Salvia hispanica L is a mint plant in the Lamiceae family, and is indigenous to Mexico and parts of South America. The seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant have become a popular health food due to their powerful nutrient composition.
The seeds of some premium varieties of Salvia hispanica grown for human consumption are especially rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and are a great source of antioxidants and amino acids – particularly lysine.
While there are over 60 varieties of wild and domesticated Salvia hispanica (the majority of which are known as “chia”), one premium variety of Salvia hispanica has undergone human clinical research – known as the salvia supergrain variety.
Other varieties of chia have undergone clinical research as animal feed 1,2,3,4 but due to inconsistencies in nutritional content, they have not been supported by the medical community for human clinical research.
Climate a Key Factor in Safety
Common “chia” is grown by thousands of farmers in varying soil quality and under limited control. While climate may not seem like a crucial factor in the nutritional quality of the crop, it is actually a key in safety for human consumption.
When the moisture levels in the seed are too high at harvest – whether from humidity or rainfall – this creates a microbiological environment that can be hazardous. In short, when moisture levels are elevated, mold, yeast and salmonella can form inside the seed.
A complete analysis of all varieties of Salvia hispanica, including chia and salvia supergrain, reveals common chia samples that tested positive for yeast, mold and salmonella. Based on 3rd party analysis, all salvia supergrain samples were found to be consistently safe.
The History of Salvia Hispanica
The seeds of the plant were once used by Aztec warriors to sustain themselves during long journeys. Aztec doctors would “prescribe” the seeds to relieve joint pain and skin conditions – they didn’t know why it was so effective at the time, but modern science tells us the healing activity was due to:
1.) A High Ratio of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Lubricates the tissues of the body.
2.) An Ideal Blend of Amino Acids: Proteins to support soft tissue repair.
3.) Antioxidants, Like Quercetin: Fights free radicals to prevent destruction of tissues.
1. ^ Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seed as an omega-3 fatty acid source for finishing pigs. Journal of Animal Sciences (2009), 1910. doi:10.2527/jas.2009-1987v1. (W. Coates, R. Ayerza)
2. ^ Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica L.) as an ?-3 Fatty Acid Source for Broiler Chicks. Poultry Science (2002), 81:826–837. (R. Ayerza, W. Coates, and M. Lauria)
3. ^ Dietary levels of chia: influence on hen weight, egg production and sensory quality, for two strains of hens. British Poultry Science (May 2002), Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 283 – 290. (R. Ayerza, W. Coates)
4. ^ Dietary Levels of Chia: Influence on Yolk Cholesterol, Lipid Content and Fatty Acid Composition for Two Strains of Hens. Poultry Science (2000), 79:724–739.
5. ^ Effect of Dietary alpha-Linolenic Fatty Acid Derived from Chia when Fed as Ground Seed, Whole Seed and Oil on Lipid Content and Fatty Acid Composition of Rat Plasma. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2007:51:27-34. (R. Ayerza, W. Coates)
History of Chia in America
Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) is an annual crop native to southwestern Mexico and northwestern Central America. The people settled in these regions consume from pre-Columbian times, with the majority of their daily nutrition.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in America, the Aztec Empire controlled a vast territory that now belongs to Mexico, with a population of over eleven million people. Tenochtitlan, the capital, with two hundred thousand inhabitants, was where is now the Federal District. This very advanced civilization reached its height between 1168 and 1521, when it was destroyed by the conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés.
Mesoamerica was by then at least twenty domesticated plant species with different uses. Four of them stood out from the nutritional standpoint, amaranth, beans, chia, and corn, constituting the main components of the daily diet. Its importance is well grounded in the historic Florentine Codex written between 1548 and 1585 by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, entitled General History of the Things of New Spain. The twelve-volume work written in Nahuatl and Castilian is in the Laurentian Bibliotea Florence, Italy. Some aspects of the production, marketing and use of chia described in several passages of this monumental work.
Chia seed, according to scientific evidence, began to be used for human consumption about 3,500 years before Christ. Between 2600 BC and 2000 BC was grown in the Valley of Mexico at Teotihuacan and Toltec civilizations before the Aztecs arrived there, and between 1500 BC and 900 BC was used as currency in central Mexico.