What do dandelion, burdock, chicory and garlic have in common?
They all contain inulin. Inulin is a naturally occurring polysaccharide made up of chains of fructose molecules that are not digested in the small intestine, and belongs to a class of dietary fibers known as fructans.
In plants, inulin is used as energy storage and helps the plant to regulate cold resistance. We find inulin in the roots and bulbs. Most plants that create inulin do not store other carbohydrates such as starch. That’s interesting and welcome to those who watch their carb intake as we may not generally think of herbs as being carb sources.
In humans, inulin travels to the lower gut, where it functions as a prebiotic – a food source for beneficial gut bacteria, making for a more healthily functioning digestive system. Inulin aids in the removal of waste and allows for more complete elimination. Yay team inulin! In fact, inulin has been scientifically proven to stimulate the growth of gastrointestinal bifidobacteria (1). This friendly bacteria plays a role in immune health, preventing gastrointestinal infections and producing and enhancing the bioavailability of healthy compounds such as Vitamin B complex and fatty acids.
It seems that inulin may be just the ticket for those of us who wish to improve our gut health. Some of our common herbs are inulin rich. Check it out!
• Dandelion has up to 300,000 ppm (parts per million) inulin in its roots
• Burdock has up to 500,000 ppm inulin in its roots
• Chicory roots have up to 580,000 ppm! That’s a whole lotta inulin.
• Fresh garlic can have up to 1/2 ounce of inulin in 3 ounces of bulbs.
When making alcohol or acetic tinctures from these herbs, we may notice a white chalky substance precipitating out and falling to the bottom of the jars. That’s the inulin. It’s best to use 80-100 proof alcohol for tincturing, as inulin is water soluble. Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful menstruum to extract and preserve the inulin.
Interestingly, inulin will be highly degraded at temperatures over 329 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal dehydration processing at 95-110 degrees will keep the inulin intact. We can make cold or hot infusions of inulin rich roots to extract this healthy substance.
Getting the health-providing parts of plants to people in ways they’ll enjoy taking so that healing can occur is a motto at my herb school. We are always looking to effectively extract the benefits of plants and create tasty treats. Here are 2 recipes to try that are so tasty.
One of my favorite ways to utilize the inulin in burdock roots is by pickling them. Burdock, Arctium lappa, is a biennial, meaning it takes 2 years to complete its life cycle. Burdock root is dug in the early fall from the first year plants. Burdock goes deep to aid in detoxing the body, is cooling and extremely rich in nutrients.
Did you know? Burdock root is called gobo in Asian grocery stores and food co-ops.
Inulin rich dandelion and chicory roots are so tasty when paired with chai herbs. Who doesn’t love a nice cup of creamy spicy tasting chai on a cold winter day?
My version of chai not only fortifies your senses; it’s super warming, and may strengthen the immune system, calm the nerves, and get the digestive system ready for hearty winter meals!
There you have it, tasty and healthful treats for you and your loved ones! ♥
- A. Bohm, I. Kaiser, A. Trebstein and T. Henle Heat-Induced Degradation of Inulin, 2004, ‘Heat-Induced Degradation of Inulin.’ Institute of Food Chemistry, Technical University Dresden, Dresden, Germany, Vol 22, pls 90-92