The Wild Succory (Cichorium intybus) is a common roadside English plant, white or blue, belonging to the Composite order, and called also Turnsole, because it always turns its flowers towards the sun.
It blows with a blue blossom somewhat paler than the Cornflower, but "bearing a golden heart."
Its fresh root is bitter, and a milky juice flows from the rind, which is somewhat aperient and slightly sedative, so that this specially suits persons troubled with bilious torpor, and jaundice combined with melancholy.
An infusion of the herb is useful for skin eruptions connected with gout. If the root and leaves are taken freely, they will produce a gentle diarrhoea, their virtue lying chiefly in the milky juice; and on good authority the plant has been pronounced useful against pulmonary consumption. In Germany it is called Wegwort, or "waiting on the way."
The Syrup of Succory is an excellent laxative for children.
The Succory or Cichorium was known to the Romans, and was eaten by them as a vegetable, or in salads. Horace writes (Ode 31):
"Me pascunt olivae, Me chicorea, levesque malvae."
And Virgil, in his first Georgic, speaks of Amaris intuba fibris. When cultivated it becomes large, and constitutes Chicory, of which the taproot is used extensively in France for blending with coffee, being closely allied to the Endive and the Dandelion.
This is the Chicorée frisée when bleached, or the Barbe de Capucin. The cortical part of the root yields a milky saponaceous juice which is very bitter and slightly sedative. Some writers suppose the Succory to be the Horehound of the Bible. In the German story, The Watcher of the Road, a lovely princess, abandoned for a rival, pines away, and asking only to die where she can be constantly on the watch, becomes transformed into the wayside Succory.
This Succory plant bears also the name of Rostrum porcinum. Its leaves, when bruised, make a good poultice for inflamed eyes, being outwardly applied to the grieved place. Also the leaves when boiled in pottage or broths for sick and feeble persons that have hot, weak, and feeble stomachs, do strengthen the same.
It is said that the roots, if put into heaps and dried, are liable to spontaneous combustion. The taproot of the cultivated plant is roasted in France, and mixed with coffee, to which, when infused, it gives a bitterish taste and a dark colour.
The chemical constituents of Succory and Chicory are--in addition to those ordinarily appertaining to vegetables--inulin, and a special bitter principle not named.
Chicory, when taken too habitually or too freely, causes venous passive congestion in the digestive organs within the abdomen, and a fulness of blood in the head. Both it and Succory, if used in excess as a medicine, will bring about amaurosis, or loss of visual power in the retina of the eyes. Therefore, when given in a much diluted form they are remedial for these affections.
The only benefit of quality which Chicory gives to coffee is by increase of colour and body, with some bitterness, but not by possessing any aroma, or fragrant oil, or stimulating virtue. French writers say it is contra-stimulante, and serving to correct the excitation caused by the active principles of coffee, and therefore it suits sanguineo-bilious subjects who suffer from habitual tonic constipation. But it is ill adapted for persons whose vital energy soon flags; and for lymphatic, or bloodless people its use should be altogether forbidden.
The flowers of Succory used to rank among the four cordial flowers, and a water was distilled from them to allay inflammation of the eyes. The seeds contain abundantly a demulcent oil, whilst the petals furnish a glucoside which is colourless unless treated with alkalies, when it becomes of a golden yellow.