Podcast 181: Herbs A-Z: Centella asiatica & Cichorium intybus
Happy new year! We’re continuing our Herbs A-Z series in 2022, starting off strong with gotu kola & chicory. These widespread herbs both have long histories & active presents of medicinal application.
Centella asiatica, known best as gotu kola, is today mostly thought of as a neuroprotective or even “nootropic” herb. It does indeed protect the nerves and brain, and help with cognitive health. It even has some similarities to ginseng and jiaogulan in terms of stress, immunity, and inflammation modulation. But it’s also a good topical antimicrobial and wound-healer, with some similarities to marshmallow in that regard.
Cichorium intybus is chicory – and also radicchio, endive, and frisee! They’re all variants or cultivars of the same plant species. Chicory root is often roasted and taken as a coffee substitute, and that’s perfectly valid. It’s not caffeinated, but it does have the roast-y and bitter flavors of coffee. Plus, it’s got food for your friendly gut flora (as long as you make a water preparation and don’t filter too aggressively).
These quick plant profiles were done off-the-cuff & on-the-spot. If you enjoyed them, we have more! Our organized & comprehensive presentation of our herbal allies is in the Holistic Herbalism Materia Medica course. We have detailed profiles of 90 medicinal herbs! Plus you get everything that comes with enrollment in our courses: twice-weekly live Q&A sessions, lifetime access to current & future course material, discussion threads integrated in each lesson, guides & quizzes, and more.
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Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.
Hi, I’m Katja.
And I’m Ryn.
And we’re here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast. Yeah, that’s right. We’re back. Hello 2022,
2022, indeed. Yes. This year.
Happy Herby New Year to everyone.
Yes. Yes. We’re happy to be speaking to you again. We’re continuing on with our herbs A to Z series. It’s not really every herb A to Z, because that would take – I don’t know – the lifespan of the universe.
It would take a really long time. It is, in fact, the herbs that we have on our shelf – and today one in our refrigerator – in alphabetical order by Latin name. We don’t have every single herb there is to have, but we have a lot of herbs on our herb shelf.
We’re giving each of them a little spotlight. So, today we’re going to be talking about two herbs: Centella asiatica and Cichorium intybus.
Actually, at one point in the past couple months, both of these have been in our refrigerator.
Indeed. Yeah. You may know these better as gotu kola and chicory. And if you don’t already, then you will by the time you’re done with this episode.
But first, we want to tell you that we are not doctors. We are herbalist and holistic health educators.
Ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalist in the us. And these discussions are for educational purposes only.
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as an objective standard. It’s influenced by your individual needs, your experiences, your goals. So, we’re not trying to present a dogmatic right way that you should adhere to.
Everyone’s body is different. So, the things we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But they will give you some information to think about, and ideas to research further.
Finding your way to better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. But this doesn’t mean you’re alone on the journey. It does mean that you’re the one who gets to make the final decision when you’re considering any course of action, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician. That final choice is always yours to make.
And one other quick note, before we get rolling here, this episode is sponsored by Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism.
That’s us. You may have heard of them, you know. You may have heard of us, yeah. We’re here. We offer online courses, which are organized, and structured, and go from A to Z
And well, more in depth than podcast snacks. But here’s the thing, y’all. There is so much herbal information on the internet. It’s kind of like a fire hose, and it’s not all good. And sometimes it’s hard to know what is good and what isn’t. And that’s a big part of the reason why we made this podcast. Because we wanted people to be able to hear how we teach, hear how we think about herbalism, and health, and all that stuff, before you invest in herb courses. Because you should know that what you’re getting is going to be good quality and also accurate.
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Gotu Kola: Centella asiatica & Its Properties
And yes, yes. Come join our herb school online. It’s a good thing on the internet. And we offer that to you. Yes. Okay. So, Let’s get rolling. Let’s talk about Centella asiatica, the herb called gotu kola. Also, it has a couple of other names. And this one has in a few instances been referred to as pennywort.
