Chicory for Your Liver

Did You Know…Swallowing This Bitter Herb Can Make Life Sweeter for Your Liver?

In New Orleans, chicory is known as the earthy, bitter half of the city’s signature coffee blend.  But chicory can do much, much more than enhance the flavor profile of your coffee.

One of the foremost uses of chicory, dating back to the Roman Empire, is liver purification.  And liver purification is one of the most powerful things you can do for your overall health.

Centuries of Evidence Support Chicory 

Chicory (also known as succoryblue-sailors, and ragged-sailors) was initially native to Eurasia.  But the perennial herb was transplanted to North America long ago and now grows naturally across the continent from Florida to California.  Chicory grows wild along the sides of roads and in other unsettled areas, especially in limestone soils.  People have also cultivated chicory for at least five centuries.  During the Renaissance, a theory emerged called the “doctrine of signatures.” This theory held that a plant’s appearance (“signature”) indicated its medicinal benefits.  In accordance with that doctrine, chicory was used to treat…

  • Inadequate or excessive milk flow in nursing mothers
  • Eye inflammation
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Constipation
  • Fevers
  • Jaundice

“A Friend of the Liver,” Physician Says 

As the last item on that list indicates, chicory has a restorative, fortifying effect on the liver.  According to Galen, a second-century physician, chicory is a “friend of the liver.” Contemporary research indicates it could increase the flow of bile, which can help to treat gallstones.

Analysis tells us chicory is a good source of folic acid, which the human body requires for the formation and maturation of red blood cells as well as for the synthesis of DNA.  Chicory also contains an abundance of potassium, essential for the functioning of skeletal and cardiac muscles and for the transmission of nerve impulses, and of vitamin A.

Expert Opinions on Using Chicory 

When used in a coffee blend, or as a coffee substitute, chicory root is roasted.  Health experts disagree on whether or not roasting diminishes or even eliminates chicory’s healing qualities.  Regardless of how roasting does or does not effect chicory’s medicinal powers, the most common way to use chicory for health-promoting purposes is to make a tincture.

Melissa Sokulski, acupuncturist, herbalist, founder of the website Food Under Foot, author of the workbook Wild Plant Ally, and proprietor of The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, offers the following instructions for making a tincture of chicory:

  • Begin by filling a jar with chicory root, then cover the chicory with alcohol (for instance, 100 proof vodka).
  • Label the jar with its contents (ex: “Chicory root in 100 proof vodka”) and the date.
  • 6 weeks later, strain out the chicory.  The liquid that remains is your tincture.
  • Portion the liquid into 1-ounce dropper bottles, and label each bottle clearly.

If you would prefer not to make your own, chicory tinctures can also be found in health food stores and online.  The recommended dose of chicory tincture varies depending on the condition you seek to treat.  If you’re interested in using chicory to detoxify your liver, the standard dosage experts recommend is 20-40 drops in water up to 3 times daily.  There is no known upper limit for doses of chicory.