- The genus Cichorium (Asteraceae) is made up of six species. Cichorium intybus, commonly known as chicory is well known as a coffee substitute. In the 1970s, the root of C. intybus was discovered to contain 40% inulin with potential utiility in diabetes. Today, it is grown for the production of inulin on an industrial scale. (7)
- Its etymology derives from both Greek and Latin: Chicorium means "field" while intybus is partly Greek meaning "to cut" referring to the leaves and Latin tubus referring to the hollow stem. (7)
Radicchio looks like red or purple cabbage or lettuce from the Brassica group of vegetables. Rather, it is a quick growing red-colored leafy chicory vegetable belonging to the Asteracea family and the genus Chicorium.
- Leaf chicory: Chicory cultivated for its leaves is classified into three types, each with many varieties: (1) Radicchio, with variegated red or red and green leaves. (2) Whitloof: Belgian endive also called witlof, with small head of cream-colored bitter leaves, and (3) Catalogna chicory, also known as puntarelle, includes a whole subfamily, with varieties from Belgian endive and radicchio.
is a form of leaf chicory. Although leaf chicory is often called "endive", true endive (Chicorium endivia) is a separate species in the genus, distinct from Belgian endive. (4)
- Varieties of radicchio derive its names from the region in Italy where it was farmed: Chioggia, Treviso, Treviso tardiivo, Castelfranco. (•)
- According to folklore, long-term use of
chicory as coffee substitute may cause retinal damage, with dimming of vision over time. Scientific literature contains little or no evidence to support or refute this claim. (6)
Chicorium intybus is a perennial growing 40-110 cm tall, with a strong taproot. Stem usually solitary, erect, branches spreading-ascending, subglabrous. Basal leaves rosulate, obovate to oblanceolate, 15-34 by 2-4 cm, attenuate into a petiole-like basal portion, undivided to usually runcinately pinnatipartite, sparsely covered with long multicellular hairs, base attenuate, margin dentate; lateral lobes 3-6 pairs, triangular; terminal lobe distinctly larger than lateral ones, apex rounded to acute. Stem leaves similar to basal leaves but smaller and less divided. Synflorescence of main axis and larger branches spiciform-paniculiform. Capitula axillary and terminal, solitary or in clusters of a few, sessile or on several cm long, thick, and apically slightly inflated peduncle, with 15-20 florets. Involucre cylindric, 0.9 -1.4 cm. Phyllaries abaxially sparsely with glandular or simple hairs. Florets blue or exceptionally pink or bluish white. Achene brown, subcylindric to obovoid, 2-3 mm, stout, rugulose, apex truncate. Pappus 0.2-0.3 mm. (Flora of China) (8)
_ Widely distributed worldwide as native and introduced species.
- Nutrient analysis of leaves (cup of shredded radicchio or 40 gm of the vegetable) yield: calories 9.2, protein 0.6 g, total fat 0.1 g, carbohydrate 1.8 g, fiber 0.4 g; (Minerals) calcium 7.6 mg, phosphorus 16.0 mg, magnesium 5.2 mg, iron 0.2 mg, manganese 0.1 mg, copper 0.1 mg, sodium 0 mg, potassium 121 mg, zinc 0.2mg. selenium 0.4 mcg; (Vitamins) B2/riboflavin 0.01 mg, B3 0.1 mg. B5 0.1 mg, B6 0.001 mg, vitamin A 10.8 IU, vitamin C 3.2 mg, vitamin E 0.9 mg, vitamin K 102 mcg, choline 4.4 mg. (5)
- Phytochemical studies of the plant have yielded sesquiterpene lactones (especially lactucin, lactucopicrin, 8-desoxy-lactucin, guaianolid glycosides, including chicoroisides B and C, sonchiside C), caffeic acid derivatives (chiroric acid, chlorogenic acid, isochlorogenic acid, dicaffeoyl tartaric acid), inulin, sugars, proteins, hydroxycoumarins, flavonoids, alkaloids, steroids, terpenoids, oils, volatile compounds, coumarins, vitamins, and polyynes. (8)
- Seeds have yielded chicoridiol, intybusoloid, lupeol, friedelin, ß-sitosterol, stigmasterol, betulinic acid, betulin, betulinaldehyde, syringic acid, vanillic acid. (8)
- Studies have suggested antibacterial, antitumor, immunological, wound healing, cardioprotective, analgesic, antioxidant, sedative, antioxidant properties.
Leaves, roots, seeds, aerial parts.
- Leaves are edible, raw or cooked; rather bitters, especially when the plant is flowering. (3)
- Flowers are eaten raw; an attractive addition to salads, though rather bitter. (3)
- Roots cooked like parsnip; boiled young roots are rather palatable. (3)
- As with all chicories, roots after roasting and grinding, can be used as coffee substitute or additive. (6)
- Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), a Roman naturalist and author of Naturalis Historia, wrote of radicchio as a blood purifier and an aid for insomniacs. (4)
- In ancient Egypt, cultivated as a medicinal plant.