Well, it’s often referred to as pennywort in many different places in the world actually. So, there quite a lot of confusion around gotu kola, Centella. Centella, it used to be called Hydrocotyle. They are subfamilies now. They were split apart based on the way that they organize their flowers. So, the plants are extremely similar. They just line their flowers up in a slightly different way. And so if they line their flowers up in kind of a net, like a network, then they belong in the Centella family. And all the other organization of flowers, all are still in the – or the Centella subfamily. And all the other ways of organizing the flowers all stayed together in the Hydrocotyle subfamily.
Yeah, I can remember like a long time ago when we were labeling jars, and we were putting herbs in them. We wrote in big letters Centella asiatica. But you were like, no, no. In small letters we have to put formerly Hydrocotyle asiatica. Because sometimes you’re going to have an old herbal book or some other text. And it’s going to have only the older botanical name in there. So, this is… I almost don’t want to say this, but listen to everybody. When you want to learn your plants, you do have to learn your botanical names. And sometimes you have to learn more than one.
In this case it is actually kind of helpful though, because Centella asiatica does grow native in southeastern U.S. But in the north, it’s too warm for it. And we have Hydrocotyle species, with several Hydrocotyle species. And honestly they’re fairly interchangeable.
Right. And of course the Centella asiatica, you know, right there in the name it says asiatica. So, actually, it was really interesting to learn that it was growing native in the southeast of North America.
Yeah, it grows in many countries, yeah. In fact there are pennyworts everywhere in the world. They’re everywhere in the world.
Spread all around.
Slightly different species, but everywhere in the world, which is kind of cool too. And it’s funny because in almost every culture’s language, pennywort, or dollarwort or money…
Yes. They all have this like…
Because of the leaf shape, right?
Because of the leaf shape. Because they are these little circles, almost like an umbrella that has been opened out completely flat. The stem, the petiole, is right in the center. And then the leaf is literally like right on top of it like an umbrella. Like an umbrella that’s been open too far.
Yeah. And you know, you’ll have a bunch of them kind of floating on the water, because it’s an aquatic plant.
It’s an aquatic plant. Some prefer to live like on the edge of a stream, or a pond, or a wetland area, so that just their roots are in the water. You know, on the land that we have for the school in central Massachusetts, we have Hydrocotyle americana or maybe… Maybe it’s, you know, the species granularity gets very difficult. I sometimes wonder if it’s ranunculoides.
Yeah. We haven’t taken the gigantic Flora Novae-Angliae on too many journeys out through the woods yet.
Yeah. No, we’ve only been out there with it once. But so anyway, it’s either Americana or ranunculoides. But that one actually floats right in. It anchors to a rock, or gets its roots down underneath some rocks. And then it just floats right in the middle of the stream. It’s really beautiful.
Well this, you know, this aquatic nature of the plant is one of several data points that have led me to start to believe that gotu kola may in fact be a moistening herb. Or at the very least that it’s extremely neutral on the moistening-drying spectrum.
You know, when you look at the leaves themselves, they do have that sort of… They have that texture to them that makes you think I wonder if this is a mucilaginous plant. They’re a little thicker.
Yeah. My problem is that I keep not preparing gotu kola by itself in cold or long infusions to just sense it directly. So, that’s my assignment for tonight. So, I’ll do that. But what I do find myself doing though, is combining it in formulas that are otherwise quite drying, and feeling that they’re less so, you know. Even a simple combo of this together with ginkgo, which I make quite a lot. And then usually a bunch of other stuff gets added to it. You know, some peppermint, some ginger, some tulsi, some rosemary, other friends. But ginkgo and gotu kola, they’re like besties in my herbal mind.
They don’t go in the same places.
No, not really.
No, they’re so different, actually.
Yeah. But they fit together nice. And their names both start with G.
They’re always next to each other on the shelf.
Not in Latin.
Not in botanical order, no. But I do work with it that way. And even just like when you open the jar – we have our jar here. You can get some sound to that – I don’t know. It feels so soft, like the plant material. I’m like yeah, this feels more like marshmallow than it does – I don’t know – uva ursi.
