Chicory – characteristics, cultivation and use

A chicory flower
A chicory flower

Chicory is a popular medicinal plant that can be found on many roadsides. Therefore, chicory also gets its name. Above all, the roots are often used in natural medicine for indigestion and as a substitute coffee. Incidentally, the natural varieties of radicchio and endive are subspecies of the chicory. With its bright blue flowers, the plant reaches a stature height of just over one meter (40 in). Incidentally, the leaves of this versatile plant are reminiscent of dandelions. As a result, confusion can not be ruled out, especially in the seedling stage.

Profile of chicory:

Scientific name: Cichorium intybus

Plant family: asters family (Asteraceae)

Other names: blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor’s buttons, wild endive

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: June – October

Harvest time: Root: March – April and October – November, Herb: June to September, Flowers:: July to September

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, shoots, roots

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: nutrient-rich, dry and well-drained soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: indigestion, loss of appetite, bile problems

Use as aromatic herb: as a coffee substitute, salad

Plant characteristics and classification of chicory

Origin and occurrence of the Chicory

The common chicory is native in Europe, which is also found in larger wild stocks in West Asia and North Africa. The plant is also cultivated in China and America as an important food crop. It grows mostly in the lowlands and hilly country, but can also colonize in the mountains up to 1,700 meters (5,500 feet).

Chicory are usually found in dry locations, more rarely in moderately humid locations. They mainly populate waysides, marginal areas of agricultural fields as well as brownfields and wastelands. In locations with freshly broken down soils, it often grows as a pioneer plant.

Plant order of Chicory

The common chicory is a typical representative of the aster family (Asteraceae). It is related to important other medicinal herbs such as the dandelion, arnica or cornflower. In the closer relationship, the common chicory is classified in the genus of the dandelion tribe (Cichorium), which belong to today’s 10 species. Another representative of this genus is the endive, which is consumed as a salatal alternative.

Of the chicory described here, several subspecies (varieties) are known, some of which are important crops. These include:

  • Chicory Cichorium intybus var. Foliosum)
  • Radicchio (Cichorium intybus var. Foliosum)
  • Sugar loaf (Cichorium intybus var. Foliosum f. Cylindricum)
  • large-rooted chicory (Cichorium intybus var. Sativum)
chicory plant
chicory plant

Look and characteristics of the chicory


The common chicory is a perennial plant that can reach heights of growth of up of about 60 to 150 cm (24 to 60 in). The best way to use the chicory on generous open spaces, where it can also be used as a single bed of fruit. A planting distance of about 55 cm (22 in) is therefore useful. The width of the plant can be up to 50 to 60 cm (20 to 24 in). However, this applies only to the wild form of Chicory and not to the known cultivars such as Radicchio. In the ground, the plant is fortified with a long, deep-reaching and spindle-shaped taproot.


The leaves of chicory can be roughly subdivided into basal leaves and stem leaves. While the basal leaves are clearly sawn, slightly hairy and partially lobed, the stem leaves show a nearly smooth-edged and lanceolate form. The stalked basal leaves are also significantly longer and wider than the sessile stem leaves. The stem of the plant is remarkably hairy, has an angular shape and ramifies irregularly.


During flowering, which usually lasts from the end of June to the beginning of October, the common chicory forms blue, rarely pink or white flowers. The strikingly flowers can reach a diameter of up to 6 cm (2.4 in). In contrast to many other plants of the daisy family, the plant forms only ligulate flowers and no pseudanthium (sham flowers). Every single ligulate flowers is conspicuously divided into five prongs at the outer edge. The individual flower heads are closely branched in the upper leaf axis.


As of September, the plant form achene fruits. This special form of nut fruit reaches mostly lengths up to 3 mm (0.12 in) and shows a ribbed and elongated shape.

Chicory – cultivation and care

Chicory is easy to cultivate if the location is well selected. The care effort is small, since the herb is adapted to rather dry locations and allows a high tolerance to common care mistakes. Chicory in its wild form rarely find its way into the garden. In most cases, it is more the cultivars Chicoreé or Radicchio.


Preference is given to sunny locations, although the chicory tolerates half-shaded locations. The soil should be permeable, rather dry and profound. In addition, the soil must be sufficiently nutrient-rich, as well as rich in humus and loamy. On sandy soils, the plant does not grow so well. If only sandy soils are available, they can be made usable with bentonite and compost.


The seeds of chicory can be scattered directly outdoors between April and May. In a cold frame, the seed can be incorporated as early as the beginning of March. The seeds should be pressed about 1.5 to 2 cm (0.6 to 0.8 in) into the ground. The seeds need dark to germ. The planting distance may be slightly lower compared to many plants, since the chicory develops distinct taproots and grows relatively slim. A distance of 20 × 20 cm (8 × 8 in) is enough here. The germination period is usually 14 to 28 days, depending on the weather, sowing quality and seed age.


As a plant with a bit higher nutrient requirement, additional fertilizer may be needed during the growing season. For very nutrient-rich or well pre-fertilized soils, additional fertilization is usually not necessary. Loamy and rather nutrient-poor locations should be supplied with compost or an organic fertilizer as possible during or shortly after flowering. If the chicory grows in potted culture, fertilizer is usually necessary at intervals of four to six weeks.


Chicory is adapted to dry locations and tolerates several days without additional rainfall. In most cases, the plant does not need a separate supply of water. For several consecutive hot days, should be watered vigorously.

