Natural products are gaining more interest recently, much of which focuses on those derived from medicinal plants.

By Haleema Sadia, Muhammad Sajid, Mudassar Nadeem and Muhammad Amjid

Cichorium intybus L. (local name kasni) belongs to the family Asteraceae; widely spread in Europe and Asia. Chicory has important medicinal compounds like sesquiterpene lactones, vitamins, coumarins, alkaloids, inuline, chlorophyll pigment, unsaturated sterol, saponin, tannins and flavonoids. Chicory has valuable bio-monitor substantial metals like Cd, Zn and Pb. Chicory leaves are fleshy green, used as a fodder for livestock and reducing the internal parasites in the animals. Chicory is known to be vital medicinal plant that has a great financial potential due to the presence of large concentrations of fructo-oligosaccharides just like inuline. Moreover, it is also useful in maintaining the immunity of human against serious diseases like diabetes, impotence, cancer, gallstones and insomnia. Usage of chicory was started about 4000 years ago by Egyptians. Wild chicory was frozen in the past and used to prepare the “pure fava bean”, a fine farmer food dating back to the ancient Romans and Carthaginians. While on the other hand in 17th century, in North of Europe chicory was considered as an animal food crop. Now a days the demand of chicory is increasing and the seed companies started to produce the wild seeds of chicory. Due to the presence of antioxidant compounds chicory can play a significant role as a source of nutraceuticals. In previous times wild chicory was used in the traditional recipes and in the food preparations. Chicory root contains some phytochemicals such as inulin (starch-like polysaccharide), coumarins, flavonoids, sesquiterpene lactones (lactucin and lactucopicrin), tannins, alkaloids, vitamins, minerals, and volatile oils. The secondary metabolites (flavonoids, tannins, and coumarins) found in chicory have been reported to demonstrate some biological activities such as antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antihepatotoxic, which impact positive health effect on humans and livestock. Inulin is a polymer of fructose with β-(2-1)-glycosidic-linkage, which accounts for up to 68% of the total compounds present in fresh chicory roots. As a prebiotic, inulin is low in calorie and dietary fiber, making it a good replacement for sugar and an ideal component for diabetic nutrition. In livestock production, it has been noted that some of its phytoconstituents possess properties that improve the welfare of animals either in a parasitized state or otherwise. This makes chicory an ideal, cheap, natural, and sustainable livestock supplement or alternative feed material. However, caution should be exercised when chicory is included in diets or grazed by ruminants to prevent toxicity in high concentrations of PSM. Further research on the multipurpose properties of the phytobioactive elements found in chicory, their antinutritional effects, effective dose of inclusion in animal diets, mechanism of action involved, and the biochemical description of the active PSM is strongly recommended.

Chicory root can be an effective remedy for joint problems like arthritis and rheumatism. Various studies have shown that it contains anti-inflammatory properties, due to which it can reduce the pain caused by osteoarthritis. It can also be used as a general anti-inflammatory agent for aches, muscle pain and joint soreness. Weight Loss Chicory contains inulin and oligo-fructose, which can be added to the diet to lose weight. It contains the highest concentration of inulin in the entire plant kingdom. Inulin, a soluble fibre, acts as an appetite suppressant. Inulin can give you a feeling of fullness, without raising blood sugar levels or increasing calories. These properties have created interest in inulin’s possible use for weight loss. The presence of fructo-oligosaccharides in the plant encourages the development of beneficial bacteria in the intestine that help to restore the balance of microorganisms in the intestine, thereby leading to the proper functioning of the digestive system. The proper functioning of the digestive system is the key factor in all weight loss diets.