Working With Gotu Kola Topically
It has a marshmallow leaf appearance. Well, so this actually leads me into some other thoughts about gotu kola. Because you’re talking about kind of breaking out of your habitual place with this plant. And I think that it’s actually such a versatile plant, that no matter how you know this plant, you probably could break out of what you think about it. I always remember this plant. One of the first things I learned about it was that it was used topically. They worked with it topically to fight leprosy. And I always thought that was like fascinating. Because you know, you learn about leprosy as this thing that can’t be managed, and can’t be cured, and can’t be… You know, it’s basically just a sentence of you have to go over there and never be part of society again. And, you know, in places where leprosy was common, it wasn’t quite that simple. And so it was a fascinating thing to hear that this plant is a plant they worked with to help manage that topically. And I have never worked with this plant topically.
Yeah. I’ve well, actually you have. Because today earlier we did a foot soak.
And I put some into there. I have actually put gotu kola into other topical preparations for recalcitrant infections and things that wouldn’t go away. Like athlete’s foot, you know, like fungal stuff in the nails and that kind of thing. I haven’t given it or recommended that way on its own, but in formulas. And again, I feel like there’s something in its activity that does feel marshmallow adjacent. Because it has that antimicrobial effect against what seems to be a pretty good array of pathogens. But also it’s like a tissue rebuilder, you know. It’s a wound healer.
Vulnerary. Yeah. It’s funny, because that’s right actually. You do work with this plant topically pretty frequently. And for me that’s chamomile. So, the thing is that in our current culture, we are very internally focused. People think about taking herbs internally all the time. And in the past, in the history times, people worked topically so much more with plants. And okay, I do think that part of that is because in the history times, people were injured more frequently. And because so many people now work…
We have hand tools that have fewer sharp edges on them. I’m talking about like your smartphone.
Yeah, no. I mean, okay. When we do work with tools, we have more safety built in. It still isn’t completely safe. But like we have more safety apparatus built in. But also it used to be, of course, that everyone did work outdoors in ways that would cause them to be injured more frequently than today. It isn’t like nobody works outdoors anymore, but more people don’t. And we just don’t see the number of injuries on a regular basis that we used to. And so as a result, people don’t really know how to take care of wounds and those kinds of injuries. But also as herbalist, we don’t tend… Not necessarily we-us, but like we as a culture don’t tend to think topically as much as we think of internally. Because the culture that we grew up in, the medicinal culture that we grew up in, is take a pill. Take a capsule for whatever is wrong with you, and that’ll fix it.
Yeah. Including like oh, I’ve got some kind of weird rash or some skin infection like down here on my calf. I’m going to swallow something, and it’s going to get all the way over there and act on it. And that’s the miracle of antibiotic drugs, right? Is that they can actually do.
They can, yeah.
When they work, and when they haven’t been defeated by antimicrobial resistance. And, you know, all the other caveats that we could give to that.
You know, and whatever. It’s not like we don’t have creams. Like I’m thinking about, you know, hydrocortisol and stuff like that. Of course we have that kind of stuff, even calamine lotion. But it just is not as common. I think in our culture of thinking about care of health, whether that is in the mainstream context or whether that is as herbalist. And so when we think about plants, we think about oh, I’ll make tea. I’ll make a tincture. Maybe I can get it in a capsule, you know, whatever. And we don’t tend to think about oh, I should soak parts of me in this. And you know it reminds me of in the history times, there were herbalist who practiced solely with soaking – like hand soaks, foot soaks – solely topically with herbs. And I’m thinking of the French fellow.
Mességué, yeah. Francis? Francis Mességué? What was his name?
Nope. I don’t remember.
Okay. Well, I can’t either. But anyway he wrote…
Ah, Maurice. Maurice Mességué. Yeah. There we go.
Yes, Maurice. And ah yes, our old friend Maurice. But he’s quite a famous practitioner who had that style of practice. Anyway.
Soak your feet, soak your hands. Part of the medicine is you stop everything and…
You sit there.
be there with your body care treatment, I suppose, or activity.
