographic techniques, two components were found active, as hepatoprotective when tested against CCl4 and paracetamol induced toxicity4.

Toxicology
The seeds are reported to be carminative and cordial, and used as a brain tonic. They are useful in headache, asthma and for checking bilious vomiting.

References
  1. Caius, J Bombay nat Hist Soc, 1939-40, 41, 640; Kirtikar & Basu, II, 1434; Chopra et. al., 1958, 318; Goel & Bhattacharyya, J econ taxon Bot, 1981, 2, 157; Pandey, loc. cit.; Misra & Dutta, J Indian chem Soc, 1937, 14, 141.
  2. Gupta et. al., Probe, 1979-80, 19, 99; Sama et. al., Indian J med Res, 1976, 64, 738; Strayer, loc. cit.; Chopra et. al., Sci & Cult , 1983, 49, 354; Satyavati, Ancient Sci Life, 1983-84, 3, 193; Douglas & Poll, N Z J exp Agric, 1986, 14, 223; Chem Abstr, 1978, 88, 27793.
  3. Caius, J Bombay nat Hist Soc, 1939-40, 41, 640; Kirtikar & Basu, II, 1434; Chopra et. al., 1958, 318; Goel & Bhattacharyya, J econ taxon Bot , 1981, 2, 157; Pandey, loc. cit.; Misra & Dutta, J Indian chem Soc, 1937, 14, 141.
  4. Gadgoli, C.H.and Mishra, S.H., Ind. J.Pharm.Sci., v. 56(4), 157.