Diseases and pests

The wild form of the Chicory is well robust. Pests and diseases are usually found only in too moist cultivation. In some forms (Radicchio or Chicoreé), snails can sometimes eat the leaves.


As a native plant, the chicory is hardy and tolerates frosts down to -20 ° C (-4 ° F).

Use of chicory

Chicory is an important utility and medicinal plant. As a useful plant, it provides the human with coffee substitutes or salads. As a medicinal plant, it has been used for many hundreds of years, especially against digestive complaints.

Chicory in the kitchen

The wild form of chicory can be used in the kitchen as versatile as its breeding forms. Both the leaves, the flowers and the root are used. Chicory is the original plant of the well-known lettuce chicory, sugar loaf and radicchio. It is also closely related to the popular endive salad.

In early spring, the delicate leaves are consumed as a salad. Later, but before flowering from mid-June, they are used as spinach substitute, for soups and in sauces. If the leaves are too bitter, they can be put in water for two hours, this procedure extracts some bitter substances.

The stems are cooked or baked in a hearty dough. As an edible decoration or candied are the pretty, iron-containing flowers.

The root can be eaten cooked as a vegetable. It must be peeled, chopped and watered for about two hours. From the root, a healthy and tasty coffee substitute is made. For this purpose, the roots are first harvested and dried. Subsequently, the dried root is crushed and roasted. For roasting, a pan at rather low temperature is used. It is important that no fat materials are used. After roasting, the root pieces can be ground and brewed as coffee. The consumption of the root is especially recommended for diabetics, because it contains a lot of inulin.

Preparation of chicory coffee

  • for the production of chicory coffee, cut the root into small pieces and dry them
  • roast slowly without adding fat
  • ground the roasted root pieces
  • the finished chicory coffee powder can be brewed like bean coffee
  • the aroma of the drink is reminiscent of coffee

Anyone who has come to the taste and would like to grow his own way to drink the coffee can also cultivate a well-known cultivated form, which is referred to as large-rooted chicory (Cichorium intybus var. Sativum).

a blue chicory flower
a blue chicory flower

Chicory as a medicinal herb

Chicory is considered today as then as an effective medicinal plant, especially for digestive problems.

From the herbal books of the Middle Ages and the early modern period it is clear that chicory and the then already known endive were mainly used for liver complaints, jaundice and constipation. Above all, the leaves were eaten raw or processed as an infusion.

Some herbalists also reported that chicory preparations provide relief for dark eyes, headaches, and tumors. In addition to the leaves, especially the flowers that were mixed with vinegar or rose water were used.

In today’s herbal medicine chicory is still used. Above all, it is their numerous bitter substances that make it possible, in particular, to treat stomach or digestive complaints. Some bitter substances also have pain-relieving or analgesic properties.

Chicory can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • after itching
  • blemishes
  • constipation
  • diabetes
  • gallstones
  • gall weakness
  • hair loss
  • headache
  • hemorrhoids
  • indigestion
  • liver problems
  • metabolic weakness
  • swelling of the liver
  • swelling of the spleen
  • ulcers
  • uterine weakness
  • varicose veins

Medicinal properties

  • anti-inflammatory
  • astringent
  • blood purifier
  • stimulating

In today’s natural medicine especially the chicory root is used, more rarely there are applications with leaves and flowers. The background is that the medicinally valuable bitter substances are contained in the roots in high quantities. The usual forms of administration are teas and tinctures, more rarely medicinal wines.

Preparation of chicory tea

Time needed: 5 minutes

This is how to prepare a chicory tea at home by yourself

  1. put 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of leaves and root pieces in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let steep for 5 to 7 minutes

  4. the recommended maximum daily dose should not exceed 3 grams.

A tea cure with chicory leaves and root helps to dissipate heavy metals and other poisons. It also has a relieving effect on rheumatic problems and stimulates the liver and bile. It also has a positive influence on the spleen and all health problems caused by a disturbed spleen function. In case of general indigestion or lack of appetite, the tea is best taken 20 to 30 minutes before meals.

For blemished skin, eczema and eye inflammation, a tea infusion with the root and some flowers is used externally for compresses. Boil two tablespoons of root pieces in a larger cup for 10 minutes, add a few flowers and let steep for another 10 minutes.

Juice from chicory

Freshly pressed chicory juice should have a very positive influence on the pancreas. It is taken teaspoonful and tastes very bitter.

Chicory also play a role in the Bach Flower Therapy. As the eighth plant in the series, it is above all intended to help against many negative feelings such as selfishness, self-sacrifice, self-pity or emotional terror.

Side effects

The chicory is usually well tolerated and rarely has side effects. In rare cases, allergic skin reactions may occur, especially if there is an allergy to daisy family.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy and collect chicory – what is there to pay attention to?

Chicory can be purchased as fresh plants or as seeds in plant centers or online. The prices for a single plant or some hundred seeds vary between 1.50 and 5.00 €/$.

The chicory as a classic wild plant is common in almost all Central Europe, so that fresh parts of plants and roots for home use can be easily collected. When it comes to the roots, especially high-growing plants should be visited, since collecting can otherwise prove to be tedious.

If collecting is too time-consuming, you can buy dried and already crushed chicory roots in the herbal specialist trade. In addition to the roots, it is also possible to buy the chopped herb of the chicory, which contains less effective bitter substances than the roots.

In addition to herbs and crushed roots, some manufacturers already offer ready-made tinctures. These can be taken as an acute remedy for loss of appetite.

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