It’s true. Humans have always needed a reason. It’s not just modern humans who need to slow down. Like even when life was slower, we still had lots of things to do, and needed to slow down sometimes, you know?
I think Churchill was one of Mességué’s clients at some point, or some other people like that.
Yeah. Famously known for never slept. Only took like 30 minute naps, and yeah.
Right, yeah. The whole thing.
Yeah. At any rate. So, I really love to always remember the thing about leprosy with gotu kola. Just from the perspective of, you know, think outside of what you think you know about a plant. Whether that is why you would choose it, or how you would prepare it. Always be thinking about all the other ways. Like what would happen if I worked with it this way, or what would happen if I worked with it that way? And this is a way that I’ve been really obsessed with chamomile in the last couple years, just from a first aid perspective. But in your practice it’s more that you’ve been obsessed with gotu kola in that way.
Yeah. I’ve definitely enjoyed it topically for these kind of like wound healing and restorative purposes. And it’s multifactorial, right? So like it does seem to have some direct germ killing powers to it. That’s cool. It has some like tissue regenerative activity to it. It seems to be having some influence on immune system. And I say that because of some things that you can see topically. But then also there is some evidence from internal ingestion of gotu kola. That it has, let’s say, immunomodulatory activity. There were a few places where I’ve seen it said about gotu kola, that it’s sort of like got threads of the Araliaceae in it, like threads of the ginseng family.
Like wild sarsaparilla.
Yeah, yeah. Or I think of a comparison maybe to jiaogulan might be even more appropriate. Because that’s more of like a somewhat, you know, aquatic plant.
Plus they don’t in any way look like each other, and yet…
There’s like a slight similarity in flavor that I get between them.
Yeah, there is some relation there.
Yeah. And there are some interesting… like it’s not exactly that there are ginsenosides found in gotu kola. But there are some, you know, intriguing compounds that if you look at them from the right direction, you know, they’re similar enough.
Listen, when you get to the molecular structure. When you get to the like microscopic level for a lot of these plant constituents, they are very similar. And it makes me think about hair color and eye color and stuff. I don’t like to dwell too long in the microscopic world, because I feel like it clouds the judgment if we…
You’re wary of the enchantments and fascinations that may capture the human type of mind.
I am enchanted and fascinated, but I just… Systems thinking is, I think, more important when we’re dealing with health. And so, but I do think it’s really interesting how if you look at a lot of these molecules, it’s really kind of like oh, oh look. That one’s blonde hair, and that one’s brown hair. And oh, that one’s slightly red. And that one’s the thing that’s in between blonde and brown. They’re all hair, but they’re all slightly different. And when you look at some of these plant phytochemicals, if we really stay at that microscopic level, we’ll be like oh, look at how different these are through a microscope. But if we just step just a tiny bit back, and we’re like wait a minute. Those are all really similar. They’re only different by a very small variation. And then you remember that plants are making these chemicals to serve a purpose, just like humans have hair to serve a purpose. And okay, each one might make it a little bit differently, but…
Brahmi, Food, & Water Quality Matters
Yeah. So, you know, I kind of was bringing that up just to make a connection between like some of these observed effects on immunity, some of the observed effects on inflammation, you know, a major expression of the immune system. Gotu kola is for sure a cooling herb. No question about that one. This is helpful for bringing down inflammation, hot expressions, excess heat in the body. And there’s a whole bunch of crossover happening there, right? Systems of communication. Even you could consider it in regards to the stress response. And gotu kola, I guess the most common way that we hear people talk about it in like an American context right now in herbalism is as a nootropic adjacent sort of a thing. Like you’ll see it get into a lot of the nootropic formulas that include bacopa, or include high dose ginseng, or rhodiola, or something else. And I’m happy when I see it. I’m like, okay, you’ve made some effort to kind of soften up your formula a little bit, so it’s just not all stimulants all the time. You know, so I’m like all right, that’s cool. That’s good news. You know, I mentioned bacopa just a second ago. And we should say that’s the botanical name, Bacopa monnieri, for another herb. And sometimes both of these plants are referred to as brahmi. B R A H M I. And so that can get confusing sometimes. What they do have in common is a, you could say, nootropic or neuroprotective kind of effect. They take care of your brain. You know, that’s probably the simplest way to put it. They take care of your brain. And people have observed this empirically, seeing that they can help support memory, and senescence, and cognitive function when there are heavy demands on a person.
