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Salvia hispanica


Salvia hispanica

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Salvia
Species: S. hispanica
Binomial name
Salvia hispanica
  • Kiosmina hispanica (L.) Raf.
  • Salvia chia Colla
  • Salvia chia Sessé & Moc. nom. illeg.
  • Salvia neohispanica Briq. nom. illeg.
  • Salvia prysmatica Cav.
  • Salvia schiedeana Stapf
  • Salvia tetragona Moench
Chia seeds

Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia (), is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala.[2] The 16th-century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times; economic historians have suggested it was as important as maize as a food crop.[3] Ground or whole chia seeds are still used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala for nutritious drinks and as a food source.[4][5]


  • Etymology 1
  • Description 2
  • Seeds 3
    • Nutrient content and food uses 3.1
    • Preliminary health research 3.2
    • Drug interactions 3.3
  • Cultivation 4
    • Climate and growing cycle length 4.1
    • Seed yield and composition 4.2
    • Soil, seedbed requirements and sowing 4.3
    • Fertilization and irrigation 4.4
    • Genetic diversity and breeding 4.5
    • Diseases and crop management 4.6
  • Mesoamerican usage 5
  • Decorative and novelty uses 6
  • References 7


The word "chia" is derived from the Nahuatl word chian, meaning oily.[1] The present Mexican state of Chiapas received its name from the Nahuatl "chia water" or "chia river".

It is one of two plants known as chia, the other being Salvia columbariae, commonly known as golden chia.


Chia is an annual herb growing up to 1.75 metres (5.7 feet) tall, with opposite leaves that are 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) long and 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) wide. Its flowers are purple or white and are produced in numerous clusters in a spike at the end of each stem.[6] Chia is hardy from USDA Zones 9–12. Many plants cultivated as S. hispanica are actually S. lavandulifolia.[7]


Chia is grown commercially for its seed, a food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, since the seeds yield 25–30% extractable oil, including α-linolenic acid. Of total fat, the composition of the oil can be 55% ω-3, 18% ω-6, 6% ω-9, and 10% saturated fat.[8]

Chia seeds are typically small ovals with a diameter of about 1 mm (0.039 in). They are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black, and white. The seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. While soaking, the seeds develop a mucilaginous gel-like coating that gives chia-based beverages a distinctive texture.

Chia seed is traditionally consumed in Mexico, and the southwestern United States, but is not widely known in Europe. Chia (or chian or chien) has mostly been identified as Salvia hispanica L. Today, chia is grown commercially in its native Mexico, and in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Australia. In 2008, Australia was the world's largest producer of chia.[9] A similar species, Salvia columbariae or golden chia, is used in the same way, but is not grown commercially for food. S. hispanica seed is marketed most often under its common name "chia", but also under several trademarks.

Chia seed (in Persian: تخم شربتی‎‎ tokhm-e-sharbatī, meaning "beverage seed") is used to prepare a sharbat (cold beverage) in Iran.

Nutrient content and food uses

Seeds, chia seeds, dried
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 2,034 kJ (486 kcal)
42.12 g
Dietary fiber 34.4 g
30.74 g
Saturated 3.330
Monounsaturated 2.309
Polyunsaturated 23.665
17.8 g
5.8 g
16.54 g
Vitamin A equiv.
54 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.62 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.17 mg
Niacin (B3)
8.83 mg
Folate (B9)
49 μg
Vitamin C
1.6 mg
Vitamin E
0.5 mg
631 mg
7.72 mg
335 mg
2.723 mg
860 mg
407 mg
16 mg
4.58 mg

Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

A 100-gram serving of chia seeds is a rich source of the B vitamins thiamine and niacin (54% and 59%, respectively of the daily value (DV), and a good source of the B vitamins riboflavin and folate (14 and 12%, respectively). The same amount of chia seeds is also a rich source of the dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc (>20% DV). See chart pictured at right for complete nutritional information.

In 2009, the European Union approved chia seeds as a novel food, allowing up to 5% of a bread product's total matter.[10]

Chia seeds may be added to other foods as a topping or put into smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, bread, made into a gelatin-like substance, or consumed raw.[11][12][13][14] The gel can be used to replace as much as 25% of egg content and oil in cakes while providing other nutrients.[15]

Mexican agua fresca made of chía

Preliminary health research

Although preliminary research indicates potential health benefits from consuming chia seeds, this work remains sparse and inconclusive.[16]

Drug interactions

No evidence to date indicates consuming chia seeds has adverse effects on or interactions with prescription drugs.[17]


Climate and growing cycle length

The growing cycle length for chia varies over cultivation locations and is influenced by elevation.[18] For production sites located in different ecosystems in Bolivia, Argentina, and Ecuador, growing cycles are between 100–150 days in duration.[19] Accordingly, commercial production fields are located in the range of 8–2200 m altitude across a variety of ecosystems ranging from tropical coastal desert to tropical rain forest and inter-Andean dry valley.[19] In northwestern Argentina, a time span from planting to harvest of 120–180 days is reported for fields located at elevations of 900–1500 m.[20]