- Plant has been used traditionally for treatment of diarrhea, to strengthen the prostate and other reproductive organs, for the treatment of lung diseases, cough, cancer, hangovers, flatulence, loss of appetite. Also used for sore throat, hemorrhoids, tuberculosis, abdominal cramps, melancholy, deafness, rashes, and as a laxative for children.
- Ethnoveterinary: Anthelmintic: Studies have suggested ingestion of chicory by farm animals results in reduction of worm burden, which prompted use as forage supplement. (4) Fodder: "Forage" chicory, initially from wild chicory, has been used to intensify herbage obtainability in perennial pastures for livestock. (9)
• According to folklore, long term use of chicory as coffee substitute nay cause damage to human retinal tissue with consequent dimming of vision However, no scientific study has refuted this folkloric snippet of toxicity. (10)
• There is a dearth of studies specific for radicchio (Cichorium intybus var. foliosum). Studies below include those on Cichorium intybus L.
• Immunological Effect / Seeds: Study evaluated the effects of ethanol extract of C. intybus on the immunotoxicity of alcohol in mice. At a dose of 300 mg/kg orally per day for 28 days along with EtOH showed a significant increase in circulating leukocytes and relative weights of the liver, spleen, and thymus, compared to mice treated with EtOH alone. There was marked enhancement of splenic plaque forming cells, hemagglutination titers to sheep RBCs and secondary IgG antibody response to to bovine serum albumin, among others. Findings indicate the immunotoxicity induced by EtOH is significantly restored or prevented by the extract treatment. (8)
• Cardiovascular Effect: Study of eight varieties of Cichorium intybus on isolated toad's heart showed all varieties have a quinidine-like action, but with variable potency. Chicoric acid along with caffeic acid showed slow vasorelaxant activity against norepinephrine (NE)-induced contraction of rat aorta with/without endothelium. Results suggest inhibition of NE-induced vasoconstriction is due to a decrease in calcium influx from the extracellular space. (8)
• Analgesic and Sedative Effect: Lactucin, lactucopicrin, and 11ß, 13-dihydrolactucin induced analgesic effects in mice by hot plate and tail-flick tests. In the hot plate test, lactucopicrin showed most potency. In the tail-flick tests, all three compounds showed comparable analgesic effects to ibuprofen. Lactucin and lactucopicrin also exhibited sedative effect as evidenced by decreased spontaneous locomotor activity in mice. (8)
• Antioxidant / Seeds: Cichorium intybus seed extract and fractions exhibited good DPPH radical scavenging activity with IC50 ranging from 21.28-72.14 µg/ml. A 100% methanolic extract and ethyl acetate fraction exhibited maximum antioxidant activity. (8)
• Antidiabetic Effect / Leaves: Study the effect of C. intybus leaf powder in minimizing oxidative damage in alloxan-induced diabetic mice. Oxidative damage, impairment of oxidative defense and neuronal activity were investigated in the cerebral hemisphere. Diabetes caused elevation (p<0.001) of blood glucose, protein carboxyl content (PrC) and lipid peroxidation, along with a significant decline in brain level of antioxidant enzyme, catalase (CAT), GSH and AChE showed significant decline in alloxan induced diabetic rats. Feeding with dried powder leaves of C. intybus decreased blood glucose level to near normal and minimized the impairment of oxidative damage. (8)
• Tumor Inhibitory / Roots and Leaves: The crude ethanolic extract of C. intybus roots showed a significant inhibition of Ehrlich tumor carcinoma in mice. with a 70% increase in life span observed with 500 mg/kg/day intraperitoneally. An aqueous-alcoholic macerate of leaves showed antiproliferative effect on amelanotic melanoma C32 cell lines. Magnolialide, a 1ß-hydroxyeudesmanolide isolated from the roots of C. intybus, inhibited several tumor cell lines and induced differentiation of human leukemia HL-60 and U-937 cells. (9)
• Anti-Cancer / Breast Cancer SKBR3 Cell Line / Roots: Study evaluat4ed the effect of methanol extract of root on percentage of survival in SKBR2 human breast cancer cell line. Results showed Cichorium intybus has cytotoxic effects on tumor cells as evidenced by could decreased effect on cell viability. (11)
• In Vitro and In Vivo Anti-Tumor and Antimetastatic Effects: Study evaluated the anti-tumor and antimetastatic effects of C. intybus leaf, stem, and root extracts in vitro and in vivo. Results showed a highly significant inhibition value against 4TI cell line. In an in vivo study on tumor-bearing female Mus musculus Balb/c mice, a leaf extract induced a significant decrease in tumor size (p<0.05). There was little indication of liver metastases in leaf-extract treated animals. (12)
• Nephroprotective / Gentamicin Induced Toxicity / Roots: Study evaluated aqueous and methanolic extracts of roots in gentamicin induced toxicity in rats. Nephroprotective activity was evidenced by decrease in BUN and creatinine. Histopathological examination of the kidney tissues near normal return of structural integrity. (13)