One thing though I think that’s important to keep in mind is that traditionally this is a food plant. This was a plant that was literally eaten as a green, whether that was a pot herb.
It can still be. We were very fortunate. A student mailed some to us that they had grown fresh and wrapped up the roots and the leaves and everything all in a nice packet and sent it over. And it’s a tasty little green veggie, you know?
Yeah. We gave it a little haircut before we planted it and ate some of it. It was nice and green and vibrant and bushy. So we were like ah, it can get away with having a few leaves trimmed off. But yes, in other cultures this still is a plant that is food. It’s just that in the states…
It hasn’t made its way into the high end co-op markets.
Yeah. But honestly, it’s very similar to cress. They’re not in the same family. Cress is in the mustard family, isn’t it?
It must be, yeah.
But it’s still very similar.
But like watery plants a little crispy, a little touch bitters in there, you know? With the gotu kola leaf, there’s like a little bit of warmth to it too. Slight pungency.
Well, there is in cress too. It has a little.. There’s a little tinge, like kind of arugula.
Right. But you’re right. Cress has like the Brassicaceae mustard family pungency to it. And the one in the gotu kola is like different.
It’s the celery family.
Yeah. Okay. Cool.
But anyway, when we think about this plant as brain food, the food part is important. The food part is really, really important. So, I drink it as tea. I think that’s phenomenal. Work with it topically. Do all that stuff. But I really think that this is one of the very many things that we should be considering bringing back as food. It’s not difficult to grow. I mean it does have some specific requirements. It wants wetlands.
Yeah. And look, it’s always true. But when it’s wetland plants, it like feels even more critical that you know where your plants were sourced from. And it may be that I’m rereading through some passages from the book, The Business of Botanicals. And so this is extra on my mind from earlier today. But it’s just so important to know where your plants came from. One of the big, I guess, revelations or like things that when you think about it for a moment it makes sense – but you need to hear it to realize- that I’ve taken away from that book, The Business of Botanicals, is that when plants are not organically certified, then there’s just no way to know where they came from by the time you get them. Because of the way that the supply networks work. And you know, where actual individual collectors and harvesters bring their plants to producers or processors who are going to begin drying it and breaking it down. And doing the first steps that are going to move it towards the ultimate product makers. Well, if it’s organically certified, one of the big benefits we get is that it’s tracked everywhere from seed until it ends up in a capsule, or a food item, or a recipe, or anything else. But if it’s not, then none of those intermediate steps are going to be there. And you only know that it came from this processor.
One bummer about organic standards is that there is not much in the way of regulation of water. So, you know, when we think about in the states, so many vegetables are grown in the west. And there’s quite a lot of water pollution with percolates. And they are not required to remove those from the water before watering the agriculture, watering the crops. And so that is still like, you know, nothing is perfect. And that’s a thing. But when we’re thinking specifically about water plants, like gotu kola or cress also, in those particular cases, then we really, really want to make sure that the water specifically is clean. Because it isn’t like well, it just got some of that water by irrigation, but some of it came from rain.
Right, yeah. And it’s also, if I’m not mistaken, the organic standards for seaweed didn’t have much to say about…
The organic standards for seaweed are problematic.
They could be better.
Yeah. But again, like one minimal thing, and one among the other many good reasons to like support organic, is that you do have that tracking, you know.
Right. It’s better than not. It is absolutely better than not. I don’t want to….
There are better certifications, you know, as well.
I mean, the thing is that this is a huge problem though, because we’re talking about major sources of water that are contaminated. And there’s not actually a lot that can be done. But with specific regard to Centella, if you are like well, I’d really like to get into this. I’d really like to have this more in my life. You can grow it in an aquarium, actually. It is a very happy aquarium plant.
