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Family Lamiaceae
Salvia hispanica L.
Qi ya zi

Scientific names Common names
Kiosmina hispanica (L.) Raf. Chia (Engl.)
Salvia chia Sessé &. Moc.  
Salvia hispanica L.  
Salvia neohispanica Briq.  
Salvia prismatica Cav.  
Salvia schiedeana Stapf  
Salvia tetragona Moench  
Salvia hispanica L. is the preferred name. Tropicos Resource

Other vernacular names
CHINESE: Qi ya zi.
MEXICO: Salba, Sabja seeds.

Gen info
• Salvia hispanica is an oilseed known as chia. It was cultivated by the Aztecs since the pre-Columbian cultures. Whole and ground seed was used as food, but oil obtained from pressing was used as base for face and body paintings. The Aztecs received the chia seeds as annual tribute from people under their domain and was offered to gods in religious ceremonies. (5)
• Chia is derived from the Nahuati word chian, meaning oily. (9)
• The common name chia is shared by two plants: Salvia hispanica and Salvia columbariae, also known as "golden chia." (9)

Salvia hispanica is an annual herbaceous plant growing up to 1.75 meters high. Leaves are opposite, 4 to 8 centimeters long and 3 to 5 centimeters wide. Flowers are purple or white, produced in numerous clusters in a spike at the end of the stem. Seeds are small and flattened, 2 to 2.5 millimeters in length, 1.2 to 1.5 millimeters wide, and 0.8 to 1 millimeter thick. Color is variable, dark brown to black, sometimes gray or white.

- Cultivated.
- Grown commercially in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

- Australia is the biggest producer of chia seeds.

- Nutrient analysis of seeds (1 oz., approximately 28 g) yield: total calories 137 calories, carbohydrates 50 kcal, fat 72.1 kcal, protein 15.2 kcal, total carbohydrates 12.3 g, protein 4.4g, dietary fiber 10.6 h, total fat 8.6 g, saturated fat 0.9 g, monosaturated fat 0.6 g, polyunsaturated fat 6.5 g, total omega-3 fatty acids 4815 mg, total omega-6 fatty acids 1620 mg, calcium 177 mg, phosphorus 265 mg, potassium 44.8 mg, sodium 5.3 mg, zinc 1.0 mg, copper 0.1 mg, manganese 10.6 g, cholesterol 0 mg, water 1.5 g, ash 1.4 g. (1)
- Nutrient analysis of dried chia seeds (per 100g) showed: (Proximates) water 5.80g, energy 486 kcal, protein 16.54g, total lipid (fat) 42.12g, carbohydrate (by difference) 42.12g, total dietary fiber 34.4g; (Minerals) calcium 631mg, iron 7.72mg, magnesium 335mg, phosphorus 860mg, potassium 407mg, sodium 16mg, zinc 4.58mg; (Vitamins) vitamin C 1.6mg, thiamin 0.620 mg, riboflavin 0.170 mg, niacin 8.830mg, vitamin B12 0, vitamin A 54 IU, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.50mg; (Lipids) fatty acid, total saturated 3.330g, total monosaturated FA 2.309g, total polyunsaturated FA 23.665g, total trans FA 0.140g, cholesterol 0. (10)

- It is one of the highest whole food sources of dietary fiber and α-linolenic acid (ALA) per total fat.
- Seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Gastrointestinal complaints—gas and bloating—after ingestion of chia seeds are attributed to its high fiber content (25%). (1)
- Because it can grow in arid environments, it is highly recommended as alternative crop for field crop industry. (11)
- Considered antioxidant, antiproliferative, cardioprotective, appetite suppressant.
- Studies have suggest cardioprotective, antioxidant, glucose lowering, appetite suppressant properties.