S. hispanica is a short-day flowering plant,[21] indicating its photoperiodic sensitivity and lack of photoperiodic variability in traditional cultivars has limited commercial use of chia seeds to tropical and subtropical latitudes until 2012.[22] Traditional domesticated lines of S. hispanica can now be grown in temperate zones at higher latitudes in the United States.[21] In Arizona or Kentucky, seed maturation of traditional chia cultivars is stopped by frost before or after flower set, preventing seed harvesting.[21] However, 2012 advances in plant breeding led to development of new early-flowering chia genotypes proving to have higher yields in Kentucky.[22]

Seed yield and composition

Seed yield varies depending on cultivars, mode of cultivation, and growing conditions by geographic region. For example, commercial fields in Argentina and Colombia vary in yield range from 450 to 1250 kg/ha.[20][23] A small-scale study with three cultivars grown in the inter-Andean valleys of Ecuador produced yields up to 2300 kg/ha, indicating that favorable growing environment and cultivar interacted to produce such high yields.[18] Genotype has a larger effect on yield than on protein content, oil content, fatty acid composition, or phenolic compounds, whereas high temperature reduces oil content and degree of unsaturation and raises protein content.[24]

Soil, seedbed requirements and sowing

The cultivation of S. hispanica requires light to medium clay or sandy soils.[25] The plant prefers well-drained, moderately fertile soils, but can cope with acid soils and moderate drought.[22][25] Sown chia seeds need moisture for seedling establishment, while the maturing chia plant does not tolerate wet soils during growth.[22]

Traditional cultivation techniques of S. hispanica involve soil preparation by disruption and loosening followed by seed broadcasting.[26] In modern commercial production, a typical sowing rate of 6 kg/ha and row spacing of 0.7–0.8 m is usually applied.[20]

Fertilization and irrigation

S. hispanica can be cultivated under low fertilizer input, using 100 kg nitrogen per hectare or in some cases, no fertilizer is used.[21][23]

Irrigation frequency in chia production fields may vary from none to eight irrigations per growing season, depending on climatic conditions and rainfall.[23]

Genetic diversity and breeding

The wide range of wild and cultivated varieties of S. hispanica are based on seed size, shattering of seeds, and seed color.[27][28] Seed weight and color have high heritability, with a single recessive gene responsible for white color.[28]

Diseases and crop management

Currently, no major pests or diseases affect chia production.[25]