And your fish will like it too.
Your fish will love it. But it is in fact, actually really cool to grow real plants in an aquarium. And so you can have like your tray of microgreens that you’re growing. And then you can have like, literally just a fish tank that you can grow Centella and cress in. And it’s really cool. It’ll be very pretty. And so if you have the space for it, I actually totally recommend it.
Chicory: Cichorium intybus & Its Properties
Yeah. All right. Well, let’s talk about chicory next. So, so this herb, right. So, the English name C H I C O R Y, the botanical Latin name, C I C H O R I U M. So I think this is one of those butterfly cases, right? I think it’s Cichorium in the Latin, and it has become chicory. It went from Cichori Cichori Cichori chicory chicory chicory, right? Just like flutter by flutter by butterfly. Yeah. I think that’s what happened there. Okay. We might be done with word nerdery for this episode.
Well, hold on.
Yeah. Chicory is… This is another one of those herbs to bust out of the box. Because if you’ve ever heard of chicory, most likely the thing you’ve heard of is oh, it’s a coffee replacer. Roasted chiccory roots…
Roast those chicory roots. It’ll taste just like coffee.
It’s not quite just like coffee.
It’s kind of like coffee.
I mean it’s quite nice. It’s really quite nice. And it is similar. Like even when you just smell it, it is definitely similar.
Yeah, no doubt, no mistake. Like this is not wrong.
I mean, of course there’s no caffeine in it, so…
There is no caffeine in it.
So, that is one big difference. But flavor wise, it’s not that far off. But… Well, before I say but, even if we just start right there. Oh, well, it’s a coffee replacer, if you’re trying to give up caffeine, but you like the flavor of coffee. Okay. Well, wait a minute. There’s so much more going on.
Just start with flavor. Like, why is the flavor similar? Well, there’s a bitter element to it. But it’s not like just plain bitter with nothing else.
It’s a broad bitter. It’s a…
And especially when the roots have been roasted, you know, you get some of the – for lack of a better term – the roasted flavor. You know, it’s the Maillard reaction browning some of the sugar molecules. Okay. Whatever.
It’s like, you know, when I think about this kind of a flavor, I think about, if you listen to music on your phone with just the phone sitting on the counter or whatever. And then if you listen to the same song on real speakers with bass. Right? Like that’s this kind of bitter. Like maybe gentian and centaury are you were just listening to it on your phone, and that’s all that came through. Because it’s like just the plain old bitter, right? But when we think about plants like chicory, it’s just a much more complex flavor. But the effect is still the same. We were actually talking before we started recording. And we were like oh, chicory, you know, it’s good for digestion. It’s good for your liver. Hold on. That’s like half your body. That’s so much of your body right there. Good for digestion and good for your liver. That’s practically good for everything.
Yeah. You know, central hubs of mammalian physiology, right? If you can take care of them, they can take care of a lot of other things in your system.
Yeah. And especially when we think about the inulin in context, right? Now, you’re not going to get the inulin from like a tincture. Well, you’ll get a very tiny amount.
Yeah. This is a prebiotic fiber that’s found in the root here in the plant. It’s also found in Inula helenium. That’s elecampane. It’s also found in burdock and dandelion and sun chokes, if you eat those.
Also in our fridge right now.
Yeah. So it’s a prebiotic fiber. It’s basically food for your friendly gut flora.
Yeah. So, because of that, suddenly chicory is an immune system support herb, right? Because if we think about all of the work that your gut microbiome does to contribute to immune function, well, okay. That’s pretty big.
Yeah. Immune system support, which means a modulator of inflammatory activity in the body.
But now wait, there’s more. Are you ready?