Parts used


Edibility / Nutrition
- Chia seeds were a staple of the ancient Aztec diet.
- Seeds may be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Raw, the seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber and O3FA. Seeds may be roasted, ground into pinole for use in porridge or baked goods. (1)
- Seeds may be soaked in fruit juice (buko juice, for one) or water to make chia fresca in Mexico. (1)
- Seeds can be used to make a gel as substitute for oil. The gel can be added to any sauce, jelly, or baked goods. (1)
- Sprouts are edible, used in salad, sandwiches, and other dishes, just like bean sprouts.
- No folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
- In Mexico, mixture of whole or ground chia seeds and water are used to treat stomach ailments and diarrhea. The Michoacan in Mexico use the seeds to remove obstructions of the eye. (15)
- Oil: Used as lacquer base for painting clay or gourd vessels; was a basic component of Aztec body paint. In modern times, oil used as lacquers and paints and as emollient in cosmetics. (15)

α-Linolenic Acid / Improvement of Adiposity / Benefits on Lipid and Glucose Homeostasis:
Study investigated the benefits of dietary intake of chia seed rich in α-linolenic acid and fiber on dyslipidemia and insulin resistance (IR) in Wistar rats fed with a sucrose-rich diet. Results showed dietary chia seed prevented the onset of dyslipidemia and IR in rats fed with SRD. Study provided new data regarding effect on chia seed upon lipid and glucose homeostasis in and experimental model of dislipidemia and IR. (2)
• Review on Effect on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Humans: Study assessed the effect of chia seed consumption, milled or whole, in the prevention/control of cardiovascular risk factors in humans using 6 of 8 criteria of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Of sevens studies, only one was not randomized. One study showed a significant drop in systolic blood pressure and inflammatory markers. In four of the studies reviewed, there was a significant spike in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). In acute trials, postprandial blood sugar was significantly lowered. One study showed a significant drop in triglycerides, body mass and inflammatory markers, however, with chia see mixed with other foods. Two studies showed a high risk of bias. Review concludes most of the studies did not demonstrate statistically significant results in relation to cardiovascular disease risk factors. (3)
• Antioxidant / Protein Fractions: Study evaluated chia seed for protein content and antioxidant activity. Protein content ranged from 2.9% to 4.6% dry matter, albumins and globulins ranged from 54.6% to 62.6%. Various chia seeds showed differenced in SOD activity and exhibited high antiradical activity against ABTS. Results suggest chia seed is potentially suitable for use in gluten-free diet of celiac people and as antioxidant ingredient in health food. (4)
• Mucilage: Seed placed in water exudes a mucilaginous polysaccharide. The mucilage has interesting properties for food, care, and pharmaceutical industries. The mucilage is a potential source of hydrocolloids and can be incorporated as functional ingredient in different food formulations. (5)
• Effect of Storage on Oil Stability: Study reports chia oil is susceptible to oxidation and should be protected during storage. Illumination influences chia oil oxidative stability and should be stored in containers with light-barrier properties. Natural antioxidants can prevent chia oil oxidation. Effect of combination of PA and TOC was greater than that achieved with TBHQ. (6)
• Decreased Cardiovascular Risks in T2DM / Randomized Controlled Trial: Single-blind cross-over study showed long-term supplementation with Salba attenuated a major cardiovascular risk factor (SBP) and emerging factors (js-CRP and vWF) safely, while maintaining good glycemic and lipid control in people with well-controlled T2DM. (7)
• Effect on Postprandial Glycemia and Subjective Appetite: Study evaluated the ability of novel oil-rich grain Salvia hispanica to lower postprandial glycemia and reduce appetite when added to a carbohydrate meal. Results showed that ground and whole forms positively affected postprandial glycemia and mildly suppressed appetite. (8)
• Comparative Study on Postprandial Glycemia and Satiety: Randomized study compared the effect of two seeds (flax and salba-chia seeds) on fifteen healthy participants. Despite the similarities in nutritional composition, Salba-chia appears to have the ability to convert glucose into a slow-release carbohydrate and affect satiety to a greater extent than flax, possible due to higher fiber viscosity. (11)
• Safety / Opinion: A 2009 study reported on a scientific opinion on the safety of chia seed and ground whole chia as novel food ingredient for use in bread. Based on compositional data on chia seeds, its nutritional characteristics, and proposed use, the panel saw no nutritional disadvantage to the consumer for use of chia as novel food ingredient. While there was no evidence of adverse effects, there were still uncertainties with regard its potential allergenicity. Previous and current use of chia for food purposes in non-EU countries provided supportive evidence for a positive conclusion on safety of chia seeds and ground whole chia seeds under the proposed conditions of use. (12)
• Benefits for Weight Loss and Improvement of Obesity in T2 Diabetes: A double-blind, randomized, controlled trial of two parallel groups with 77 over-weight or obese patients with T2D supported the beneficial role of Salba-chia seeds in promoting weight loss and improvement of obesity related risk factors, while maintaining good glycemic control. Supplementation of Salba-chia may be a useful dietary addition to conventional therapy in the management of obesity in diabetes. (13)
• Antioxidant and Toxicity Study: Study evaluated the antioxidant and quantitative phytochemical content of methanolic extracts of seeds and aerial parts of the chia plant. The antioxidant capacity showed lower than that reported for coffee or green tea. Toxicity study of aerial parts and seeds assessed in brine shrimp (Artemia salina L.) nauplii showed a low lethal effect. There was no significant effect on body mass and satiety compared to the water control group. (14)

