Chia is an ancient herb that has been used by the Aztec and is described in the 16th century Aztec codices. Aztec warriors were prescribed the seeds of chia to help them during long and tiring journeys, as the Aztec physicians believed that the herb could reduce joint pain.
Even today, the herb is used in Mexico as an important food crop. The term Chia is synonyms with the hugely popular Chia pets, the clay figuresof human heads filled with the seeds of the herb. Due to the Chia pets, the herb is a popular house plant in the US today.
Chia is grown extensively in South and Central America for its seeds that are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. It is also cultivated in Australia and Guatemala.
What Is Chia?
Chia is botanically known as Salvia hispanica and the herb belongs to the mint family known as Lamiaceae. It is believed that the name of the herb is taken from the Nahuatl language where chian means oily. As a plant, Chia is an annual desert herb that can grow up to a height of 3 feet. The herb has green colored leaves and white & purple colored flowers that are usually seen in clusters. Do not confuse Chia with Golden Chia which is another related herb and is botanically known Salvia columbariae.
How Does It Work?
Chia seeds are one of the largest sources of omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. It is believed that the herb contains more omega 3 fatty acids than that found in flax seed. Chia contains the following – fat, sodium, dietary fiber, protien, calcium, phosphorus and manganese. Clinical studies have shown that chia can be used to reduce high blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
The following are the health benefits of Chia:
Chia seeds can be used to regulate insulin levels in the body. The herb is particularly helpful for those suffering from insulin resistance and high levels of insulin in the blood (such as women suffering from PCOS and those with Type 2 Diabetes).
Chia seeds are a good source of dietary fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. These two compounds are useful in reducing triglycerides and cholesterol levels. This benefit was proven in a clinical study and was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Since, Chia contains fiber it can be used to reduce inflammation of the digestive tract and for regulating bowel function. It is believed that two tablespoons of chia seeds contain ten grams of fiber.
Chia also helps in weight loss treatment as when consumed, the herb brings about the feeling of fullness. Chia seeds have a satiating effect that can help control weight gain.
Chia is considered safe for consumption. No known side effects are associated with this herb. However, some research studies suggest that taking large amounts of chia might increase the chances of getting prostate cancer. As usual, avoid the herb during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Salba, a particular product made using Chia is a popular brand in the market. The manufacturer of this product recommends two tablespoons of this herb per day. In many clinical studies, the standard dose of this herb was always less than 10 grams for a maximum period of 4 weeks.
Chia is a popular herb, the usage of which has been encouraged even in public media. The herb is used by athletes. Chia is a known and safe source of omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.
Avoid chia when taking anticoagulants and BP medications. Also, do not use chia with ginkgo, Dong quai and garlic.