Think about all of the connections between the microbiome and mental health, emotional health. So, now chicory is like a plant to help you deal with depression, or anxiety, or whatever else, right? It’s a nervous system plant suddenly. So, even if we just stay in the coffee replacement box, we already are impacting so much of the body with chicory. And if you are looking to work with chicory as like oh, I’d like to titrate down my caffeine consumption. Then my recommendation is to instead of putting it in your coffee maker, which you could do, and you would get some of the flavor that way. But you won’t get the inulin that way. So, my recommendation instead is to boil it. And you can just put your coffee right in there too. So, if you are like okay, well, I’m going to make half chicory, half coffee. And that way I’ll be getting half of the caffeine, but I’ll be getting all this benefit from the chicory. I would recommend that you simmer it, you know. Like you can just put it in a pot and boil it, like bring it to a boil. And then you know, jump in the shower.
And dial the heat down.
Yeah. Jump in the shower. Do whatever you’re going to do for your morning. And then once you get out of the shower, it’s ready. You don’t have to do it much longer than that. But the reason that I would recommend that is because in that type of a water extraction, you will get a lot more of the inulin content. And that’s really such an enormous benefit with chicory, that you don’t want to pass that up.
Lovely Chicory Flowers, Related Species, & Herbal Salad
Yeah. When I think of chicory, I think of the flower first. So, chicory has these lovely bluish purple flowers. If you look for a picture of like common chicory flower and see it, you may say oh. I’ve seen that before. If you’ve been really attentive to your environment, you may say yeah. I see that in the median strip in the intersection between the three lane street and the highway and the overpass. Because chicory is, like dandelion, super resilient. It will grow anywhere there’s a patch of dirt. It doesn’t have to be deep. It doesn’t have to be nutrient rich.. You know, it can have salt. It can have exhaust, oil runoff, whatever. Chicory is like I am fine. I’ve got this handled. I’m going to grow up tall and make these beautiful flowers for you.
It’s really one of the most beautiful colors. It’s such an ethereal color of blue. It’s one of those plants that you just think, how can this be a thing? Also, it’s one of those plants that always reminds me that every ornamental plant in a very well tended garden, you know, with all the beautiful ornamental blooms. Every single one of those started as a wild plant. And sometimes you think well, you know, oh, I can’t imagine this in the wild or whatever. But then you look at a plant like chicory, and just the amazing color in the petals of that flower. And you’re like wow, I can’t like…
It totally fits right into a beauty garden, you know.
I mean, okay, the rest of the plant is a little scraggly. But the flowers are just gorgeous, especially if you plant them next to day lilies. You get that bright orange and that ethereal blue, and it’s just really amazing.
Yeah. So, you know, we don’t go and gather the chicory from the median strips to make our medicines with, and to make our teas and everything. But we do appreciate them, and it’s good to see them there. And I’m sure on several levels they’re working to remediate that soil and prepare the ground for other plants in the succession.
Usually plants that do very well in very poor soil are serving a remediation function. They are improving the soil by living there. You know, imagine if humans were improving the places that we live by living there. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
We can do it.
We can do it.
You know, but to those flowers, you can eat them. You can put them right in your salad. They don’t last long. So, it’s not the sort of thing that you can pick a bunch of them, and put them in your refrigerator, and then eat them for a week. You kind of have to pick them right before dinner. And then put them right in the salad and eat them up. Because they do wilt pretty quickly. And once they wilt they’re… I mean, they still have everything in them. But they’re just nowhere near as nice. But it’s not just the chicory flowers that you can eat in salad. Yeah.
Well, you were actually talking about ornamental plants, and how people have like selected them. And said oh, well I like this one. I’m going to plant this one again next time. And over the history, over the years, that changes the way the plant presents itself. And boy did we ever do that to chicory.
Yeah. So, you might know chicory also as radicchio, or endive, or frisée. And you might also be saying Katja, those are three things that don’t look anything like each other. Like they all look really drastically different.
Yeah. Like the endive is kind of like, I don’t know, tubular and white.
Yeah. Kind of yellow, really pale.
And then the radicchio is this like globular thing with all the like curly leaves that are red.
Yeah. Really cabbage like.
Red and white striations.