- Cultivated.
- Seeds in the cybermarket.

© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

October 2017

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Chia Seeds (Salvia Hispanica): Benefits, Side Effects, Nutrition / Seed Guides Info
Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in α-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats / Adriana G. Chicco, Maria E. D'Alessandro, Gustavo J. Hein, Maria E. Oliva  and Yolanda B. Lombardo / British Journal of Nutrition, Vol 101, Issue 1, Jan 2009
Effect of chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in humans: a systematic review / Cynthia de Souza Ferreira, Lucilia de Fátima de Sousa Fomes, Gilze Espirito Santo da Silva and Glorimar Rosa / Nutri Hosp. 2015; 32(5): 1909-1918
Characterization of protein fractions and antioxidant activity of Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) / Kvetoslava Kačmárová, Blažena Lavová, Peter Socha, Dana Urminská / Potravinarstvo Slovak Journal of Food Sciences, Vol 10, No 1 (2016) / doi:10.5219/563
Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) oil stability: Study of the effect of natural antioxidants / Romina M.Bodoira, María C. Penci, Pablo D. Ribotta, Marcela L. Martínez / Food Science and Technology, Volume 75, January 2017, Pages 107-113
Supplementation of Conventional Therapy With the Novel Grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) Improves Major and Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes: Results of a randomized controlled trial / Vladimir Vuksan, PHD, Dana Whitham, MSC, RD, John L. Sievenpiper, PHD, Alexandra L. Jenkins, RD, PHD, Alexander L. Rogovik, MD, PHD, Richard P. Bazinet, PHD, Edward Vidgen, BSC and Amir Hanna, MD, FRCPC / Diabetes Care 2007 Nov; 30(11): 2804-2810. / https://doi.org/10.2337/dc07-1144
The Effects of Salvia hispanica L. (Salba) on Postprandial Glycemia and Subjective Appetite / Amy Sanda Lee / Thesis: 2009 / Master's of Science, Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto
Salvia hispanica / Wikipedia
Basic Report: Dried Chia Seeds: Nutrient Analysis / USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Comparison of flax (Linum usitatissimum) and Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds on postprandial glycemia and satiety in healthy individuals: a randomized, controlled, crossover study / V Vuksan, L  Choleva, E Jovanovski, A L Jenkins, F Au-Yeung, A G Dias, H V T Ho, A Zurbau and L Duvnjak / European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2017) 71, 234–238 / doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.148
SCIENTIFIC OPINION: Opinion on the safety of ‘Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) and ground whole Chia seeds’ as a food ingredient / Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (Question No EFSA-Q-2008-008) / EFSA: European Food Safety Authority: The EFSA Journal (2009) 996, 1-26
Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) in the treatment of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes: A double-blind randomized controlled trial / V. Vuksan*, A.L. Jenkins, C. Brissette, L. Choleva, E. Jovanovski, A.L. Gibbs, R.P. Bazinet, F. Au-Yeung, A. Zurbau, H.V.T. Ho, L. Duvnjak, J.L. Sievenpiper, R.G. Josse, A. Hanna / Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases (2017) 27, 138e146
PHYTOCHEMICAL AND PHARMACOLOGICAL STUDY OF Salvia hispanica L. / Mendoza-Espinoza JA, Bañuelos-Hernández AE, Medina-Valdez M, Díaz de León-Sánchez F, Pérez-Flores LJ, Rivera-Cabrera F, Sierra-Palacios E / J Pharm Pharmacogn Res 3(suppl. 1): S36, 2015
Chia (Salvia hispanica) and Its Long History of Use Reveals Future Potential / Cahill J. Ethnobotany of Chia, Salvia hispanica L. (Lamiaceae) Economic Botany. 2003; 57(4): 604-618.

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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