Four thousand six hundred years ago, the seeds of Salvia hispanica (which you know as chia) were central to the Mesoamerican way of life. Used for worship, sustenance, offering, and currency, the Aztecs and Mayans considered chia seeds sacred; the chia crop was more important than even corn, the very substance of the human form according to their creation texts.
Thirty five years ago, the seeds of Salvia hispanica were applied to terracotta figurines and marketed by Joe Pedott of San Francisco as furry green Chia Pets, becoming a country-wide rage of watered decor that in short time withered, died, and were likely shoved in a closet corner or garage sale display thereafter. For many of us, this is all we know of chia.
What we likely don’t know is that its name derives from the Mayan word chiabaan, or “strengthening,” and that it is as nutritious as it is medicinal. When combined with water, the small seeds swell to a tapioca, gel-like consistency that makes a wonderfully refreshing drink and that produces soluble fiber-ful mucilage, assisting the body in both digestion and blood sugar regulation.
The Mesoamericans used that gel as a natural, antimicrobial bandage for wounds and other injuries, for what the Chinese would call “yin” energy (increasing the body’s natural fluids, hydration, endurance, and libido), and for soothing joint pain.
Chia is also extremely energizing and carries a history of life-giving. Packed with 24 percent protein, 22 percent cholesterol-free Omega 3, and 25 percent fiber, Aztec warriors survived long conquest on nothing but a ration of chia seeds and water, and native tribes of the southwestern United States used them to make it through forced, brutally long marches and missions.
Perhaps it is this property that made them a prime offering to the gods and important part of ancient worship and charity. After Columbus arrived on the continent, its non-Christian spiritual role caused the plant to be banned by the Spaniards.
The flower essence of chia is thought to provide spiritual growth and the expansion of awareness and intuition, stimulating the third eye chakra, according to Beth Hays of Integrated Essences. Hays considers the essence to also be strongly linked with Archangel Michael, bringing peace, protection, and a clear view of the truth.
Although the gifts of chia have largely been forgotten by modern America, they can easily be rediscovered and folded into the everyday diet. One of the best ways to do this is by adding a teaspoon or two of the seeds to your water bottle or glass of juice to make a simple “chia fresca.” Chia with lemonade is a traditional Mexican favorite; I love mixing it with half lemonade and half iced tea.
You can also use chia seeds to make this raw, mock-tapioca pudding using horchata, or Mexican spiced rice milk, and a sprinkling of flax for good measure.
Bourne, R., PhD. (2007, May 7). Chia Seeds: An Ancient Super Food for Today’s Health Conscious Consumer. Retrieved from: http://voices.yahoo.com/chia-seeds-ancient-super-food-todays-health-329631.html?cat=5
History of the Almighty Chia Seed. Retrieved from: http://www.healthyfoodforhealthyliving.com/public/183.cfm
Mars, B. Chia Seeds (Salvia columbariae, S. hispanica). Retrieved from: http://www.allthingshealing.com/Herbology/Chia-Seeds-Salvia-columbariae-S-hispanica/7725#.UGtzH6RWo5s