Yeah. Or purple, like super dark purple. And then frisée is like super curly, super lacy lettuce. You know, it has these leaves. But the ends, instead of being nice broad leaves, it’s just like super curly lacy bits. I don’t know. It’s like this Swiss cheese of lettuce.
So, all of these plants are Cichorium intybus. They are the same botanical species. And so these would be, I don’t know. Would they be variation differences or cultivar types?
Cultivars. One of them – it’s endive that has its own species name. And actually I think it might be endive.
C. endivia, or something like that.
Yeah. I do think that is. But radicchio is Cichorium intybus, and so is frisée. Well, there is one frisée that is crispum or crispus. I think it is crispum. Yeah, Cichorium crispum. There we go. But yeah, it’s amazing the way that they can grow differently. And all of these chicories, I mean even the regular chicory that grows wild with the pretty blue flowers, its leaves are very small. So, it would take a lot of the leaves to make a salad. But you absolutely can eat them. They’re absolutely food.
Treat them like dandelion leaf.
Yeah. They’re just not as large. Or they’re just scrawnier is what they are. They might be the same length, the ones down towards the bottom, but they’re very scrawny. They have a bitter flavor. You know, I mean radicchio and endive and frisée, they all have a bitter flavor. But again, that’s helping you. This is really just those core system support. And again, it’s food. You know, there’s just so many things that we have cut out of our food lives. Because they are more bitter than our culture tends to appreciate. Or because they are, I don’t know, different. They’re not iceberg lettuce. I don’t know. That’s weird, and it tastes weird. But it doesn’t. You just need a minute to get used to it again. And then it’s like, I don’t like a salad without radicchio.
Yeah. Well, you know, you were talking, and I was thinking about how I like to, especially in the springtime, I end up getting excited about wild salad. And I’m like ah, dandelion greens and some like new catnip leaves and fresh sage leaf. And you know, whatever else we can find and get it in there. And sometimes it’s like I should stop and say all right. So, if you’ve got a grocery store and it’s January, how can we get as close to that as possible? Well, we can get basal leaves. We can get radicchio. We can get endive. We can, I don’t know what else can we find in there.
Arugula will do it. And also you usually can get sage and mint and stuff in the produce section. Although those you can also just grow in a sunny window. They will do it. Yeah.
So, we call it like herbal salad, you know. But it’s like to make sure that every ingredient in there has flavor.
Like a strong flavor. Yeah.
Yeah. And it feels different. It feels really good to eat that and to have that richness to it. And again, the bitter salad before a fatty meal serves not just a culinary delight purpose, but it serves physiological purposes. Yeah. Get those juices going. Help you to digest your food as best as possible.
If you think about how like in the spring… And I we’ve lost this to some extent, because we can get salad all year round now. But in the spring you’re just craving a salad. You know, you’ve just had way too many beets, and rutabaga, and turnip, and whatever. And you’re just like I just want a salad. And that’s a big part of the reason why. Because those bitter constituents really do help us to keep everything moving in the body.
You don’t have to wait for springtime anymore. You can have it all year round.
Radicchio is here for you. Yeah. All right, everybody. So, those are some thoughts off the cuff about gotu kola and about chicory. As always, we welcome your thoughts and your experiences.
And your favorite radicchio recipes.
Yeah. I’d love to hear all of that. So, feel free to reach out to us. You can find us on social media. We are Commonwealth herbs.
All over. And you can also check out our website, Commonwealthherbs.com. If you’ve only known us through our podcast, then check out our online courses. We’ve got some blog posts. We’ve got other resources available. And we want everyone to learn herbalism.
Yeah. That’s why you’re here.
Yeah. So, we’ll be back next week with some more podcasts for you. And I think citrus, orange is going to be one. So, you’ll have a lot to say. .
I really am excited to talk about orange peel.
It might be cinnamon as well, or there could be somebody hiding behind on the shelf up there.
I do think someone is behind the orange peel,
So, we’ll see.
I think it might be somebody bitter.
But yes that’ll be coming up next time. Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Eat some herbs.
Eat some herbs.
Drink some tea, and take care of yourselves.
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