  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  2. ^ L."Salvia hispanica". Germplasm Resources Information Network.  
  3. ^ a b c Cahill, Joseph P. (2003). "Ethnobotany of Chia, Salvia hispanica L. (Lamiaceae)". Economic Botany 57 (4): 604–618.  
  4. ^ Kintzios, Spiridon E. (2000). Sage: The Genus Salvia. CRC Press. p. 17.  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Anderson, A.J.O. and Dibble, C.E. "An Ethnobiography of the Nahuatl", The Florentine Codex, (translation of the work by Fr. Bernardino de Sahagún), Books 10–11, from the Period 1558–1569
  7. ^ Mark Griffiths, Editor. Index of Garden Plants. (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2nd American Edition, 1995.) ISBN 0-88192-246-3.
  8. ^ USDA SR-21 Nutrient Data (2010). "Nutrition facts for dried chia seeds, one ounce". Conde Nast, Nutrition Data. 
  9. ^ Chia: The Ord Valley's new super crop
  10. ^ The European Union, ) as a novel food ingredient under Regulation (EC) No 268/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council"Salvia hispanica"Commission Decision of 13 October 2009 authorising the placing on the market of Chia seed ( (L294/14) 2009/827/EC pp. 14–15 (November 11, 2009)
  11. ^ "Chewing Chia Packs A Super Punch". NPR. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Albergotti, Reed. "The NFL's Top Secret Seed". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Trujillo-Hernández, C.A.; Rendón-Villalobos R.; Ortíz-Sánchez A.; Solorza-Feria J. (2012). L.)"Salvia hispanica"Formulation, physicochemical, nutritional and sensorial evaluation of corn tortillas supplemented with chia seed ( (PDF). Czech Journal of Food Science 30 (2): 118–125. 
  14. ^ Costantini, Lara; Lea Lukšič; Romina Molinari; Ivan Kreft; Giovanni Bonafaccia; Laura Manzi; Nicolò Merendino (2014). "Development of gluten-free bread using tartary buckwheat and chia flour rich in flavonoids and omega-3 fatty acids as ingredients". Food Chemistry 165: 232–240.  
  15. ^ Borneo R, Aguirre A, León AE (2010). "Chia (Salvia hispanica L) gel can be used as egg or oil replacer in cake formulations". J AmDietAssoc 110 (6): 9469.  
  16. ^ Ulbricht C, et al. (2009). "Chia (Salvia hispanica): a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration". Rev Recent Clin Trials 4 (3): 168–74.  
  17. ^ Ulbricht C, et al. (2009). "Chia (Salvia hispanica): a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration". Rev Recent Clin Trials 4 (3): 168–74.  
  18. ^ a b Ayerza (h), Ricardo; Wayne Coates (2009). "Influence of environment on growing period and yield, protein, oil and α-linolenic content of three chia (Salvia hispanica L.) selections". Industrial Crops and Products 30 (2): 321–324.  
  19. ^ a b Ayerza, Ricardo (2009). L.) as Affected by Environmental Factors"Salvia hispanica"The Seed’s Protein and Oil Content, Fatty Acid Composition, and Growing Cycle Length of a Single Genotype of Chia (. Journal of Oleo Science 58 (7): 347–354.  
  20. ^ a b c Coates, Wayne; Ayerza, Ricardo (1998). "Commercial production of chia in Northwestern Argentina". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society 75 (10): 1417–1420.  
  21. ^ a b c d Jamboonsri, Watchareewan; Timothy D. Phillips; Robert L. Geneve; Joseph P. Cahill; David F. Hildebrand (2012). "Extending the range of an ancient crop, Salvia hispanica L.—a new ω3 source". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 59 (2): 171–178.  
  22. ^ a b c d e f Chia (PDF). Cooperative Extension Service. University of Kentucky – College of Agriculture. 2012. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  23. ^ a b c Coates, Wayne; Ricardo Ayerza (1996). "Production potential of chia in northwestern Argentina". Industrial Crops and Products 5 (3): 229–233.  
  24. ^ Ayerza (h), Ricardo; Wayne Coates (2009). L.) genotypes grown under tropical coastal desert ecosystem conditions"Salvia hispanica"Some quality components of four chia (. Asian Journal of Plant Sciences 4 (8): 301–307.  
  25. ^ a b c Muñoz, Loreto A.; Angel Cobos; Olga Diaz; José Miguel Aguilera (2013). ): An Ancient Grain and a New Functional Food"Salvia hispanica"Chia Seed ( . Food Reviews International 29 (4): 394–408.  
  26. ^ Cahill, Joseph P. (2005). L.)"Salvia hispanica"Human Selection and Domestication of Chia (. Journal of Ethnobiology 25 (2): 155–174.  
  27. ^ Cahill, J. P. and B. Ehdaie (2005). "Variation and heritability of seed mass in chia (Salvia hispanica L.)." Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 52(2): 201-207. doi: 10.1007/s10722-003-5122-9. Retrieved 2014-11-29
  28. ^ a b Cahill JP, Provance, MC (2002). "Genetics of qualitative traits in domesticated chia (Salvia hispanica L.)". Journal of Heredity 93 (1): 52–55.  
  29. ^ Celli, Marcos; Maria Perotto; Julia Martino; Ceferino Flores; Vilma Conci; Patricia Pardina (2014). )"Salvia hispanica"Detection and Identification of the First Viruses in Chia (. Viruses 6 (9): 3450–3457.  
  30. ^ "A second apparently pre-Columbian cultivation area is known in southern Honduras and Nicaragua."Jamboonsri, Watchareewan; Phillips, Timothy D.; Geneve, Robert L.; Cahill, Joseph P.; Hildebrand, David F. (2011). L.—a new ω3 source"Salvia hispanica"Extending the range of an ancient crop, . Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution (Springer). Online First: 171–178.  
  31. ^ Chia Pet | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved on 2014-04-26.


In the United States, the first substantial wave of chia seed sales was tied to Chia Pets in the 1980s. These "pets" come in the form of clay figures that serve as a base for a sticky paste of chia seeds; the figures are then watered and the seeds sprout in a form suggesting the figure's fur. About 500,000 chia pets a year are sold in the US as novelties or house plants.[31]

Decorative and novelty uses

Aztec tribute records from the Mendoza Codex, Matrícula de Tributos, and the Matricula de Huexotzinco (1560)—along with colonial cultivation reports and linguistic studies—give detail to the geographic location of the tributes, and provide some geographic specificity to the main S. hispanica-growing regions. Most of the provinces grew the plant, except for areas of lowland coastal tropics and desert. The traditional area of cultivation was in a distinct area that covered parts of north-central Mexico south to Nicaragua. A second and separate area of cultivation, apparently pre-Columbian, was in southern Honduras and Nicaragua.[30]

S. hispanica is described and pictured in the Mendoza Codex and the Florentine Codex, 16th-century Aztec codices created between 1540 and 1585. Both describe and picture S. hispanica and its usage by the Aztec. The Mendoza Codex indicates that the plant was widely cultivated and given as tribute in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Economic historians suggest that it was a staple food that was as widely used as maize.[3]

Drawing from the Florentine Codex showing a Salvia hispanica plant[3]

Mesoamerican usage

[22], mechanical weed control is preferred.herbicides Weeds may present a problem in early development of the chia crop until its canopy closes, but because chia is sensitive to most commonly used [29] However, virus infections possibly transmitted by white flies may occur.[22]

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